A caveat right off the bat: This post contains spoilers about the mid-season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead, so if you don’t already know what happens, skip this until you’ve had a chance to watch. What I will tell you is that a thing happened that people didn’t like and now fans are trying to have it fixed. It’s not fixable. It shouldn’t be fixable. And fans have to stop thinking that an online petition created out of butthurt will effect change in the real world.
Last chance at a spoiler warning… okay… If you’ve come past this point, you have brought this on yourself.
After finally having her character developed into a strong, admirable young woman surviving the zombie apocalypse, Emily Kinney’s Beth Greene was unceremoniously killed off just as it looked like she was ready to rejoin her group. She would have come back to them as even more of an asset than she already was for different, better reasons, but she took a brutal gunshot blast to the head from a character who did not deserve to outlive her, even by seconds. It was a devastating loss for the fictional characters and for the fans of the show. It seemed like a death for the sake of having a death, but let’s be real, if we can — people are going to face a lot of random, unwanted tragedy in a zombie apocalypse. And if there is anything that good storytelling tells us it’s that characters we love are always at the risk of dying needlessly because in real life, people die needlessly. (And don’t think I don’t see the irony of Beth dying needlessly at the hands of a cop.)
So the next step is to see how the characters who are left behind must deal with her death. The fans, on the other hand, would rather not deal with her death. The Hollywood Reporter says that there is currently a petition on Change.org calling for the return of Beth to the show. Beth, a character who was shot in the head and then buried. It has 30,000 supporters.
First of all, how do these fans suppose that Beth should come back? I’ll repeat: she was shot in the head at point-blank range and then buried in the ground. Is she supposed to come back as a zombie? Is Michonne going to keep her on a leash and cut off her arms? Will she be a family pet like Ed at the end of Shaun of the Dead? Are they talking nothing but flashbacks? Are we going to find out that someone extracted her spirit into a Ghostbusters trap and now she’s Slimer? Do they want Emily Kinney to come back playing Beth’s lost brunette cousin, Maddy? What is the plan here, exactly? (Oh, wait, there is no plan: “We realize that the circumstances she dies in are irreverisble [sic], but this is television. Anything is possible.”)
I could get into how the creator of this petition is also trying to pull feminism into this futile effort (“By sloppily killing her it just shows that she was used to further a man’s storyline”), but as a feminist, I have bigger fish to fry.
This kind of stupidity aside, haven’t fans learned that while they might be able to bring a show back from the dead it’s a dead-end (ha-ha, double zombie joke) to try to make the show’s creative staff do their fantastical bidding?
The Walking Dead is certainly not the first show to write off a beloved character and it won’t be the last. It also isn’t the first target of a fan-driven petition — NCIS fans wanted to see actress Cote de Pablo written back onto the show even though it was her decision to leave. Doctor Who fans are currently trying to convince showrunner Steven Moffat not to turn the show’s lead character, played by a male for the last fifty years, into a woman after the next regeneration. I have bad news for those Whovians: Steven Moffat will never be your bitch. You will always be his. Case in point — when Moffat’s other show, Sherlock, returned for its third season, it was filled with jokes about fan theories surrounding the faked death of Sherlock Holmes. Moffat and one of his co-writers, Mark Gatiss, (who also plays Mycroft on the show) have copped to seeing the fan theories, but denied incorporating them into their script. Probably because they are professional TV writers who don’t feel the need to seek misguided inspiration from the audience. That’s like going to the comments section of a news site to figure out what your political opinion should be and everyone knows that’s the most cockamamie idea since bacon mints.
I love you, fandom, but know your place. I say this as a die-hard citizen of fandom, as a writer of fiction and fanfiction, and as someone who occasionally covers entertainment for the internet: None of your silly petitions are going to sway a TV showrunner into making your fanfiction part of your favorite show’s canon. Leave the writing to the professionals who created the show in the first place. They are the ones responsible for giving life to the characters you love so much and the stories that warm and break your heart. Trust them. Sometimes they make stupid decisions and you are free to write fanfiction about it to reconcile a bad storyline in your own head and among like-minded fans. I have done this twice. But trying to step all over the professionals’ toes because you haz a sad is a pointless mission.
Showrunners are trying to tell a good story and there is a reason that they are the ones with a TV show and you are not. Maybe you will one day, but that will be your show and wouldn’t you want to do whatever you wanted with it? Play the long game. Accept change and story development. In other words, deal with it.
RELATED: Maybe instead of a petition, just try starting a conversation. Like about last night’s episode of The Newsroom.