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Steven Yeun Talks Fan Response Vs. Fan Support of The Walking Dead‘s Glenn

Steven Yeun used to play Glenn on AMC’s The Walking Dead. I say “used to,” becauseSPOILER ALERT. This fact seemed to cause a lot of people grief, because he was the one Asian person on the whole show. Well, Yeun has some stuff to say about that outpouring of grief over Glenn. Like, for starters, where was all that emotion when he was actually on the show? **If you still care about spoilers at this point, STOP HERE**

In a recent interview with Vulture, a portion of which you can read above thanks to @queencarolpls on Twitter, Yeun talks about the fact that Glenn never really got his due on the show, as relatable and awesome as the character was.

“I don’t say this as a knock on anything,” he says. “He always had to be part of something else to legitimize himself. He was rarely alone. And when he was alone, it took several years to convince people to be on his own. I’m thankful to EW for that wonderful cover they ran at the end, but we’ve had many covers before then that he never got to do on his own. Not until the last year did they give him his own cover, and then give him the one as he died.”

That comment led to an observation about the fan reaction to his leaving the show:

“I’d always hear people go, “I love Glenn, he’s my favorite character.” But the merchandise would go one way. That really might be the market, so I’m not going to sit here and be like, “Why didn’t they make Glenn merchandise?” But there was a disparity. They didn’t know what Glenn was, and only in his death did they realize, “Oh, that’s what he was. That’s the connection I had, and that’s why it hurts me so much to see him die.” A lot of the other characters are awesome characters, but they’re exactly that — they’re awesome and they’re to be in awe of: I wish I was that guy or that girl. With Glenn it was, I think I’m like that guy. You take that guy out of the equation and you do it in such a brutal fashion, there’s got to be some gut reaction to that.”

There are two things that I got out of Yeun’s comments that are equally valid and important. First, despite Glenn being the only Asian main character on the show, he was indeed the “Everyman.” It wasn’t a white guy that everyone was supposed to relate to. It was an Asian dude. He was brave, and had integrity, but he wasn’t a “badass” in that comic book way. He showed that someone average and normal could be extremely heroic. That’s a huge gift, and also a big reason why he left such a void behind. A non-white “Everyman” is rare.

Then there’s the other side of Yeun’s comments, when he talks about the merchandise. He hits on something that I talk about a lot: talk vs. action. We all say how much we want inclusion and diversity in our media. We all talk about representation and how important it is, and we complain very loudly when it’s not there. Yet, to how much trouble do we go to actually seek it out? Or, how often do we support with our patronage those pieces of mainstream media that do offer the representation we crave?

We only seem to show support when we’re angry. When a character we love is threatened. It reminds me of how we tend to approach being citizens. We’ll jump on calling our local elected officials when they screw up. We rarely call to say thank you.

For every Wonder Woman, there are other movies made by and starring women that go wholly ignored. For every Moonlight, there are films starring queer people of color that no one goes to see.  Glenn was on The Walking Dead for six seasons, and yet Yeun cites a discrepancy between how much people say the character meant to them, and what they actually did to support the character.

Like Joni Mitchell said, Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til’ it’s gone? A big part of getting the representation we want is supporting it financially and publicly. It’s not just about calling out what’s missing, it’s about supporting what’s there. Otherwise, there’s no reason for them not to take it away.

(featured image: Entertainment Weekly)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.