Maybe there’s a specific reason why there was such a hugely negative reaction to the gay kiss on ‘The Walking Dead’, says Rob Buchanan.
Within minutes of a certain scene being aired in the most recent episode of TV show The Walking Dead, thousands of fans took to twitter registering shock and disgust. What was this horrific moment that triggered such righteous ire? Was it a vicious dismemberment of a child? Or a brutal rape scene, perhaps? Maybe it was a depiction of horrific animal cruelty? Nope. Such scenes have all aired previously on the show without any controversy, some more than once. The scandalous scene that sparked rage and consternation, in a show about a zombie apocalypse and the collapse of civilisation, was a kiss between two men.
Obviously most of the rage was rooted in homophobia, but the reaction goes deeper than that. It’s a reflection of taboos around depictions of sensuality in a world that unapologetically celebrates violence.
The argument about whether it’s more acceptable to depict violence than nudity or sexuality in Western society is an old one. Somewhere along the way, modern cultural tastes broke off from Greek and Roman aesthetics, which celebrated human nudity and sexuality, while dismissing violence as obscene and bestial. Some point to the advent of cartoons, a medium in which violence could be depicted in such outlandish terms, it aroused laughter instead of disgust. Once it was a coyote trying to do it to a roadrunner, violence became okay.
One way or another, violence in entertainment has become so ingrained, we hardly notice it, but I like to think of it like this: A gun is shoved in a terrified man’s face and the trigger is pulled, and the film may get a 15 rating. But if you put an erect penis in place of the gun, the film will be banned. That speaks volumes about what we find sacred and profane, and it informs our way of looking at the world.
While a kiss between lovers of the same gender is hardly hardcore porn, it’s still something in people’s daily lives that’s open to public censure. I’ve heard people say this isn’t rooted in homophobia, because a phobia is a fear and they aren’t afraid of gays. But I think a lot of people are afraid. Those who overtly dislike LGBT people do not understand us, while those who do like us, can never understand what is like to have our experience. It is the unknown, and the unknown is the greatest fear of all. That doesn’t mean we owe anyone an explanation, nor does it mean we are responsible for anyone else’s fear. Still, it’s difficult to comfort yourself with the fact that the person kicking your head in or trying to stop you from marrying the person you love is simply afraid.
It’s easy to see how some hateful (or fearful) idiots found it distasteful that two men should exchange a tender kiss in a show where human beings are routinely dismembered, disemboweled and decapitated. It’s a zombie show, so it’s rooted in the most primal fears we have.
Practically every taboo depicting violence against the human body has been exploited in The Walking Dead. The boundaries of taste have been pushed even further, because we can watch zombies suffer without guilt. They aren’t ‘real’ people, so it’s okay that they are dispatched in terrible ways, even if they are zombie children or pregnant zombie women.
Whole texts have been written about how zombies represent so many anxieties in the human psyche – fears of conformity, collapse of society, worries about minorities, hang-ups about growing old and sick, and of course, dying. It makes you wonder then what subconscious fear the appearance of queer lads in the mix inspires?
Maybe when we express our homosexuality in the context of myriad subconscious buttons being pressed, it’s not a cartoon anymore. It’s all too real, and another monstrous fear bubbles to the surface.
© 2015 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.