Category Archives: Article

TWD: The Struggle of Balancing Storytelling and Representation

Author: Eri Tsujii ¦ October 26, 2016

-Spoiler Alert!-

If twitter is any indication, I wasn’t alone in how I felt about Sunday night’s Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead.  It was brutal.  It was gruesome.  It was heartbreaking.  And while I ugly-sobbed in mourning over the loss of both Abraham and Glenn, I found myself having a harder time coping with the death of Glenn. Mostly because I realized I was not only mourning the loss of a beloved character, but also the loss of one of the few Asian characters on TV who has been developed in a thoughtful and multi-faceted manner.  Glenn was moral, he was intelligent, he was impassioned, he was physically capable (without having to be a martial arts master), and he was sexual – the last two of which we rarely see in modern portrayals of Asian males.

Like many of you over the past several months, I spent some time (probably more than needs to be spent on discussing fictional characters) debating with friends about who would be the one killed.  And while there was much talk about Glenn being the likely candidate since he was killed in the comics, I found myself vacillating between thinking “No…they wouldn’t do that to the only Asian character; not with all the backlash Hollywood has been getting lately” and “Well, maybe they would…he is, after all, the only Asian character.”  And I was mad at myself for thinking that.  Mad at myself for reducing the basis of my argument to race.  To basing it not on his character arc or how his presence can further or hinder the main plot lines, but rather on his Asian-ness.  But the more I thought about it, and the more I wanted so badly to analyze his presence on the show as purely a function of his character and not his race, the more I realized… we aren’t there yet.

It’s a tough place to be where you want to be treated like any other character would be treated, but then knowing that in doing so you’re likely going to be taking down diverse characters at a faster rate than they are popping up.  And while we’re all sick of the tired trope of the PoC character being the one to die, we also don’t want to be in a situation where we think “Well, they definitely won’t kill off the PoC character because…politics…”  Either way, it ruins the element of surprise and hinders good character development and story telling.  So does this mean that we’re doomed to never be happy whether a PoC character lives or dies?  Are we stuck in a Catch-22 of representation?  Right now, it might seem that we are.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself, the reason why I currently find myself being perpetually displeased with PoC character outcomes is because there’s not enough diversity out there to make it not feel personal.  I know that might sound ridiculously dramatic, but when you have only one character of a particular representation on a show, like it or not, that character becomes a symbol of something much larger than they would be had there been five actors of that same representation on the show.  That’s why when we watch shows like Luke Cage or Fresh Off the Boat, it doesn’t feel as stigmatizing when we see a character we don’t like, and why we are able to enjoy the characters (flaws and all) without having to worry as much about what each character means for how PoCs are being portrayed to the rest of the country.  And that’s why it hits us hard when one of the few strong and multi-dimensional Asian characters on TV that we can genuinely feel proud of gets killed off in such a brutal manner.

pebble-icon Eri Tsujii (aka Pebble) is one of your co-hosts on Fandom Cracked. Need some help coping with the loss of some of our favorite characters on The Walking Dead? Listen to our podcast on Mentally Surviving the Zompocalypse here!

South Park: Portraying the Complexities of Trolling

Author: Jacqueline Eaton-Willard ¦ October 17, 2026

South Park is a show that succeeds on its irreverence toward all things, the idea that “nobody’s safe” from criticism. Most iconically, they have ridiculed religious institutions such as Scientology, Christianity, Mormonism, and Islam. And let’s not forget that in nearly every episode Cartman makes jibes at Kyle’s Jewish heritage. Despite its tongue-in-cheek portrayal of religion, its political criticism and social commentary is often painfully on point. This year’s 20th season is no different, and creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have taken on the interesting social phenomena of trolling and the strangely nostalgic characteristics that are being exhibited through media, such as Netflix’s original show Stranger Things (shameless self promotion of podcast HERE).

Trolling, for those in the know, are a staple of internet culture that thrive off of negative attention through their hateful, offensive, and provocative posts. They are largely anonymous due to the ambiguity of the internet and can harass an individual or group through online message boards, direct messages, or comments on social media sites. In some cases, personal emails, home or work addresses, and phone numbers can be found and used by avid trolls to cross from the virtual world and into real life with threats of violence, rape, and murder on chosen victims or groups. South Park has taken the first episodes of this season and given us a peak behind the computer screen and into the world of such trolls.


Anatomy of a Forum Troll by GU Comics. Source

–Beyond Here, There Be Spoilers–

Typically, trolls are portrayed as morally corrupt and the dregs of society; the pimply 14 year old in his room hunched over a computer keyboard with the window shades drawn and yelling at his mom for another soda. Gerald Broflovski is not a bad guy; he has two kids, a loving wife, and a house he works hard to keep. But what Parker and Stone have shown us in these few episodes is that Gerald has a very dark side—online he’s SkankHunt42 and trolls the message boards and social media of women, including all the social accounts of South Park Elementary’s girls. He becomes elated with the attention his pranks receives—he claims he’s doing it for the lulz, and that it’s just for fun. He moves on to bigger fish, finding a women’s breast cancer survivor website where he causes the site creator to eventually commit suicide. Pretty dark stuff for a cartoon, right? But not for Comedy Central’s South Park.

Image converted using ifftoany

Gerald with his family when they moved to San Francisco in Season 6. Source

Many of us have known the character Gerald for nearly two decades and, like everyone else watching, I had my money on Eric Cartman being the infamous SkankHunt42 until the big reveal at the end of episode one, “Member Berries.” (Though I’m still not fooled by Eric’s sudden moral turn around. He’s up to something, I know it!) Now four episodes in, Parker and Stone’s character choice is displaying the complexities of a person who chooses to engage in cyberbullying and comments on the social divide it is continuing to create in people’s lives. In the world of South Park, it has caused a feminist vs. meninist scenario at the elementary school which is continuing to escalate, and after the suicide of Freja Ollegard the Dutch have sworn to seek out and punish the troll responsible (ie. Gerald).

To further hit home, Gerald is now displaying compulsive behavior reminiscent of Golem with the One Ring. He is craving his online persona despite having initiated “protocol zero” and destroyed all of his accounts and computers, exhibiting behavioral outbursts in which he spouts insults at fellow towns folk and friends, and even hisses at his wife when she catches him on an iPad while trolling. What started out as a game is quickly becoming who Gerald is as a person, despite his insistence that it’s not effecting him.


Gerald’s wife finds him trolling on his iPad. Source

What will be really interesting is to see how far they take the trolling story arch and how they eventually wrap it up. Will they show redemption for SkankHunt42 and his kind? Will PC Principle be able to corral the Wieners Out group started by Butters and the boys or will the girls of South Park Elementary find a solution on their own? Add all of this in with the political ridiculousness that continuously surrounds the 2016 presidential election, and we have the perfect storm (they did that too, S10E6 “Smug Alert!”) of comedic fodder that is making this season feel so accurate it’s depressing.

Check out the next episode of South Park on Comedy Central at 10/9C.

Check out the Times article by Joel Stein here and Mark D. Griffiths here for more information on culture and trolling.

blu%cc%88 Jacqueline Eaton-Willard (aka Blü) is one of your co-hosts on Fandom Cracked.