Carl Grimes is a character who first appeared in the comic book series “The Walking Dead”, the first issue of which got published in 2003. He is an important character, son of the protagonist (sheriff Rick Grimes) and was introduced in issue #2 of the series. So, naturally, when the comic book series was adapted as a horror drama TV series by the same name, the character of Carl was kept as an important piece.
The reason he is important (apart from being the protagonist’s son and all the decision altering consequences and emotional investment this implies) is that he is supposed to present the difficult road to maturity of a human child thrown into a world completely different than the one in which his ancestors grew up in. A world in which survival just became way more difficult and is the top priority, trumping other moral considerations that we take for granted in our current “civilized” society.
And on top of that, his elders can’t really guide his development, because it’s kind of difficult to give advice to a kid and know how he should grow up during a Zombie Apocalypse, with which no one has dealt with before. So, in this context, it’s pretty clear that the character of Carl doesn’t have an easy road ahead of him and should be given some understanding and tolerance for all the mistakes he will most probably make.
This is true of the TV series character as well, whom the writers appear to want to follow the comic book version pretty closely, as concerns his development. Which makes Chandler Riggs‘ job (the actor who plays Carl) a difficult one, that any actor would find challenging. But now take into consideration that when the series premiered in 2010, Chandler was, by the necessity of the role, a child himself, 10 years old!
It should come as no surprise then that the character of Carl Grimes as portrayed by Chandler Riggs in “The Walking Dead” TV series is one of the most polarizing ones in history and possibly even more disliked than the character of Joffrey in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, because in the case of Joffrey, the general opinion of the audience was that they HATE the character, without many notable comments regarding the acting of actor Jack Gleeson.
In other words, the general feel was that Jack Gleeson was just an actor doing his job (damn well, I’m sure you’ll agree), and his job happened to involve a clear-cut dislike-able, obnoxious, psychotic, cowardly, pampered and general Lord of Douchebaggery character.
As described above, the character of Carl Grimes is rather complex and not clear-cut at all.
So the big question is: why do so many people hate him with a passion and wish he would just decide to up and go become a juicy zombie burger with ample blood and guts sauce and a seasoning of pain and gruesome death? So much so that there’s even a dedicated Facebook page called “I hate Carl Grimes (The Walking Dead)”.
Sure, not absolutely everyone hates him. There do exist a relative few opinions ranging from puzzlement as to why people hate him to out-right defense along the line of “Carl’s a good kid. He’s just growin’ up in a messed up world.” or even the rare, isolated “I just LOVE Carl Grimes” (though one might suspect that the chances of those being posted by some trolls who are at it again are not null).
But the majority of the opinions fall in the negative camp. And the reasons behind them can only revolve around one of the following scenarios: the people hate exclusively the character (like in Joffrey’s case), they hate both the character and Chandler’s acting or they just hate Chandler’s acting.
Either of the main components (character or acting) bear debate.
Because, as regards the character, the explanations given before stand: he is not your average spoiled kid in an average situation. So perhaps he should be given some lee-way. Of course, he could be more obedient, respectful and open to advice and it’s not hard to imagine another kid with another personality in his circumstances reacting more to the audience’s liking… So in this case, it’s a personal, subjective reaction to how the character was written, or what personality he was given, to be more precise. As opposed to how the audience thinks he could/should have been written. But hey, life is pretty weird with many types of individuals roaming about. So a character with Carl’s personality in a Zombie Apocalypse setting is by no means implausible. On the contrary, he might even be common. And the audience will just have to deal with the fact that he is a part of that fictional world and he has the personality he has, so just analyse things from this perspective.
Regarding the acting, again it seems to come to personal preference and a subjective decision, because Chandler Riggs’ credentials show him to be a talented actor, judging by the 3 awards and 2 nominations he won for specifically for the role of Carl!
Still, the statistics remain. If the general perception is that this character is just as hated as that of Joffrey or more, despite being clearly more redeemable and excusable than Joffrey, could it mean that Carl is … worse than Joffrey?! Is such a thing even possible?! Or Is Chandler Riggs doing something terribly wrong? Yours to decide.