I recently read an interview with Robert Kirkman about Daryl Dixon and the Walking Dead. In it he hinted that Daryl might be gay. Maybe it’s the cynic coming out in me, but I think this sounds likely an easily digestible sound bite to get everyone’s twitters twittering and drum up some publicity before the season premier.
However, the more I thought about it the more I found myself intrigued by the concept. Daryl is portrayed as a redneck. According to the stereotype, he would have grown up in an environment that identifies homosexuality as “wrong”. How could someone like that be gay? Even if he were he’d probably be in such deep denial he’d never let it show, even to himself.
Then I thought about it a little more. Daryl Dixon’s entire character arc has been about a man finding the place where he belongs. He had notes of self hatred early on, only considering himself the redneck which everyone took him for at face value. As the world ended he found value in himself. He wasn’t just a redneck hick. He became a survivor, a warrior, a hero. He emerged from his brother’s shadow shedding all the racial and social prejudices he carried, especially the ones he held against himself. Daryl became his own man. If written well, accepting his own sexuality would be an extension of that. So it might be possible that there is more to him. Daryl Dixon is one of the most unequivocal badass characters in contemporary pop culture. If he is made to be gay, it would be a great chance to buck the cliche where the media shows gay men to be effeminate.
Now the question is would it be in character?
We’ve never seen any overt signs of Daryl’s sexuality gay, straight, asexual or somewhere in between. Generally sex should come second when being hunted down by living corpses. (Lori and Shane I’m looking at you!) The closest thing we’ve seen to him having romantic relationships with women is his interactions with Carol and Beth. Though there are some romantic overtones, there’s nothing overt to imply it is anything other than two characters confiding each other.
The Walking Dead is about survival in the face of hopelessness. There can be a place to explore that element of the character but it can’t be thrown in or tacked on. If Daryl one day just decides to say that he likes boys, it would feel very insincere. Maybe if the character ever has a short lived respite, his sexuality could become a plot point in the same way Rick’s sanity and pacifism were explored during the time in the prison. It would be a way to contrast the savagery of the post apocalyptic world with the hope of a human relationship. At the end of the day it all depends on how well it’s written.