Among the fandom of AMC’s The Walking Dead, there are three basic questions that rival the questions Rick Grimes and friends are prone to asking people they come across. However, rather than asking how many walkers they’ve killed, how many people they’ve killed, and why, fans have these three questions on their mind.
- Why did Carl never stay in the house?
- How does Glenn keep surviving?
- When is Daryl Dixon going to enter a romantic relationship?
Of course, while the first two are easily answered — immaturity and a need to do something productive from Carl and awful, inconsistent writing for Glenn — that third question falls into much more of a gray area. Just who is Daryl Dixon underneath the leather jacket, shaggy hair, and crossbow? Why, in a show where nearly all of the survivors have tried to get into some sort of romantic relationship (both long and short-term), has Daryl stayed abstinent and just kept to himself?
Before you answer, let’s just get some basic things out of the way. Daryl Dixon, in the six seasons we’ve gotten to know him, has shown no attraction to anyone of either gender. There’s been no whistling at Maggie or Michonne, no looks of lust at Rosita, and no running off with Rick Grimes. By all means, Daryl could be asexual, he could be someone who leans one way but doesn’t want to risk anything with his family, or he could be a closeted homosexual who holds it all in because of his upbringing and the fact that his abusive father, Will, and brother, Merle, likely would have been far from accepting of him being into men.
As more and more homosexual characters come out and take up bigger roles in TV shows, fans are becoming more vocal on social media about making their favorite characters fall into different sexuality archetypes. We saw the hashtag #GiveElsaAGirlfriend take off earlier this year, as MTV News reported this spring, and fans of The Walking Dead have begun doing the same with Daryl Dixon.
However, can the writers give Daryl a boyfriend if he’s not gay? In a 2015 interview with the Wrap, actor Norman Reedus addressed Daryl’s sexuality and explained previous conversations with those who have a bit more power than he does.
“There’s a character in the comic book named Jesus, who is gay and he’s badass. Somebody in a panel asked Robert [Kirkman], ‘Is that going to be Daryl’s story?’ And he said, ‘Well, we’ve talked about it. The talk about it thing came from Frank Darabont at the end of Season 1. I was with him, and he said, ‘Let me throw something at you. What if Daryl were gay?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. We didn’t ever do it, but it was talked about.”
So, is Daryl Dixon going to eventually be revealed as gay like Frank Darabont originally planned, or are we going to see years of unresolved sexual tension between Daryl and Carol finally pay off? Will Alexandria’s co-recruiter just continue to watch others have their fun building a future with someone else?
Like with any sort of study, the best place to start is with what we know, which isn’t much, believe it or not. Really, the only times Daryl’s been involved in some sort of sexual scenario was when he and Carol were flirting in the Season # premiere, “Seed,” though 99.9 percent of the flirting came from Carol. Even when Carol asked if Daryl wanted to “screw around” and then joked about “going down,” all the latter did was pause, stay stop, and climb back down off the toppled bus they stood on.
There’s a theory among some fans that the two both indeed have feelings for each other but are afraid to reveal them in hopes of damaging both their own and the other’s psyche. Based on the history of both, not to mention Carol’s previous abusive marriage, that theory actually makes perfect sense. Carol also has seemingly entered some sort of relationship with Tobin, which may put a hold on any screwing around between her and Daryl.
If “Caryl” was going to be a thing, it’d have already happened in Season 5 after Daryl and Carol were reunited outside Terminus. Most likely, Carol would have admitted in Atlanta that she had romantic feelings for Daryl, and as Twitter blew up, she’d have said something along the lines of the following.
“I know how tough this is for you, having someone admit that they actually want to make a future with you, but you’ve done so much for me. For all of us. When Rick sent me away and I came back to the prison, saw it nearly destroyed, my heart broke because I feared for you. That was when after all of this time I finally said I can’t live without him. You’ve come so far since we were last here and in this life, you can lose everything in a second. Whether my time comes tomorrow or it comes in twenty years, I want to die at least knowing that I love you, Daryl Dixon. There’s no pressure on either of us to make something but regardless of what you say to me, Daryl, I want you to know that you are the reason I keep going. I don’t have Sophia anymore, I don’t have Lizzie and Mika, but the one thing left that would even want to make me wake up in the morning — either in a prison or on a leaf bead — is knowing I’ll have you with me.”
