I’ve been shipping Richonne [Rick & Michonne of The Walking Dead] since the moment they saw each other through that chain link fence, and she was covered in walker guts. When they held hands on that couch, I assure you, my heart sang. It sang. And when they finally kissed, soul soared.
I hardcore ship Richonne. I’ve written fanfic for them, essays, dedicated hours of time on Tumblr and Twitter for them, and even created a Facebook page [The Living Richonne]. Hell, I’m even looking for the Rick to my Michonne. For cosplaying purposes…yep!
But, on a [more] serious note, there are two different, but important ways in which Richonne is essential: in a fandom sense, and also in a social sense.
When the show began, Rick was in a love triangle [which he was initially unaware of]. Fans were not keen on his wife, Lori. She was viewed as weak, whiney, ineffectual, and a terrible mother. Of course, not all fans felt this way, but there were a precious few to mourn her death from the series.
Still, it was only a matter of time before a new, suitable mate would appear.
In season 3 episode 6 “Hounded,” Rick meets Michonne. I’m sure the idea of a relationship with anyone is the furthest thing from his mind. However, and perhaps this is due to the sheer chemistry of the actors, there is an intensity to their gaze. It is Carl who takes the first shot at a walker upon her collapse; and Rick who runs to the gate to get her to safety. Even if we eliminate the intense stares, it is Rick who discovers her, and his son who jumpstarts getting her to safety. Sure, their first few moments are, let’s say, antagonistic, but the show/showrunners/writers/perhaps actors have been leading us to the path of Richonne since that moment.
This notion is enforced once Rick, his son Carl and Michonne are separated from the main group. Their bond is able to grow deeper and stronger. Michonne slips easily into the mother figure role for Carl, and strengthens her connection as friend and confidant to Rick.
Once Rick has had time to heal emotionally from the death of his wife, and came to terms with the true version of himself in this world, he is finally ready and stable enough to have a partner. There is a short interlude before this, however, with [out of left field] Jessie. Jessie who represented Rick’s old life. Jessie who had no bonds with his children. Jessie who got nothing more than a stolen kiss in a garage at night.
Andrew Lincoln described the experience as:
“I was concerned about the time jump not registering, because episodically, Rick’s just lost Jessie. But actually, Jessie’s a vital part of opening up a very important area of Rick that he had closed since Lori’s death. I think without Jessie, the kiss [with Michonne] would never have happened. There is a natural evolution, I think, of Rick between those two women.”
Essentially, he says that Jessie is Rick’s rebound (in a kind, professional sort of way). And that’s fair; that makes sense. After that [incredibly brief, fly-by-night] romance, he is ready for a true and mature relationship. He finds this with the woman who’s been both his friend, confidant, and mother figure to his children. It makes sense.
Why this is important to fandom is because, as the lead, it’s important that Rick end up with someone exemplifies the following:
- Well-liked and respected
- Can hold her own in the relationship [both emotionally and as a leader]
- loves Rick and his kids
That is the ideal partner—someone who is worthy. Most fans were either already fans of “Richonne,” or were aware of the show going in the direction of Richonne.
And then there were some that weren’t.
But for those that were, the success of this more than viable relationship is important to fandom, as it is making [most] fans happy. Being able to root for the lead character in this manner is important to the fandom community. It generates enthusiastic involvement [fan art, fan fiction, essays, gifs, memes, and hardcore watchers of the show] and important coverage. Michonne was the fantasy choice that came to fruition. Here we were given a true relationship—two people who fully understand and love each other, and aren’t ashamed to express that amongst those they care about.
And this is where the caveat comes in, and the social aspect enters:
All of this would be fine and dandy if Michonne were white, or at the very least, light with curly hair. Someone with the aesthetics of a Kerry Washington or a Halle Berry type (or, Christian Sarratos or Sonequa Martin-Green if we’re talking about actresses on the show). But, as it stands, what this pairing has exposed is latent racism (or in certain instances, blatant racism) amongst viewers. Richonne has become a litmus test for this.
The couple has been described as “PC” or “pandering,” or that they are ill-fitting because Michonne is too strong, or that a relationship will somehow make her character weak. They (Rick & Michonne) were described as having a sibling-like relationship by these naysayers. Some even went on to say that Michonne was asexual. I am not sure what show they were watching, but it clearly was not The Walking Dead.
If Michonne had been paired with one of the supporting characters, it would not have made such a fuss [if any]. But because Rick is the lead character—the guy—I suppose he’s held to a different standard.
Rick & Michonne challenge what the “ideal” should be. There are few actresses who share the aesthetics of Danai Gurira. Rarer still have we seen them as a lead, or the “love interest”. Because this is The Walking Dead, with well over 10 million viewers weekly, it is in the position to make an impact on how dark skinned Black women are loved and nurtured on screen. I haven’t seen a situation quite like this since Whoopi Goldberg at her peak.
At any rate, I certainly hope this ‘ship survives the series. The world needs them.
Jill Robi is a Chicago native and Columbia Chicago graduate. With a BA in fiction writing, she is a self-proclaimed geek, avid comic-con attendee, cosplayer, and professional karaoke singer. A freelancer, she continues to work for the Sugar Gamers and The Geek Initiative as press and film critic. Currently, Jill is promoting her latest novel, The Good Soldier, a superhero urban contemporary. Though she favors pop-fic and chick lit, Jill also likes to write poetry, noir, and sci-fi/fantasy. She particularly loves exploring character studies.