In her Slate piece “The Walking Dead Spreads Anti-Choice Misinformation,” Amanda Marcotte argues that the writers of the TV series The Walking Dead deliberately spread misinformation about birth control in the latest episode, which aired this past Sunday. (In the episode, one of the characters is pregnant and decides to abort her baby. She mistakenly believes morning-after pills will get the job done.) Marcotte says her “honest impression is that whoever came up with this plot…mistakenly thinks that morning-after pills are abortion. If they had intended the misinformation to be a comment on the characters’ ignorance, there was no indication of it.”
Sifting through the comments, I found an interesting objection: one commenter pointed out that a character in the show questions whether the pills would have the desired effect. For me, the jury is still out as to whether that would help make the viewer aware that morning-after pills aren’t effective at inducing abortions. (I’m leaning towards probably-not.) One of the less-interesting objections I found in the comments takes issue with the fact that Marcotte is picking on a matter of scientific factuality in a show about zombies. In the words of one of the many commenters making this weak objection: “perhaps that’s the reason the writers chose to stay out of the particulars of the science about it[:] It’s only a show about ZOMBIES, after all. Not a NatGeo documentary.”
If she had been decrying the ability of a dead guy to walk around and harass people, I’d say Marcotte was missing one of the show’s main points. But she is talking about a controversial, real-life issue. We really do hold people to account for what they portray in their fictional works. If an author takes as “normal,” or “everyday,” something that is morally wrong, we expect an answer for it. Imagine if, in The Walking Dead, all black zombies were hung in trees set and set alight, while all white zombies were quickly dispatched with a shot to the head and buried with reverence. (And all-else being equal: there wasn’t also some parallel-universe “race-war” happening at the time of the outbreak.) If not the cancellation of the series, we would rightly expect somebody to be fired. In this case, dismissal would probably be a bridge too far. But, as one presumably holds authors to account for other issues that affect our society, it is silly and dishonest to cast aspersions on the act of complaining about a point of scientific accuracy whose truth has a real effect on the well-being of our citizenry. Even in a show about zombies.