SPOILER ALERT: If you are behind on ‘The Walking Dead’, this post deals with the Season Seven premier, so turn back if you want to avoid SPOILERS.
The second of two deaths on the Season Seven premiere of ‘The Walking Dead’ was definitely one of the most heartbreaking as one of the original survivors fell before the might of Lucille, Negan‘s barb wire covered baseball bat. Glenn, played by Steven Yeun, the heart of the group died.
On a personal level, Glenn represented something that no other character on TV did. Viewers fell in love with him because he was moral, yet knew how to get the job done. He was compassionate, loyal and brave, willing to sacrifice himself to save another, for example, Noah. Hell, he even forgave and tried to save Nicholas, the coward responsible for Noah’s death!
But it was his romance with Maggie that really made him blossom. Their romance is the emotional rock at the center of the show for many. Glenn was seen as the heart of the group.
What he was rarely seen as was Asian-American. Oh sure, obviously he is, but it was only mentioned one or two times over the course of the show. And he never fell into any stereotypes of any kind. (He wasn’t a brainiac of any kind. He was your average, run of the mill pizza delivery guy.) He was a well-rounded, multidimensional PERSON and that was all that mattered to viewers. His marriage to Maggie accomplished an even rarer feat, he became a romantic leading man, pretty much the only one on TV!
Glenn transcended nearly every depiction of an Asian-American male in any medium and for that reason, I will sorely miss him.
Yeun actually addressed his status as an Asian-American role model in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:
“I actually just got back from a CAPE function, the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. And one of the founders mentioned she went to this camp in Michigan called Sae Jong Camp where kids who are Korean Americans go to get more of a cultural awareness, whether they’re adopted or whether they’re Korean immigrants — whatever the case may be.”
“She mentioned that she was so saddened to hear that they all thought they were ugly. That they all thought that someone who looked like them wasn’t supposed to be on television, or that someone who looked like them wasn’t supposed to be desired or heroic or cool, and that’s such a f—ing bummer. And I do remember feeling that way myself growing up. I didn’t have a Glenn. I didn’t have someone to watch on television. I didn’t have someone where I can say, ‘That’s my face, and my face is being accepted by everybody watching this program.’ That’s the greatest honor that I’ve gotten to experience.”
“I’ve had the privilege and great honor to play a character like this that didn’t have to answer to anything other than his own character. He didn’t have to answer to why he was so Asian, or why he did that or this based on his being Asian. None of that mattered, it just mattered who he was as an individual. That was the most important thing. We went into so many households around the world, and people got to see what it’s like to be an Asian-American person, and they got to see an Asian-American person completely normalized as they are. And it got to a point where most people didn’t even acknowledge the fact that he might be ethnically different than them. … That was the coolest part. You get to watch people completely cling on to a character that has similarities to them in every single way except for their face, and that is beautiful and wonderful and I’m very proud of that. One of my favorite things that I always see is when I see kids that are not Asian dress up as Glenn for Halloween. That makes me very, very happy.”
Many fans will miss Glenn for many reasons, but for me, this is the big one.
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Source: Entertainment Weekly