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.

 

bernie mac praise god

 

 

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.

 

when Rick sees Michonne

 

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:

  1. Well-liked and respected
  2. Can hold her own in the relationship [both emotionally and as a leader]
  3. 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.

 

 

JillJill 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.

 

 

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  • HollyQ

    They’re the loves of each others’ lives. She’s the love of Rick’s life. That’s reeaally hard for some people to fathom, not only because of their own biases, but because American TV just doesn’t treat Black women that way (also it’s why people were so able to see Jessie as a viable partner for Rick — that arc represented what USTV does to Black women, and I’m still not fully OK with it even if that was the precise point they were trying to make. No matter what they say, their love story wouldn’t have suffered a loss without Jessie).

    Michonne is not the first Black woman character in the zombie genre to be loved by the leading man (28 Days Later and Z Nation both did it before Richonne), but TWD is different. It’s a huge, culture-impacting show that has seemingly avoided taking risks in the past that might piss off a segment of the gigantic viewerbase (Fan fave Beth never got with Noah, they backpedaled on ever seriously considering making Daryl gay, etc). Richonne is real, and it can’t be ignored. It really is important.

    • I’m Just Sayin

      I forgot all about 28 Days Later. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily think that the show has been risk-averse. I am not against them not pushing Daryl as gay for the story line. Cause for once in all of network TV a white male is seen as asexual…which could be based on mental and physical abuse. Whatever. I would be content to have Daryl NEVER get a love interest with him seeking out a therapist (Denise is a psychiatrist after all) to get over his issues. There are two homosexual relationships on the show (Tara & Denise and Aaron & Eric). There is the interracial relationship between Maggie and Glenn which I think ruffled people’s feathers as well. In both cases, the Asian man and the African American female, have been pushed into asexual territory in movies and television. So it is absolutely refreshing to see the show do it. And they have been doing it for several seasons now.

      • HollyQ

        I’m fine with them not pushing a gay Daryl storyline, the appearance of risk aversion came with with the way they spun their wheels after people freaked over over Reedus saying they’d discussed Daryl being gay.

    • scarletibis24

      Haven’t seen Z Nation, but in 28 Days Later (which still isn’t on the scale of viewing of TWD), that actress has a more “palatable”/less black aesthetic than Michonne. It does not matter to me, obviously, but it seems to matter to the general public. It’s why Michonne is bootstrapped with these (ridiculous) labels–she’s asexual, she’s like Rick’s sister, yada yada yada.

  • CoolChic

    I had written this comment on another thread but it bears repeating:
    As soon as a random blonde girl appeared, folks assumed rick and blondie would eventually get together but somehow it is unfathomable that Michonne gets to be the love interest of the leading male.

    The anti-blackness is APPALLING.

    white guy with latina- not a peep

    white chick with asian male after one night stand- not a peep

    A gay couple- not a peep

    a lesbian couple- not a peep

    random married blondie with leading white male -not a peep

    LEADING black chick with LEADING white male– somehow unfathomable.

    If Michonne was white, no one would be surprised if she got with the LEADING male. People would be saying “of course”.

    It is so unnerving that people are shocked that a black female character could actually be a viable LOVE INTEREST of someone.

    Folks were saying they are brother and sister????? whuttt??? Are they speaking from experience?..hmmm.

    It goes to show how EVERYONE is invested in seeing Black female characters remain asexual and alone.

    Regardless, the scene was AMAZING and felt so natural. Perfect progression.

    • Joshua Olsen

      You nailed it. It’s tremendously sad, in 2016, knowing that there are people out there incapable of seeing Michonne as a viable love interest (nevermind as a woman or sexual entity) for a white male lead simply because she’s black and (gasp) dark-skinned, with her natural hair. They’re equally floored by the fact that she’s not being paraded around as the Magical Negro or some other tedious, two-dimensional trope; they’re too conditioned and comfortable to get the reality of the situation which is that blue-eyed, white males can and do (with increasing frequency) fall for dark-skinned, black women. I’m adoring the uproar this is causing among racists, as there’s little I like better than watching them flail and spew their scripted rhetoric as the world moves on without them.

