[WARNING: WALKING DEAD SPOILERS!]
I was never much of a zombie fan until I fell in love with The Walking Dead after my husband finally talked me into watching it.
My cousin was also reluctant, but I talked her into trying it and before long, we were furiously texting back and forth about how Rick should fortify the prison and whether fire should be involved in the scheme. Clearly, the show appeals to a wider audience than you’d expect.
So I wondered if my mom might like it too, but at first, she wasn’t on board.
“I don’t like zombies,” she kept telling me. “Zombies will give me nightmares.”
I persisted: “Mom, it’s the number one show watched by women right now and women don’t usually like zombie stuff. It’s violent but the storyline is great. Just give it a few episodes and if you hate it, I’ll never bring it up again.”
Eventually my folks were worn down enough to try it out. Maybe it would shut me up, if nothing else.
But as we settled down on the couch, I started getting a little nervous about just how graphic it gets and whether or not my mom could handle it.
Mom hasn’t historically done well with violent scenes. After all, this is the women who once panicked while watching Grumpy Old Men since the men were, in fact, somewhat grumpy.
She reserved her judgment, however, only wincing a little through the buckets of gore. Then Carol walked onscreen…
Mom sucked in her breath. “Why is that woman’s hair so short?”
“That’s Carol. She just has short hair.”
“But why is it so short?” She waited to hear a reasonable explanation. Maybe chemo.
“I don’t know mom, but she’s an awesome character. You’ll end up really liking her.”
Mom looked skeptical that any woman with such short hair could end up being awesome, but tried to keep an open mind as she continued to watch.
By this point, my parents were hooked enough to keep watching the show over the next several weeks. Once Rick’s gang made it to Herschel’s farm, I was curious about how my parents felt about the characters so far, so I asked them.
“Hmm,” Mom replied. “Glenn seems nice and Maggie’s alright. As for who I don’t like, hmm…”
I awaited her judgment, expecting to hear about Shane’s ruthlessness or Lori’s betrayal. Maybe even about how Dale is impractical and out-of-touch…
“I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I just don’t like that Carol. It may be her hair.”
“She’s fairly nondescript right now,” I admitted. “But watching it again, I’m noticing how much her character changes over the series. Give her a chance. She ends up being one of your favorites.”
Mom took my point under advisement as we continued plowing through the series. We finally hit the prison section when Carol is missing, presumed dead. Even after T-Dog heroically sacrifices himself to the walkers to give her a fighting chance, the gang finds her bloody headscarf and realizes she never made it out.
They arrange a makeshift grave marker for Carol, where Daryl touchingly leaves white Cherokee roses in tribute. He later finds her knife in a prison hallway and in a moment of pained emotional fury, tears open the jammed door supposedly trapping the walkers that probably killed her.
But instead of zombies, he finds an emaciated Carol, who has survived after all. He picks up the weakened Carol, wedding-threshhold style, and carries her out of the prison in a tearjerking scene.
Mom furrows her brow, squints at the television, and frowns.
“How has her hair not grown any longer yet?”
I couldn’t keep my cool any longer. “That’s IT,” I announce. “I’M SO GOING TO WRITE A BLOG POST ABOUT YOUR OBSESSION WITH CAROL’S HAIRCUT!”
“What? Why?” Mom asked.
“You’re fixated on Carol’s hair to a baffling degree. Why does it matter to you so much?”
“It’s just… SO SHORT.”
“I just don’t understand why it doesn’t get any longer. Maggie’s hair is getting longer, so why isn’t Carol’s? Does she keep cutting it? Is she cutting it that short on purpose?”
“I don’t know! Who cares? Maybe she doesn’t want it in her way when she’s fleeing all the zombies trying to disembowel her! ”
“Don’t you think it’s weird?”
“Well, I wouldn’t keep MY hair that short but I don’t care what Carol does. Is this a generational thing?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I can’t grasp your inability to get past Carol’s hairstyle. Weren’t you guys from the 60’s hippy generation that challenged all the uptight haircut standards?”
“Yes we were,” Mom said proudly, “But we kept our hair LONG, not short. There was a 60’s musical called Hair that was all about challenging the Old Guard by growing our hair out.”
Dad starts singing the “long, beautiful hair” line from the title song of Hair in the background as I continue.
“Okay, but wasn’t the whole point about NOT judging someone’s worth or character by their hairstyle? About keeping your hair however you want it instead of conforming to the rigid lengths of the status quo?”
“Now that you mention it,” Mom started,”You may be onto something about this being a generational perspective. Why, back in France during World War II, French women who prostituted themselves to the Nazis had their hair shorn off as a mark of shame. Maybe when I see Carol, her hair makes her look shameful to me.”
“So… you don’t like Carol because her hairstyle indicates she’s been cavorting with Germans?
“Now Erin, that’s enough!”
And that was that. So bizarre.
I have to wonder whether this attitude represents a personal quirk or part of a larger generational divide. Are any of you Baby Boomers also fans of The Walking Dead, and if so, do you find yourselves struggling to get past the inexplicable shortness of Carol’s hair?
Do you suspect she’s been cavorting with Germans? (This seems like it should be more of a Greatest Generation thing.)
And as long as I’m asking, do any other Gen X/Millennials find themselves at odds with their parents about Carol’s hairstyling choices?
There’s got to be some explanation.