We are constantly told that the term ’offense’ is overused, but did The Walking Dead feature explicit racial content during an eerie character’s recent arrival?
Whether you’re a zombie fan or not, we all recognise the iconic red scarf and barbed wire covered bat of season 6 newcomer Negan, but did anyone notice the racist ‘subliminal messages’ in the season finale?
Episode 16 titled The Last Day on Earth, featured Negan – played by actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan – threatening the group with a baseball bat named Lucille. He featured the now recognisable rhyme ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ which had high similarity to the historical racist taunt ending in ‘catch a n***r by his toe’.
However nobody seemed to notice until retailers Primark used the start of the rhyme on their new TWD (The Walking Dead) t-shirt. The seemingly innocent garment caused a mountain of controversy as a couple in Sheffield reported the incident to the companies bosses.
Primark have quickly removed the t-shirt from sales and issued an apology, stating that they only meant to directly quote the show. So the debate of AMC’S inappropriate rhyme or sensitive audience still stands. Did they too use the phrase with all innocence or is there a sense of subliminal messaging? Also is it fair that the complaints affected Primark’s reputation rather that the show itself?
I think in this situation it is critical to assess the audiences first. Most of AMC’s shows act in accordance to their predominately young viewers, due to its action packed themes, humour and graphical content, whereas Primark adheres to a wider selection of people regarding its customers. Assessing the audience is of particular importance in this instance because the racist phrase of ‘catch a n***r by his toe is an old phrase, dating back to 1888, which, in theory, only an older group of people would notice. Due to Primark’s presumably wider audience it is understandable that they received the worst of the criticism.
Still, what hasn’t been solved yet is the question of why The Walking Dead used the offensive ode in the first place. With the criticism pointed out by a middle aged Methodist minister and his wife we can’t blame the offence taken on ‘a particularly sensitive generation of millennials’. And the creators of the famous zombie packed TV show are old enough to be well informed of America’s racially offensive past, so the question of why it was used is presumably still up for discussion. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays the menacing character of Negan, has named the offended people as ‘stupid’ in a recent tweet. Is this justifiable? 92% of people asked have said yes, but it is possible to believe that AMC have paved the way for legitimised racist references in their, hugely popular, TV shows.