Why The Walking Dead’s Glenn is the best Asian male character on TV today — and must not die!

The other night, I was on Facebook when I discovered a message in my inbox from a friend: “Jocelyn, you should do a blog about Steven Yeun….All the fans are really concerned about Steven Yeun’s character on the TV show.”

He meant, of course, “The Walking Dead” – one of the most popular TV shows in America.

Sure enough, I headed over to the Facebook page for “The Walking Dead,” and here’s what I discovered:f-the-comics


Yeah, they’re worried Glenn will die in the season finale (which will air only hours after this blog post goes live).

Now, I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t actually watch this show. There’s a good reason for that – I’m incredibly sensitive to violence and, according to everything I’ve heard and read about this show, it’s full of lots of bloody, gory and frightening scenes. The kind of things guaranteed to give me nightmares. (You should have seen me years ago after I watched the Tom Cruise reboot of “War of the Worlds” – I had trouble sleeping for days!)


But “The Walking Dead” remains on my radar for a very simple reason: because Steven Yeun, playing Glenn, is doing more to smash stereotypes about Asian men than any other actor on TV today, as this article by Nerds of Color – titled Glenn of The Walking Dead is the Best Response to Anti-Asian Stereotyping – illustrates:

Glenn is a new class of Asian American character, one that I’m not sure we’ve seen on-screen before.

Unlike previous Asian American characters, Glenn is at once Asian American and incidentally Asian American. Conspicuous among other Asian American characters, Glenn’s racial background does not define or justify his presence. He’s not the computer whiz, the scientist, the intellectual, the geek, the doctor, the technician, or a host of other stereotypical roles typically relegated to the Asian token. Although it is implied that Glenn’s parents were strict, Glenn himself was a pizza boy prior to the zombie apocalypse and assumes the role of forager and fighter — not “medic” or “ninja,” two roles that might be stereotypically Asian yet fulfilled by other members of the group. In short, there’s almost nothing inherently stereotypical about Glenn and his presence in The Walking Dead.

Plus, when has any Asian American male character been hailed as “the beating heart” of a series?

Yeun’s amiable nature is familiar to fans of AMC’s hit zombie series. As Glenn Rhee, he functions as a likable everyman, the closest thing to a romantic hero in an unrelentingly brutal apocalyptic world.

“Steven is the heart of the show,” said Glen Mazzara, the “Walking Dead” executive producer who’s set to leave the series at the end of this season. “Everybody loves that character; everybody’s rooting for that character. He may be tortured and sensitive, but he’s always a hero.”

Of course, I haven’t even mentioned the biggest reason that draws many of you to “The Walking Dead” – his relationship with Maggie, a white Southern Belle.

(Photograph by Williams + Hirakawa, via http://www.lamag.com)
(Photograph by Williams + Hirakawa)

You Offend Me, You Offend My Family nails why this AMWF pairing matters so much:

In the second season, Glenn matured and gained a greater self-confidence, but more importantly, he found love with fellow survivor Maggie (Lauren Cohan). And if it’s rare to see an Asian male engaged in anything romantic or sex-related on American television, it’s even rarer to see him in a nuanced relationship that develops over time. Yes, it’s cool to see a brotha getting to knock boots with a hot white chick, but what’s even cooler is to see that coupling grow into the romantic heart of the series.

Yep, he’s your average Joe who shows courage AND gets the girl. And he just happens to be Asian. For a TV show, this is totally revolutionary.

Steven Yeun as Glenn on “The Walking Dead” – the most-watched drama series ever broadcast on American cable – proves that when you let Asian men step outside of the stereotypes to play great characters who are fascinating, nuanced and real to life, the public will watch.

That’s why we need Steven Yeun out there, playing Glenn to the very end of “The Walking Dead.” That’s why Glenn cannot die! You’re not just killing the heart and soul of the show; you’re killing, as YOMYOMF calls him, the “Most Interesting Asian Male Character on American Television.”


I don’t even watch the show and just the thought of this character getting killed off makes me feel totally outraged!

