Dating the Chinaman: Why Glenn and Maggie Matter

Moxie's boyfriend

At this point, I’m starting to no longer be a fan of that AMC show where a bunch of fools stand around being unlikable and ridiculous, i.e. The Walking Dead. To say that I have a lot of words and feelings about the misdirection of the show is a grand understatement. Amid that smorgasbord of sweat, guns, and misinformation, one sliver of hope emerged: Glenn, or as Moxie calls him, “my boyfriend Glenn.”

I was terribly afraid that he’d be lost in the shuffle this past season, as the writers seem intent on sacrificing all creative resources to the sole purpose of fleshing out Daryl Dixon. (Remember T-Dawg? Me neither.)  With the series return yesterday, it’s still early to say where Glenn’s story will head. Watching last night’s episode was intense, as you could tell from our mini live-tweet (SHUT UP, Glenn, where IS your sense of preservation?). For now, though, he’s managed to hold on to a storyline that involves a delicious little bit of spark with the lovely, albeit forbidden and fickle, Maggie Greene.

Pollyanna and "that Asian boy"

Sex and romance will always find their time and place, no matter the storyline or setting. So far, Glenn has proven to be an intelligent and crucial member of the group, being the only person that displays any damn sense. As much as the fandom loves and appreciates him, however, we know that guys like Glenn don’t really get the girl – the white girl at that. So forgive me for saying this, but watching Glenn and Maggie make out for more than three seconds at a time, straight on, is kind of groundbreaking for this moi.

Look, they even get to go on a date!

I’m not completely fooled though. Whatever mild triumph I feel when Glenn successfully interacts with Maggie (sexytimes in aisle three, anyone?), it is always tempered by a grim expectation that it’s not going to last. Something –  like a small penis joke, most likely courtesy of Shane – is going to skew the story arc in a stupid direction. My cynicism isn’t totally unreasonable.

People of color most often get stuck with played out tropes, serving as stereotyped totems thanks to lazy writing and racism. Black women end up as dumbly subservient mammies, or the brightly bitter, teeth sucking sapphires/Jezebels, while black men are brutish and dangerous in their voracious appetite for rape and white flesh. The fetishes that focus on Asian women range from the subservient mute, to the hypersensitive, coyly kinky geisha, or the ever dominant Dragon Lady, as dictated by the fantasies of the white male gaze.

The Asian man has his own set of conflicting lenses through which he’s seen. He is either emasculated and humiliated as an incompetent eunuch, or demonized as an uncivilized brute in need of a Miss Manners session and some strong Christian salvation (a la Anna and the King). Whichever trope he navigates, he’s just not likely to get the girl, because he’s either too weak or too depraved. If he does land a romantic jousting partner, it’s within the “safe” arms of another minority, preferably his “own kind,” or within the famous “Asian Man/Black Woman” arc, as beautifully demonstrated by John Cho and Gabrielle Union in Flashforward.

Is there anything wrong or fake about these relationships? Absolutely not. But if even Will Smith can’t “get the [white] girl,” guys like Glenn don’t stand a chance. As it was adamantly vocalized by the likes of the KKK in the past, the implication still exists that women are off limits to POC and are reserved for the superior (i.e. white) penis. I wager that if Kirkman hadn’t written Glenn and Maggie together in The Walking Dead comics, this relationship would not have materialized in the TV series. Still, it is on the show for now and I’ll give it a chance at least until the end of the season, although I feel like for the relationship, as well as for Glenn’s story in general to survive, some pitfalls have to be avoided.

Maggie may be a hothead, while Glenn is more easygoing, but there is a difference between being gentle-but-firm and just plain submissive. If only it were up to me to grab them by their shoulders and talk some sense into them, instead of them having to take relationship advice from the likes of Rick, Lori, or Shane, with that “learn how to control your woman” shit. I’m getting tired of Maggie’s mercurial BS – make up your mind already! She’s not the end all-be all and her vagina’s not magical, alright?  Ultimately, Glenn doesn’t have to be grateful that Maggie would deign to ever be with him. She certainly can’t be, nor shouldn’t be, the only vehicle to help Glenn see his potential greatness.

And if I ever hear a small penis joke, so help you god (or whatever you worship), I will pull a Rick Grimes, weird pistol angle and all.


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13 Responses to Dating the Chinaman: Why Glenn and Maggie Matter

  1. Ana says:

    This my friend, was hilarious. I absolutely loved it. I feel that we need more articles written by POC that analyze how the media portrays interracial relationships, but most importantly THE INDIVIDUAL person of color. I died when you mentioned the “small penis joke”, cuz we’re all thinking “omg i hope the dont make a small penis joke”.
    -tu gemela

    • Avatar photo Lois says:

      Interracial relationships – romantic or not – are just tricky. Too often are POC just lumped together, and written (and analyzed) really poorly. Geekquality will HULK SMASH this. (Jk… or not!)

      Glad you enjoyed reading it, gemela! :)

  2. Moretta says:

    Thanks for this. I also really hope they don’t poison it with a cheap remark.

  3. ihatewhatilove says:

    You know, the thing that flabbergasts me the most about the Walking Dead show is how much of the awful come from characters who are dead or don’t exist in the comics (while excluding fan-favorites Tyreese and Michonne).
    Shane needs to be dead. And who in the everloving hell is Daryl Dixon? Where did this character come from and why do we need him?

