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Editorial: In Defense of ‘The Walking Dead’

The Walking Dead isn’t a show about politics, it isn’t even a show about the real world, so when a firestorm gets set-off about a show that centers on a small group of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, my head turns slightly.

Oh controversy, you spring up in the most unexpected places.

In the two plus seasons that the show has been on the air we have gotten to know very little about this small band of survivors, but we do know (I guess) that none of them are gay. Now prior to today, I didn’t actually give that any thought because I don’t tend to give a damn whether a character is gay or straight. I just care that they are well written and feel genuine. And in the case of something like The Walking Dead — which is adapted from a comic book — I also care that they stay somewhat true to the source material.

Now, the show does often stray from that source material, but I’ve come to accept that we are viewing a similar but not identical world and I trust the creative team to pick and choose the characters and parts of the story that best allow them to tell the stories that they want to tell. After-all, if it was a page for page adaptation, wouldn’t that get a bit boring for someone like me, who has religiously read my Walking Dead trades cover to cover?

Hell, I’m not even surprised by the left turns or omissions anymore. “Okay, you killed Dale super early and now Hershel is going to be his stand in and get his leg chopped off, okie-doke” I thought to myself last week. One thing I did not think to myself though, is: “Where is the great love affair between Dexter and Andrew?”

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the comic, Dexter was a bad dude. An inmate at the prison and a murderer. Dexter had no love for Rick and his crew, but he did have lust for Andrew, who was sort of his prison bitch.

In the end, Dexter gets killed by Rick in the middle of a zombie attack in an “oopsy, friendly fire” kind of moment after those bad feelings for Rick and his crew started to bubble up. It is an important moment for Rick’s evolution (or de-evolution) in the book.

Now, if that sort of sounds familiar that’s because Tomas is sort of the Dexter stand-in when you think about how he died, how he tried to take back the prison, and what his death means for Rick’s evolution (or de-evolution) on the show.

Andrew? He’s there and he has some kind of relationship with Tomas. I’m basing that on how he reacts to his death and how he and Tomas eye-plot in the moments prior, but it isn’t defined and we don’t know if they had the same kind of relationship as Dexter and Andrew did and I don’t care.

Why don’t I care? Because it would have meant nothing to the story, but Will Kohler over at the Back2Stonewall blog does care:

Once again TWD has skirted the issue of LGBT survivors of the zombie apocalypse by just making believe that they don’t exist and this time editing them out of the original material.

Considering the veritable United Nations of characters that have been seen on The Walking Dead over the past three seasons it’s becoming a glaring omission and sad  fact there has not been one LGBT character on this show up till now.

Now, I don’t know what “veritable United Nations” is supposed to imply because it can’t mean that the show has been particularly diverse. Prior to this season we’ve only seen two African-American main characters, one Asian character, and a whole lot of white people, but that isn’t the point. The point also isn’t that we’ve seen a scant few actual survivors beyond the shows first few episodes. No, the point is that Mr. Kohler is displeased that Dexter and Andrew weren’t included in the story (even though Tomas’ death sort of indicates that he sort of was Dexter) and he is letting the internet know about it, as is his right. The trouble is, he contradicts himself in the next paragraph:

Invisibility on television is a major problem for the LGBT Community and both TV and movies need to learn that a characters sexuality is an aside, a trait like being left-handed or having blue eyes and should be presented and treated as such and not something to fear presenting.

Now let me say that I agree with some parts of this statement — invisibility is a major problem for the LGBT community, and a characters sexuality does need to be a non-issue, though how you make a characters sexual identify both visible and not, does present a challenge.

Listen, I firmly believe that we need to move away from “Oh my God! A gay character! Run!”, but  I thought the point of acceptance wasn’t “YES! A gay relationship on TV!”, I thought it was “Meh, who cares?”

We don’t need to watch a scoreboard. Success here isn’t going to be based on the number of LGBT characters on TV and in movies, it’s going to be determined by how well written and acted those characters are.

So while I’d love to see more gay characters on TV (ones who aren’t presented as eunuchs or stereotypes), I don’t want them to be gay just for the pop social value of having a gay character and I don’t want their sexuality to be their only defining feature because that feels farcical and forced and that isn’t representative of reality.

Making Dexter and Andrew’s sexuality (or in this case, Tomas and Andrew’s sexuality) part of the story would have been that kind of representation because the characters were on screen for a little more than one episode and every moment was a moment packed with tension and action. Talking about their sexuality wouldn’t have just been pointless, it would have diminished the story because such an admission or discovery would feel odd within the bounds of that story. Honestly it would have felt like a quick remark to let the world know that the producers were eager to check off a diversity box.

I would never expect that from the people behind The Walking Dead. A group that sadly no longer includes Frank Darabont, an absence that Mr. Kohler is seemingly not aware of according to his article.

Now, do I believe that we will eventually see respectful and well told stories that involve characters that happen to be gay (like Aaron and Eric perhaps), just as we’ve seen those kinds of stories involving people who happen to be straight? I’m sure of it, and I look forward to that day, but the last thing I want is for a political agenda to shape the story that we see, even if I happen to agree with the many portions of that agenda.

As I said, The Walking Dead is a show about surviving a zombie apocalypse and I believe it is wrongheaded to try and turn it into some kind of societal looking glass, or make it some kind of reductive after-school special where everyone feels like they are part of the group.

There are plenty of shows out there that are damning the LGBT agenda while pretending to be on their side, shows that are unwilling to portray LGBT characters as anything more than cliches and punchlines. I say go after those shows and give The Walking Dead a chance to get to a point where they tell the right kind of LGBT stories for the right reasons in an organic way.

The views and opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and not Nerdbastards.com.

Category: Comics, TV

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