And then, Rihanna would have turned out to be a prophet because the two survivors would have found love in a hopeless place. However, none of that happened, and all we got from the two in Season 5 was a kiss to Daryl’s forehead courtesy of Carol. If you’re a fan of Caryl, you’re probably scratching that pairing off the list as we speak.
But wait, what about Beth? When you rewatch the series again, you’ll notice that Daryl really admires Hershel as a father figure — both come from similar backgrounds, what with the abusive fathers and growing up around alcohol — and cares deeply for both Maggie and Beth. Even if some marketing people wanted to ship and promote “Bethyl” because it would help bring in a female demographic who may not have tuned in otherwise, Daryl looks at Beth more as a sister and someone to protect.
By letting Beth get kidnapped and later killed, Daryl had failed Hershel, Maggie, and Beth herself. The man’s emotional breakdown wasn’t because he would never be able to make a family with Beth Greene, but because someone as innocent and optimistic as her had met death by way of a bullet from a corrupt cop.
Honestly, the only person who even makes sense romantically for Daryl is someone he can’t have due to established canon: Rick Grimes. For as much of a bond that Daryl and Carol may have or that friendship-bordering-on-brotherhood we saw between him and Aaron at the end of Season 5, Rick is the only character in the show right now that would be the perfect fit for Daryl. Since Atlanta, the two have been brothers, building a connection that rivals very few in television history. Daryl is also a father figure to Carl and Judith, even going so far as to risk his own life multiple times to ensure the latter’s safety.
Putting Rick and Daryl together would also be the only one besides Daryl and Carol that wouldn’t feel forced because we’ve spent six years getting to know them and watching them grow as people and friends. But, the pairing that the fans have taken to calling “Rickyl” would unfortunately not work, and not just for the reason that Rick is currently involved with Michonne. With Rick’s history of being married to Lori and never showing any type of attraction to men, many fans would likely see the decision to pair the two up as a forced show of LGBT support and of a necessity to make a character homosexual.
And as time goes on, people are going to keep coming up with new relationship ideas for Daryl, whether it’s him and Rosita, him and Dwight, him and Jesus, or even him and a walker, but does it even matter at this point? Honestly, I remain at the point where I do in fact think Daryl is a combination of being asexual and wanting to avoid getting into a romantic relationship, though none of that changes who Daryl Dixon is as a character.
Would it add to his character if we saw him finally give into his emotions and enter a relationship with someone? Yes, definitely, but Daryl being single isn’t going to kill the show or fix the cringe-worthy writing that plagues the other arcs and characters. Whatever Daryl turns out to be, we’re not going to watch an entire episode dedicated to him shopping or staring at Rick’s curls, and fans shouldn’t care at the end of the day. If Daryl is straight, that’s cool. If Daryl likes the company of men, alright. If Daryl does turn out to be asexual, fine.
Right now, we’re seeing television finally beginning to see and incorporate asexual characters — most notably Bojack Horseman’s Todd Chavez — and Daryl Dixon joining the ranks would be a positive step in that direction not just for the industry, but the importance of establishing equality and respect between all groups. To know and be aware that one of the most popular, badass characters in any medium right now is not the norm probably does more than forced acceptances and overreactions to those who disagree.
Whether the writers make Daryl asexual, gay, straight, or someone who identifies his sexuality as a bottle cap, we can at least take solace knowing the brother of Merle is still going to be the same old, crossbow-owning, long-haired tough guy that’s become the signature face of The Walking Dead.
That is, unless, Dwight takes his place as the group’s crossbowman. Say what you want about the writers hating the fans, but even I don’t think they hate us that much.
[Featured Image by Gene Page/AMC]