"Walking Dead" grumble thread: Hey, maybe Daryl's gay

If only there were an atheist angle, this would be perfect Friday palate-cleansing material.

On the one hand, a show known for weak dialogue and plodding pacing should have more important things to worry about than “Does Daryl like girls?” On the other hand, the inevitable very special episode in which Rick and Daryl get gay-married will be amazing.

When asked if the possibility of Daryl being gay had been considered, [show creator Robert] Kirkman answered, “All I can say is that it’s been discussed. We have very specific ideas about Daryl’s sexuality (or the seeming lack thereof), and if there’s ever a quiet period in the show where he’s not consistently distracted by crossbowing… we’ll tackle it in the show.”

When also asked if AMC would let the possibility of Daryl Dixon being gay fly, Kirkman responded, “For the record, they absolutely would.”

It never occurred to me to wonder what Daryl’s orientation might be, not because he seems obviously straight but because he’s barely a person. He’s an archetype, the strong, silent, sensitive loner who survived a rough upbringing to become an honorable man. Characters like him are usually conspicuously protective of women because that trait underscores their nobility; Daryl, naturally, is close to and protective of Carol, Beth, and (before she turned zombie) Sophia. He gets maybe three words of dialogue in an average episode but I don’t think we’ve seen him do a single mean or selfish thing since the show premiered. He’s an ideal, which is why fans are so possessive of him. He reminds me in some ways of Clint Eastwood’s (way more interesting and complex) character in “Unforgiven,” which makes sense given that they’re both take-offs on the classic western cowboy. And one of the novel things about the cowboy hero in westerns is that often he doesn’t get the girl. He’s simply too much of a loner, too damaged by the terrible things he’s seen and done in his past to durably connect with anyone in a romantic way. Eastwood dealt with that by making Will Munny a widower; “The Walking Dead” dealt with it by making Daryl’s defining relationship on the show the one with his domineering (and also much more interesting) older brother, Merle. The cowboy archetype typically has two functions, kicking the asses of the villains who cross him and then either dying heroically in an act of sacrifice or riding off into the sunset alone. It’ll be really surprising if Daryl ends up escaping those fates.

But maybe he has to. It’s easy to write two hours of the lonesome cowboy archetype for a movie, not so easy to do it for 50 hours in a TV series. And if they’ve got to give Daryl a love interest, why not make it a gay one? Granted, that ground has already been covered elsewhere, but the show now seems sufficiently aimless that it could do with a gimmick or two to liven things up. Little Judith is destined to age a few years soon and become TWD’s version of Cousin Oliver; Daryl might as well get a taboo-shattering romantic subplot as a little extra media candy. The show has always struggled with a bizarre soap-opera impulse, most famously in the Rick/Lori/Shane “whose baby is it?” love triangle, and they’re now deep enough into the woods plot-wise that the fans will not only tolerate long, talky, boring episodes, they probably expect it. So get soapy, and go gay while you’re at it: At least, unlike the Glenn/Maggie love story, it won’t be dull.

Whatever happens with Daryl, it sounds like they’re going to add a gay character regardless. His name: Oliver, hopefully!

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