    • Avatar photo Lois says:

      You didn’t know? They needed as much white men around to 1. keep things in check and 2. pour all creative resources into fleshing out. Can’t have too much diversity.

      Some people would argue that T-Dawg IS Tyreese…

      … let that sink in for a moment there.

  4. Cilla says:

    very well said …:) they finally have Asian Guy get a white chick Yay:) this is truly something i really wanted to see :) i have been annoyed that they have not done it sooner…. lol i am a white chick and My boyfriend is Asian :) so its kinda like but without all the other stuff and the Zombies hahahah jk:) lol so i hope they make it :)

  5. savadi says:

    As an Asian woman and fan of Glenn I got a kick out this article. I wholeheartedly agree with most of everything you’ve written. Selfishly though I hope Glenn/Maggie does not happen, for sure it’s a death sentence for Glenn if he gets bogged down with a girlfriend and I want Glenn to live, damn it. Yes, I get it, it’s the apocalypse and omg sex! But Glenn, get some dignity, do not go chasing after the white princess, totally not worth it.
    I am also a bit disturbed by the amount of adoration that Daryl receives, isn’t he some kind of Deliverance type racist? I’m sure Reedus is beyond hot in another context but as a minority I am not entirely comfortable with his character’s popularity. However, as a slasher, I am totally down for some Glenn/Daryl sexy times, but that’s a whole ‘nother can o worms.

  6. Jason says:

    Looks like you fears were proven unfounded as evidenced by the recent, hardly emasculating episode. Don’t worry, the writers in this show know what they’re doing.

  7. Nightwing says:

    Interesting article. Yeah, Glenn’s definitely the type of guy who would not normally get a girl like Maggie. I think it’s a question of their nationalities being so different (Korean / American White Girl), but when people are put together and you get to know them….especially under “Walking Dead” circumstances….the “being so different” angle goes right out the window. Add to it that Glenn has so many awesome qualities. And he’s actually a really good looking guy…so yeah, I could believe Maggie falling for him. And I have to say that Loren Cohan is drop dead gorgeous. First fell in love with her as Rose on the Vampire Diaries ( that show BLEW IT when they let her go….I would have continued to watch religiously). Loved her as September Jones in Death Race 2 (I wish she wasn’t the baddie, but man she was delicously evil in that role). Girl’s Got Talent. On a totally different note, I wonder how Steven Yeun would do in the role of Kato from the Green Hornet Movie. I’d be curious to see him in that role.

  8. Alex says:

    i think its a good sign, still dunno why there is such a fuzz bout interracial relationships, maybe in the certain countries, depending on religion there are prejudges.
    well im from europe and here its quite “normal” for example asian guys are dating european girls, and actually i dont call the term of “white” because, honestly i think japanese and korean ppl are even more white than most europeans or americans lol.
    just wanted to say that over here at least i see a lot of asians with european partners, i think thats bit different to the US. i also dont get why Hollywood still keep those cliche prejudges asian guys can only represent martial arts roles, or what u said above.
    i think its time for giving them more serious roles and also more romantic or love comedies roles, but not where they are playing horny nerds , like just normal roles such as american actors get.
    i also hope they put not those cliche looking asians inside those roles, i mean for example russel wong, masculine ,tough, charming, could easily play such a role, but those kind of asians mostly get supporting roles, i wish that time brandon lee wouldnt have been killed, his career was starting with the crow, also as a not typical asian role.
    i wonder what will come in the future, but im happy walking dead making a little try :)

  9. Miguel says:

    Seria bom voces ler o comics

  10. Electra says:

    I read this carefully then took some time to digest it and here’s my take on what you’ve written here(I’m well aware that I’m quite late to this party): I can definitely get where you’re coming from; you want to see yourself reflected in Glenn and you don’t like his characterization up until this point. That’s cool. I can also see your point where you’re talking about the role that many people of color are forced into in popular culture. That is not cool, I totally get it. However, what’s bothering me here is how your attitude almost entirely reflects bitterness and anger about how in pop culture, men of color don’t “get the girl,” or at least “don’t get the white girl.” And frankly, I find that attitude(that women are a goal or a prize) offensive. It’s not your fault, you didn’t create this concept, but you’re certainly perpetuating it; in almost all popular culture, women and female characters are seen as objects to be won, not humans in their own right. Several times you reference this attitude: “women are off limits to POC and are reserved for the superior (i.e. white) penis” As a woman, I’m not reserved for anyone’s penis, I am my own person. I choose what I do with my own body and my own mind. If I choose a relationship (which I have, with a man who is Asian, thank you), it’s mine to choose. He did not “win” me, we chose to be in a relationship together, through mutual agreement.
    “She’s not the end all-be all and her vagina’s not magical, alright?” No. No it’s not. However, she and other women are more than just a vagina or a prize to be won. I’ll admit, she’s not the perfect person (who the hell is?) and she was a bit irritating at first, but here’s the thing: she has the right to be irritating and to change her mind. She is not the object of anyone else’s life, but the subject of her own. Hence, she has the right to change her mind as much and as often as she chooses. And he, for his part, has the right to choose to hang around or not, as he chooses.
    I can see where you’re coming from, and I can understand why you’d be upset to see characters who are in some way reflective of you as weak, stereotypical, or objectified, but please, pay attention and see that your attitude is objectifying others as well.

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