Dec 7, 2014

The Walking Dead: Gay People Unwelcome at the End of the World

I saw an episode or so of The Walking Dead on Netflix a couple of years ago.  I wasn't impressed.

It begins, like 28 Days Later, with Georgia cop Rick (Andrew Lincoln) awakening from a coma to discover that most of the population has turned into zombies, leaving only scattered bands of survivors.  He goes off in search of his wife and son.  The first survivor he meets is heartbroken because his wife has become a zombie.

That was more than enough heterosexism at the end of the world, thank you.

Recently I've begun watching again. We're in the middle of Season 3.  So far there have been innumerable other men who have lost their wives, plus a few women who have lost their husbands.  Apparently the zombies target only one half of each heterosexual couple. 

And there's been exactly one reference to the existence of LGBT people: when former prison inmate Axel (Lew Temple) joins the group, he complains that it doesn't have any eligible women: they're either too young, or already involved, and Carol (Melissa McBride) is a lesbian. She protests that she's not a lesbian -- she lost her husband to the zombies --she just happens to have short hair.

That's it.

The comic book series apparently introduces a gay couple in Issue 67: Andrew and Eric, "the only two gay guys left in the world," who live in the Alexandria, Virginia Safe Zone.  Eric is eventually killed, but Andrew survives and becomes a regular character.

The tv series hasn't gotten out of Atlanta yet, so there has been no opportunity to introduce Andrew and Eric.  You could invent gay characters of your own, of course, but every time a fan board suggests that this or that character might be gay, the producers summarily deny it. 

Norman Reedus (left), who plays Daryl Dixon, the redneck hunter (and the only one in the group who hasn't found a way to stay perfectly coiffed) states that his character is "prison gay," open to same-sex relationships if there aren't any women available.  But this apparently was his own decision in fleshing out the character, unknown to the producers.

There are no gay people in their series to date.

Are they making a homophobic statement about the survival chances of limp-wristed, fashion-obsessed swishes in a zombie attack?  

Or are they proclaiming, like Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that with so many important survival issues, there is no room at the end of the world for discussions of "orientations"?  Except heterosexual orientations, of course.

Or are they just following tradition: except for a few low-budget indie pictures and Stephen King's Cell, gay people are always unwelcome at the end of the world.

But not to worry: there's plenty of beefcake, such as Shane (Jon Bernthal (top photo, Rick's cop buddy who slept with his wife while he was in a coma), and Glenn (Steven Yeun, left), a former pizza delivery boy who becomes the group's most skillful scout.

And there's plenty of same-sex buddy-bonding going on, sometimes between men who don't express any heterosexual interest (presumably they are still grieving over wives lost to the zombies).

So we can go back to what we did in the dark ages before Stonewall: find glimmers of meaning even when we are being told over and over again that we do not exist.

Or we can stop watching.