It’s election season again. In a few weeks we go to the polls and pull the lever for the person we think will best represent our interests in the various arenas of government. I remember one campaign years ago when a Bush was running for president. Bruce Willis gave an interview explaining his method of choosing a candidate. “I just turned to Demi,” he said (I guess it was the elder Bush) “and I asked her, which one of these guys would you trust to watch the kids?”
Seems like a pretty good litmus test. Security is always one of the biggest concerns when backing a potential leader. In a contest of Sunday night TV heroines, there are two contenders vying for our viewership and loyalty. But which one would we select to protect those near and dear to us when zombies and terrorists come knocking?
Carol Peletier of AMC’s The Walking Dead has suddenly emerged as the “it” girl in action show badassery. She wrestles the crown away from Carrie Mathison, the surviving protagonist of the Showtime thriller Homeland.
A quick scan of the internet reveals a clear media bias for Walking Dead’s Carol, who not only infiltrated the gated Terminus in a cloak of walker guts and gore, she ignited the explosion that freed her friends and whipped Star Trek’s Tasha Yar in hand-to-hand combat.
In the wake of her season premiere heroics, I googled just the name “Carol” to see what would come up. Sure enough, the first three hits were Walking Dead-centric, with headlines like, “Carol Is the Hero of the Zombie Apocalypse” and “Walking Dead’s McBride Takes Pride in Carol”.
Carrie Mathison didn’t appear until the second page of results when googling just the name “Carrie”. In contrast to Carol’s glowing reviews, the CIA’s embattled savant garnered headlines like “Carrie Mathison is Homeland’s Biggest Problem” and “The Case Against Carrie Mathison”.
Clearly, Carol’s stock is up. Even the shippers have abandoned the Homeland ship in favor of The Walking Dead, rooting more than ever for a Carol/Darryl consummation while the prospect of a Carrie/Quinn romance draws a yawn and a shrug.
But suppose you woke up tomorrow in a fictitious one-hour episodic drama. The world you know has been thrown into chaos and danger lurks everywhere. You have to make a run to the highway to syphon fuel from abandoned tankers, or cross the border to help a double agent escape a hostile regime. Who are you going to leave the kids with? Carol or Carrie?
It’s only been a week since we anxiously watched Carrie battle the temptation of infanticide. As she held daughter Frannie’s carrot top precariously above the bath water, it was clear Carrie wasn’t suffering from post-partum psychosis, or a manic episode brought on from being off her meds. What else are we to conclude from the wild look in her eyes? Carrie was internally debating the conflict of job versus motherhood, and for a split second, drowning Brody’s kid seemed like a viable option. Fortunately for Frannie’s sake, Carrie realized there was another out. As long as she had her sister to dump on, her career and her child could continue to co-exist, at least for this season. Still, it’s hard to shake off Carrie’s Medea moment. Even Walter White wouldn’t harm his own child.
When it comes to dealing with inconvenient children, however, Carol doesn’t win any prizes. Will Walking Dead fans ever be able to look at flowers again without first checking to see who’s standing behind them? In last season’s most powerful episode, Carol started out as co-caretaker of three children, Rick’s baby daughter Judith, and the pre-adolescent sisters Lizzie and Mika. By the end, two out of three were dead.
Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that Carol chose to end Lizzie’s life rather than risk managing the girl’s psychotic tendencies. You could argue that Carol didn’t have a choice, since having killed her younger sister, Lizzie represented a continuous threat to Judith and any community of survivors she ended up with.
But in a world where zombies or marauding humans could pop up at any second, how do two adults go off by themselves and leave three small children alone? I don’t care that the writers needed to have a Carol and Tyrese bonding moment. This was the worst case of on-screen caregiver neglect since three-year-old Drew Barrymore was left home alone to draw her own bath in E.T. Sure, we knew E.T. was in the house, but Gerty’s Mom didn’t know that when she left to pick up Elliot at school. Psychopath or not, Lizzie and Mika would both be alive in season five if Carol or Tyrese had been doing their jobs. You would think having lost Sophia, Carol would have a better handle on this.
So, as much as I am currently riding high on the “Carol Rules” bandwagon, I would have to think twice before asking her to babysit on Saturday night. If Carrie Mathison had been tasked with minding The Walking Dead kids, she would have had Tyrese stay with them while she went solo into the woods and killed the deer herself. Then she would have returned to the cabin and given Lizzie some tips on ugly crying. In a fight for survival, perhaps cunning intelligence trumps maternal instincts. As long as the children are already bathed, I have to go with Carrie. She can protect them better, even if the greatest threat is herself.