    • Don’tComeForMe

      My sentiments exactly! You pointed out the different standards perfectly when it comes to black women (and dark skinned black women). For some reason, people associate dark skin with strength (masculine strength) and toughness, so being dark skinned downplays womanhood and beauty/femininity in people’s minds making her unsuitable for the male lead- who’s supposed to be paired with the trophy blonde white woman. The thing is, Michonne is not the only strong woman on the show at all so it shouldn’t be a mystery as to why she would be in a relationship! Maggie and all the other women are also strong, but we can tolerate and appreciate their relationships. Why can’t we understand and enjoy Michonne being humanized and romanticized like the others? It kind of hurts that people respond with such outrage and confusion at the notion of a black woman in a relationship with the male lead…as if we’re not worthy or something. Ugh! Television and film has a lot of power and we need to see more black women portrayed as valuable love interests too.

  • Nak Johnson

    Did you go to Comic Con in 2015?? I feel like you’re the person that asked the question about Richonne at the panel. Sorry if you’re not. 🙂

    Anyway, your analysis is SPOT ON. Thank you for this piece!

    • scarletibis24

      Ha! I am the Richonne paneler at SDCC 2015. Thanks for the comment; I’m glad you liked it ^_^

      • Nak Johnson

        Yay!! I was actually watching the panel right before I read this! Thanks for asking that question because I really loved their responses to it! You’re doing great work! 😀

        • scarletibis24

          I sadly won’t be there this year [cries], but thank you 😀

    • scarletibis24

      Also, do you know where I might be able to find that vid?

  • Paul Ambutsi

    This article is spot on! We have been programmed to think in a certain way and boundaries are pushed when we are presented with something out of the norm such as #richonne; case in point is that we can pin-point the number of black women that have been paired with a leading white male. The silver lining is that we are having this conversation and we fingers crossed the momentum will only pick up and not be stagnant!

  • Lala Blossoms

    I knew there was something between these two from the beginning. The meeting scene was intense. I knew something major was going to go down between them. Rick met others in the group, but never with this much drama and chemistry. Plus, Rick and Michonne are the only ones with their dynamic. If anyone has a sisterly relationship with him it would be Maggie and even more so Carol, and Daryl is his brother. Michonne is special and always has been. He was intrigued with her from jump even if he didn’t understand why. It is not a coincidence that she appeared so briefly after Lori died.

    I did not jump to love connection until they simmered down the distrust, but it became so obvious the more they interacted. You can tell they were into each other physically (especially Rick looking her up and down all the time), but they pushed the lust to the back burner to deal with survival. In the meantime they gradually fell in love, became co-parents, and co-leaders and it all came together on that couch. I don’t understand why some people can’t see how masterfully planned and natural the whole thing is. People are projecting their own attraction or racial biases, or are just kinda dumb and didn’t see the signs. It’s really the best relationship on the show, if not the best romantic relationship on TV.

    Most TV couples only come together because of lust or a “crush” that develops without getting to the deeper layers of the couple as an individual or them as partners. This progression was written so well. I am shocked, but not really. I say whatever, haters can hate, but these lovers are here to stay and I can’t wait to see more. The positive thing is that the majority of fans have been wanting and anticipating this for so long, plus Rick and Michonne have strong fandoms, they are iconic. This will not hurt the show and the saltiness will not hurt them. I think a lot of white chicks are pissed because it ruins their Rick Grimes with the girl next door fantasy and guys want to live through him and see him with the hot blonde or whatever. But Michonne is beautiful in his eyes (and mine) and that is all that matters. Oh well, I can’t have him either (and he’s not real, haha), but happy to see him loved by the perfect woman for him and happy she found her prince.

  • lynn1066

    Great article, and I so agree with every point. It’s so sad that it’s considered revolutionary to have a dark-skinned black woman with natural hair be seen as desirable/ worthy of romantic love on a popular TV show.

    I too have been shipping Richonne since season 3. Yes there have been a lot of racist haters making their opinions known since Richonne became canon, but I think overall there are more lovers than haters. Judging from the mass celebration online on twitter, etc. These two are in it for the long haul, and it’s a beautiful thing.

  • Mmm Hyatt

    I don’t watch the show but I have heard that it is really good. I’m glad I came across this website, it helps to clue me in on what’s new. But my comment is..why is a interracial relationship between a BLACK man and white female or vice versa okay or maybe even expected nowadays, but a interracial relationship between a BLACK female and WHITE man or another race male, is a cause for an uproar?!!! See they can play the game however they want, but we can’t. People if our black men can run to the other side, then so can we! What..? we’re suppose to wait around for the black men to ‘wake up’ and smell the brown coffee? Hell no! Go for it Michonne!!!

  • Mmm Hyatt

    Another thing..why the hell are there white people on this site anyway giving an opinion?!! This is a BLACK site for “BLACKGIRLNERDS”!! Key word BLACK. Can we please have something without interference from YOU people!!!!!!!