Why I Believe Daryl Dixon is Asexual (and in Love with Carol); a character analysis.
October 11th, is National Coming Out Day according to the Human Rights Council. So I’ve chosen today to share my character analysis of The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in relation to his obvious connection with Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride).
[Assume spoilers from the season 9 premiere are ahead.]
Over the last eight seasons I have come to firmly believe that Daryl Dixon is asexual. With the development of new relationships (namely Carol and Ezekiel) in the season 9 premiere I have decided that now is the time to sharing my thoughts and (overly invested) personal feelings on the matter. Daryl is asexual; though not necessarily aromantic. Therefore, it is not only plausible that he would feel drawn to a relationship with Carol, but that she is honestly the only one he may be emotionally connected to enough to share that level of a connection. I’ll explain this in more detail in a bit. First, I need to establish the history on the discussion of Daryl’s sexuality.
A few years back Robert Kirkman had initially referred to Daryl as “somewhat asexual,” however he later readdressed this statement by revealing that ‘Daryl is actually straight’. In an article posted by People.com on December 1, 2014 Kirkman is quoted saying, “Daryl Dixon is being somewhat asexual on the show,” said Kirkman. “I think that he’s a very introverted character and I think that’s somewhat his appeal.”
Even the article written by People (unintentionally) confuses this issue by concluding with, “there you have it, folks: Daryl Dixon is straight. To find out if the series continues to explore Daryl’s asexuality, fans will have to wait […].” I know I’m referencing an old article, however it is important to point out that STRAIGHT and ASEXUAL are not the same thing. Just as being introverted and asexual are also not the same thing.
As I seem to recall, Robert Kirkman mentioned later that when he had said that Daryl was ‘somewhat asexual’ he hadn’t been aware that asexuality was a sexuality of its own. Since he admitted he was not aware of what asexuality is it makes complete sense to me that he would want to clarify that he was not intending to give Daryl this specific label. After all, if you’re not sure what something is how can you know whether or not you will portray that role with justice to the community it represents without offending anyone? Well, I’m writing now to revisit this discussion. I am writing to say that I support the original concept of Daryl Dixon as asexual – regardless of the initial, harmless misunderstanding of asexuality on the part of the show/characters’ creators.
Who am I compared to Robert Kirkman or even Norman Reedus to have any say in what Daryl Dixon’s sexuality is?
I am me.
I am asexual.
And personally, everything I have seen from Daryl Dixon TO DATE supports my theory that he is asexual. I see myself in his interactions with other people. I have become so personally attached to this concept that I am actually coming out once at for all just to share that I believe Daryl is asexual AND in love with Carol.
Yup. Caryl is the flag-SHIP in my armada!
Alright, so I’ve stated my theory. Now it’s time to back it up with my rationale. In my personal experience, asexuality is really complex and confusing. Especially when you spend the majority of your life thinking there’s something wrong with you. Everyone around you develops natural relationships with people they are interested in. You feel like this is some strange foreign language. The older you get the more your friends start talking about who they think is ‘hot’ and describing what they’d wish they could do. . . and you try to play along. Yet underneath it all you have NO FREAKING IDEA why none of it makes sense. Like, sure Norman Reedus is aesthetically pleasing and that, but if he were to invite me over my first thought would be, “will your CAT BE THERE???” Mm, those are the good cuddles. Haha. What?
Back to the show. Daryl has not shown any evidence of physical attraction to any character of any gender. However, Daryl HAS acted on strong feelings he has clearly developed for other characters. It’s easier for asexual people (especially demisexual/greysexual individuals) to reciprocate friendship and cultivate a deep, meaningful relationship with someone without the pressure making it a physical connection. Who else would Daryl have this depth of friendship if it weren’t Carol? She has spend YEARS nurturing his true personality and building up what his family had crushed in him since childhood. Obviously an inseparable bond of friendship took root between these two people as early as SEASON ONE. Carol began hinting (in my opinion) toward her interest in Daryl early on; teasing in one interaction that they could “fool around”. Daryl replied in his own deflective way, “Stop.” (I love that scene so very much.)
I honestly feel like Daryl had finally gotten comfortable enough to initiate this innocent form of physical contact and enjoyed connecting with this woman who was/is arguably his best friend. Her playful teasing wasn’t necessarily a problem, but if my theory were right it would make Daryl extremely uncomfortable. I want to be clear. Daryl’s feelings would be incredibly confusing, because it wouldn’t be a discomfort toward/about her. It would be an old inner turmoil; a deeply unsettling discomfort with himself. It’s the feeling that something deep down is really wrong inside you. After all these years, why doesn’t this flirting feel natural? He would have an incredible attachment toward Carol and a desire to get to know her more, but being apparently unable to feel the same physical interest (yet again) this would stir up a lot of self-loathing and frustration.
At least that’s what used to happen to me before I understood WHY I never felt a reciprocating physical desire in those I had formed strong attachments with. I have a measure of inconsolable heartbreak for Daryl knowing that there is no natural means in his walker-ridden world that he might causally learn what asexuality is and therefore experience the life-changing RELIEF is it to know that you’re not broken.