When AMC broadcasts their season finale for “The Walking Dead,” I’ll be on the Beijing subway, heading for the Beijing South Railway Station – the start of my journey back to Hangzhou (I’ve been in Beijing this past weekend to help promote How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit). But I can guarantee you, when the clock strikes 9am Beijing time (which is also 9pm Eastern time in the US, the start of 90-minute season finale), I’ll be silently wishing and praying that Glenn survives to the next season.

What do you think?

25 Replies to “Why The Walking Dead’s Glenn is the best Asian male character on TV today — and must not die!”

  1. So my Asian Male better half LOVES “The Walking Dead.” I’m with you, Jocelyn — I am no fan of violence nor of suspense. I won’t watch the show. I’m always yelling at Andy to turn down the volume from the other room, because my imagination can probably conjure up scenes far more gruesome than the TV can show, which will keep me from ever getting to sleep.

    Andy’s convinced Glenn will live. If Glenn is, in fact, the Everyman, he probably will, but the reason the show is so good is because it puts the characters through every kind of hell. So probably they will kill off Maggie instead. In the most painful way possible. 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this!! This is one of my favourite shows (as I love apocalyptic stories) but I also happen to be a white female engaged to a Chinese man (who coincidentally breaks pretty much all the “Asian” stereotypes). Glen and Maggie are my favourite fictional couple and I would definitely cry (and probably stop watching the show in protest!) if they kill off Glen!

  3. I seriously love this character and actor. Like I am obsessed really 🙂 Sometimes I even think my boyfriend is jealous about this as I profess my love to Steven whenever I watch and episode of The Walking Dead (weekly).

    On a more serious note, I agree with you on the importance of finally having an Asian male character that is not stereotyped. It is refreshing. The easiness they portray his AMWF relationship with Maggie gives me hope about the future.

    I wish we saw more and more characters and love stories like these on TV.

  4. Although I don’t watch TV show, and it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, I hope neither the man nor the woman gets killed…when Heroes was on, and I learned that Masi Oka’s love interest dies, I quit being interested in the show.

  5. I don’t mind a little violence, but I don’t get the whole zombie thing. They’re my least favorite kind of monster. But Steven Yeun is a good looking guy, and I like seeing an Asian-American man cast in a role that’s not a stereotype.

  6. Actually, Glenn lives! I’m not trying to spoil! But, another season with him is what I need!

    oh trust me, Jocelyn, zombies scare the crap out of me! I personally think the only reason I have started to watch this show was because of Glenn and Maggie. 😉

  7. NOOOO!!! GLEN!!!

    I’m with you, enough good characters in the show have already died. I am super, super touched with Glenn and Maggie. You can really tell they love each other in the show and it’s built up SO well. If Glenn dies I’m going to need a few kleenex boxes.

    I found out that the TV show has been taking a lot of liberties and characters that should have died in the comic, aren’t. So hopefully Glenn makes it out alive tonight :/

  8. Why are we glorifying asian males? Show them for what they are, a weak and spineless creature. It is well known that Asian males lose out to their counterparts of every single race in every physical aspect, muscles, looks, male organ size, you name it.

    I disapprove of bigotry because it is not right to hate someone on basis of race. However, in this case, it is about getting our facts right and having an accurate portrayal of asian males, why is our media being whitewashed?

  9. I’ve never watched this show, but I really appreciated your blog post – I’m glad that there’s finally a non-stereotypical asian character in a popular series. I can think of another example: B.D. Wong in “Law & Order: SVU” – though I don’t remember him ever being in a relationship. Despite the fact that he’s really good-looking.
    It’s true that asian men are always cast as the nerd, scientist, mathematician, etc., and worse, in fact. Did you notice that asian actors cast in what I can only qualify as “stupid guy movies” are there for the sole purpose of being laughed at? For example: Chow in “The Hangover” trilogy.
    I was living in China some years ago, and while there I was in a relationship with a Chinese man: he was an artist, good-looking, and very sexy. So much for stereotypes.

