I’m certain some readers are already scoffing at the title of this blog post. After all, how can a show have gay characters but still have a problem with them? Well, the answer is, sadly, very easily.
It’s in the way they’re represented and explored. And in this instance, I feel like The Walking Dead has done its few lgbtq characters a huge injustice by nearly ignoring their existence completely.
Let me first discuss the second most popular horror show on TV today, American Horror Story. A show that has multiple lgbtq characters per season and storylines that actually explore those characters’ issues and relationships. Let’s look at the last full season, Freakshow, for example. It had both major and minor queer characters, yet they were never treated as a novelty. It wasn’t a quick, gag-like reveal – “Oh, and he’s gay! I know right!?” Instead, the characters had their own personal arcs that embraced and explored their sexualities along with everything else that made up their personality and being.
Back on The Walking Dead, this is an issue. Its gay and lesbian characters aren’t getting the same exploration. They’re not being given the chance to flourish. And the real reason this strikes me as highly concerning is because none of the fans seem to be talking about it. Know what they are still harping on about though? Unfair black representation within the show.
I know fully well that there is still a wide divide when it comes to racial representation in nearly all facets of life, television included, but I’ve honestly never thought The Walking Dead was one of the worst offenders, if an offender at all. Detailed character lists find that TWD has had a long list of black characters on the show. Some blogs, and even the showrunners themselves, have argued that this isn’t a real issue at all, with many more white characters being slaughtered on the show than black. If anything, I’ve personally wondered why more people weren’t complaining about Hispanics, Latinos, Middle Easterners, or even those of Mediterranean descent. Also, has no one noticed that Glenn is literally the only Asian on the show… in all five seasons.
Oh, and of course, I’ve also wondered why no one else has been complaining about the lack of lgbtq representation.
Currently, the show has three such characters; lesbian Tara Chambler (whose girlfriend died in Season 4) and gay couple, Aaron and Eric, all of whom are secondary characters. But how would we have even known or how would we be expected to remember? Aside from quick exposition in past episodes, incorporated so casually to reveal their sexuality as in Tara’s case, or quick pecks on the lips as in the case of the gay couple, we literally have nothing for these characters when it comes to their personal lives.
We could argue that The Walking Dead is just simply not a sexually-driven show, unlike American Horror Story which often uses aspects of sex and sexuality as plot devices and/or themes. There have always been characters in relationships and characters having sex, particularly in the earlier seasons of TWD, but overall the show has played down romantic storylines. But while they are maybe not as apparent as other shows, it doesn’t mean they’re non-existent.
Right now, we still have Glenn and Maggie as our most iconic zombie-fighting couple. Rick is still interested in Jessie, his son Carl has eyes for the floating and mysterious Enid, and Michonne may finally be getting some romance of her own with the reintroduction of Morgan. Outside of them we have the potential for Rosita and Abraham or Rosita and Eugene, but mostly the show just seems to be full of single people more interested in the dead than the living… understandably, of course.
But this makes the need for exposure all the more important when it comes to Tara, Aaron, and Eric. Tara, possibly being the only lesbian around for miles, must be feeling some kind of loneliness only she can fully understand, and if Aaron and Eric are seriously only one of two successful couples in this current season, why aren’t we celebrating them?
Why allow Tara to reveal herself as a lesbian if it isn’t going to add or take away anything from her character otherwise? Why include a loving gay couple if their relationship isn’t going to be used as a beacon of hope and love in such a violent, terrifying, undead world? Why aren’t the showrunners giving these three anything substantial to bring to the lgbtq representation table!?
I know season 6 is only a few episodes in, and though I seriously doubt Tara will find love (unless Dr. Denise turns out to enjoy the ladies : UPDATE – Called it! ), I have high hopes that Aaron will grow into a larger and more active character and, as a result, shine some much needed light on his relationship with Eric. (UPDATE – That didn’t happen.)
Until then, I suppose I’ll just have to get my queer-horror TV fill from the over-saturated and pandering American Horror Story…