Given Daryl’s background and pre-apocalypse family life it is entirely reasonable that not only would he have NO idea what asexuality is, but would NEVER assume that he would be anything other than straight. Referring to a societal norm that no longer applies the to world of The Walking Dead, we have the general ideology that straight is the natural default and that anything else is a branch off of that. With the established background acknowledging that Daryl grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive environment I feel that it is necessary to state that I believe his abuse would have been INCREASED due his asexuality, rather than the asexuality developing as a result of the abuse. This is an important distinction for me to make. I can not count the number of times people have asked me extremely personal questions when I come out to them in response to their expressing an attraction toward me. A few examples:
[Trigger Warning: I don’t censor their words regarding sex related topics.]
“Are you afraid of sex? It isn’t that scary…”
“Are you sure it isn’t just the way you were raised?”
“You’re just holding yourself up on a pedestal.”
“Have you been raped…? Is that why you don’t like sex?”
“Does it. . . I mean, does it work?” (As if I’m going to sit in public at a sushi restaurant and talk about whether or not I have the physiological capability to experience arousal despite the absence of physical attraction.)
“Well, are you a virgin? How can you know if you haven’t had sex?”
“You’re a virgin? Now I just want to try (to pursue a relationship) even more. I mean, if you just let me have sex with you I can show you how good it is. I have a lot of experience and can make it good…”
Yes, all of those are real quotes directed towards me. I don’t like talking about any of this, but clearly it needs to be said. You can’t “fix” asexuality with a “good sexual experience”. An orgasm is NOT an activation button to turn on the sex drive. Asexuality is not celibacy. It is not modesty. Nor does it mean that every asexual person is sex repulsed. Some asexual people may be in relationship with individuals who experience sexual attraction and their deep connection to their significant other gives them the desire to reciprocate the physical manifestation of their emotional connection.
Back to Daryl. If the above is how I have been address I can only imagine how Daryl would have been treated by Merle and other male figures in his life. I believe men have this societal pressure to be a certain way. Masculine. Sex-driven. I won’t dwell on speculation, but I have an irrational dread when thinking of what it would’ve been like for Daryl during his developmental years as an asexual young man in a family like his. I would imagine that retreating into solitude in the woods would be a relief, a safe haven away from the pressures of those types of relationships. He could “prove himself” a man (in the eyes of his family) through hunting and tracking. Far away from anything sexual.
Daryl would have spent all this time not understanding himself in this context and keeping people at a distance to avoid that gnawing anxiety every time someone started to get too close. But Carol. Carol found her way in and has been consistent throughout all these years. I honestly believe that Daryl has gotten much closer to being open to something deeper and is only now privately realizing his own feelings towards Carol. The catalyst in this development is Carol’s new relationship with King Ezekiel. I believe that Daryl means it when he says he is happy for Carol. He is supporting her relationship with Ezekiel because he wants her to be happy.
Yet, when she mentioned that Ezekiel had proposed his reaction is one of reserved shock. I truly believe it is a rational interpretation that this is the moment Daryl realizes he could lose Carol in a way he hadn’t expected. Not to death. But to life. A life with someone else. The tragic part is he would never say anything, because he would honestly believe she would be better off with someone else. Someone better suited to meet all her desires… And that would break Daryl’s heart in a way his abusive family never could, by letting her go and accepting solitude once again.
Suffice it to say that I have a deeply personally NEED to see Daryl and Carol develop a relationship deeper than their already strong friendship. I am loving seeing Carol happy and enjoying her relationship with King Ezekiel, don’t get me wrong. It is beautiful to see her smiling again. In a way I feel that this is her moving on from Daryl having come to the belief that he isn’t interested in her in that way. She has hinted without reciprocation after all… What’s a badass lady (of the court?) to do? Yet, when she hears Daryl is struggling with being at Sanctuary she jumps right in to take his place knowing this will put geographical distance between herself and Ezekiel. And Daryl, when hearing Carol will stay at Sanctuary – a place he hates with every cell of his being – immediately offers to stay with her despite his own feelings. Come on, that’s love.
I spent a long, long time thinking something was wrong with me. It is a very isolating experience to not understand yourself. I had been planning a video to go along with this article, but I honestly had a hard enough time writing this. Had to stop to cry a few time. I only recently realized what asexuality is and that I myself am asexual. In a future article I’ll describe how I came to this dramatic self-revelation while watching Netflix’s BoJack Horseman and how I had to opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with Aaron Paul (who voices BoJack Horseman’s asexual character, Todd Chavez). Spoiler alert: he hugged me.
So there you have it. All my heart and hopes laid bare. My only intention in all of this is to hopefully provide a little more understanding about what it is like to be asexual and, MAINLY, to ship Carol and Daryl forever (no offense, honorable King Ezekiel!)!!! Thank you for reading, #TWDFamily.