  10. They need to put more and more Asian characters in the movies.
    oh boy not that lucky.

    I also disapprove of bigotry and stereotypes.
    I am a grown a$$ Asian man currently living in North Carolina with my wife & 2 daughters and I can’t stand violence movies I don’t like looking at blood or body parts. ( I was born in 1962) by the way I am a machinist all my life.

    when people (blacks, white Spanish and Mexican) don’t know what I do for a living and ask me what I do for a living and I would say I am a machinist and they look at me with a funny face and say come on man i know you are working at a Chinese restaurant cooking fried rice.

    Where I work at is a very large company but it has only 4 Asian men working there.
    it has been many times that co workers (blacks & white) picked on me about male organ size I got so offended and pissed off and finally I said well your mother is so pleased with it and she knows what she is talking about. Since then nobody talks to me about it.

  11. I liked Glenn more when he was first introduced, as an unattached, former pizza delivery boy wearing a cap, with a youthful vibe. With Maggie, he seems more older and serious now, but he is still likeable for his moral character, his diplomacy, his openness and willingness to listen to other people’s ideas/reasons. He seems to make a good co-leader for the group. Glenn is a nice guy, but my favorite character would have to be Daryl Dixen <3. 🙂

  12. YEAH! Jay and me are hardcore fans of the show and Steven! He’s without a doubt changing the way Asian main characters are portrayed and viewed by the audience! and the best thing is, he didn’t die on the show! Hurray!

  13. Even though you do not watch the show, it’s great you covered this topic. My husband and I and I have been following this show since the beginning and coincidentally since we first started dating back in 2010.

    I am no horror nor zombie fan like Liang is, but I started watching the show for him (he’s really happy I did – I’m an awesome wife haha). TWD is of the only exceptions since I easily get scared and end up with nightmares after watching a scary movie. What got me in this show is the character development; the emotions are realistic and everyone evolves in their own way as the seasons go by.

    My husband and I were both so excited when Glenn’s character was introduced in the first season; we have been rooting for him ever since. You should have heard us during the season finale: “Nooooooo!!! Don’t die, Glenn!”. Glenn really is the best Asian male character on TV today and definitely a favourite of ours.

    SPOILER: Even though we read Glenn died in the comic a while back, we think that, after all his TV character has been through, he’ll survive until the end. That’s what we hope for, anyway.

  14. Me and my wife just love this show (okay she more than me because I never really liked Zombie stories..) and in the beginning of the show the character of Glenn was more like the stereotype Asian person but evolved over the seasons. I also know the comic but thats another story entirely 🙂

  15. I think the ending is probably like, Glenn and Maggie both died and before Maggie die, Maggie gave a brith with their newborn, just like Judith. then every audience are crying in the end while sun is rising; Judith and Carl is carrying with the newborn of Maggie and Glenn’s walking toward to the Hope….

    –THE END—

  16. Hi All,
    I just created my 2nd YouTube video on Asian American.
    This one is about Steve Yuen character on ” The Walking Dead”
    Please subscribe to my YouTube channel.
    Mong Phu
    AMWF/Asian Male White Female – Smashing the Asian Stereotype – The Walking Dead – Maggie and Glenn

  17. I don’t really understand why the group failed to honk the lead-car horn as a foil against the truck horn in Alexandria. This seems like an oversight to me. I also don’t understand why Glenn waited so long to jump on the trash bin. These oversights seem lazy and mysterious to me. I realize that they are stressed…but c’mon, this is Glenn and he has always been good at seeing ways to survive. In light of these oversights I’m beginning to get weary of this show. Sure, characters die…but these two inconsistencies leave a proverbial bad taste in my mouth.

  18. Despite my like for WD, both the on screen adaptation and graphic novel it’s not very realistic to cling onto any character with a sense that ‘this character should remain on the show’ attitude for WD. The show’s milieu shares similar veins to Game of Thrones – the characters, especially ones you love tend to end up dying.
    If they kill Glen, I’m all for it. Not because I dislike/hate the character, but to not kill off a character ‘because the fans decided it’ would ultimately ruin the show’s integrity and turn it into some cheap, made for tv crap show. I’m half Korean and quite proud that Steven is an integral part of WD, but ultimately it doesn’t matter what the race is (and it shouldn’t).

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