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The Walking Dead's Kirkman Responds To Reader Praise, Complaints Over Gay Character Named Jesus

jesusWhen The Walking Dead revealed that Paul Monroe, the fan-favorite character nicknamed "Jesus" for his long hair and beard, was gay, many fans wondered how long it would be before a religious person or group registered their offense.

We even recently speculated that AMC might be reluctant to depict a character named Jesus on TV, for fear of alienating potential viewers if the character got up to anything that might offend Christians.

It didn't take long: in this week's "Letter Hacks" column, Kirkman received two very different letters from fans regarding Jesus's sexuality. One was from a Christian reader concerned that making Jesus gay was a subtle "jab" at people of faith, and one was from a reader grateful for the thoughtful depiction of Jesus as just another character, doing his thing, up until the moment that his sexuality came up somewhat organically.

Robert Kirkman The Walking DeadThe first writer, Matt, said that he had always had reservations about a character named Jesus but that he had continued reading in spite of it and had taken some solace in the fact that Monroe wasn't actually named Jesus but had the nickname thrust on him because his physical appearance resembled traditional European depictions of the Biblical Messiah. Making Monroe's character gay, he said, was perhaps too much; he threatened to stop reading The Walking Dead altogether. The book's editor promised Matt that they would get to his concerns, along with sentiments expressed in the next letter, shortly.

The following letter was from reader Paul Johnson, who shared some of his struggles coming to grips with his own homosexuality and the media's depiction of gay men as self-parodies on whom other characters looked down.

"Somewhere amongst your 70,000 monthly readers, there is a young boy who recognized himself for the first time in Jesus and Alex," Johnson wrote. "His first context for his questioning will be a badass, universally beloved character in an epic, universally beloved story. Because of your writing, he will get to circumvent many of the issues that consumed years of my life."

Kirkman's response?

When I realized that I'd gotten so far into Jesus's story, that he'd been in so many issues and I'd never addressed his sexuality, I saw it as an opportunity to address the fact that a character's sexuality shouldn't matter. Jesus is the character he is, he's cool, he's capable and he's a bad ass, and he just happens to be totally into dudes. Not ALL dudes, just like straight women aren't into ALL dudes...but he's totally into guys.

And that doesn't matter.

I'll continue to tell stories with Jesus, and he'll continue to be the same character he always was, and sometimes his sexuality will come up, and sometimes it won't. Just like Rick doesn't stand around talking about how much he likes women. Because it really doesn't matter.

He then turned his attention back to Matt's letter, offering the reader some sympathy, but also telling him in no uncertain terms fhat, in Kirkman's view, Matt is in the wrong:
Matt, Jesus is NOT Jesus from the Bible. He's got a beard and long hair, and so he looks like Jesus, and people gave him the nickname, but he's NOT Jesus. Revealing that the character is gay was in no way intended to be a jab at Christians.

Now, I know you mean well, and I'm trying to be as understanding as possible to your situation, btu I just have to point out that being offended that a character who shares a name with Jesus is gay, really just kidn of puts you on the wrong side of history. Plainly put, you are WRONG to take any offense to any character's sexuality. You just are. If Jesus were a black character, and someone took offense to that, I'm willing to waer that you'd think that is absurd, but if we backed things up 50 years or so...I'm willing to bet that would have been an isssue for someone...and that person would have been wrong, too.

You might respond and say "I have no problem with homosexuals, I'd be equally offended if Jesus were smoking crack, or killing someone, or eating shellfish." Meaning, you wouldn't like to see a character called Jesus doing anything that would make you question his character...and that's the point I'm trying to make here. There is nothing wrong with liking dudes... It's not questionable behavior and it shouldn't be an issue. It shouldn't even register that it could be a "jab" because it should be a non-issue. It should be as offensive as having a dyslexic character nicknamed Jesus, or an ambidextrous character nicknamed Jesus, or an extremely tall character nicknamed Jesus.

I urge you to consider that and maybe try to be a little more accepting of the differences we all have.

Also, it's just a cool nickname.

Discuss

2 Comments

  1. "Jesus" was introduced in 2011. He was only revealed to be gay in 2014, which is long after Kirkman has been bashed by social justice warriors over female characters, gay characters, and whatever else. There was no hint at all that "Jesus" was gay, and it raises questions about whether or not he was always meant to be gay, or if this is just pandering.

    Kirkman gives the game away when he says that "a character's sexuality shouldn't matter," that people "are WRONG to take any offense to any character's sexuality," and that a gay character "shouldn't even register."

    Kirkman knew that some people would disagree with his choice, and he says he did it to push the idea that it "shouldn't matter." He claims it was not a jab at Christians, but he also knows that Christianity, along with other major religions, disapprove of homosexuality. He made "Jesus" into perhaps the toughest and nicest character, compared him to Jesus both in appearance and deed, and then made him gay with the stated purpose of pushing the ideology of normalizing homosexuality to those that disagree with it.

    If the character had been gay from the beginning, people could have dealt with it accordingly. Instead, it seems he "revealed" that a very popular character was gay just to push the idea that it "shouldn't matter." A lot of people simply do not like that sort of preachy crap even if they do not necessarily disagree with the ideology of the one preaching.

    According to the pro-LGBT Williams Institute, gays and lesbians are only 1.7% of the US population while bisexuals are 1.8%. Neither needs to be "normalized" because they are quite literally not the norm. Tolerance means that they should be tolerated, and they are by and large. LGBT characters are overly represented in primetime television as a percentage of characters according to GLAAD's own numbers, there are no anti-sodomy laws, they are not barred from living their lives, and so on.

    We do not need comics trying to preach at people about why they should treat LGB orientations as equally likely possibilities as heterosexuality. They simply are not. More than 90% of people are straight, and it is only natural for people to generically assume others are straight as well. It is also natural for some people to take issue with something so at odds with their own lives.

    If Jesus was gay from the start, who cares? It seems, however, that Jesus was not gay from the start and that he was only "revealed" to be so as to use a very popular character as a vehicle for pushing ideology.

    Also, we cannot overlook that Kirkman stirred up a bunch of crap by letting it hang out there that Daryl Dixon could be revealed to be gay. There was a lot of backlash over that, and he backed down (the show has a lot more viewers than the comics have readers). He clearly has an agenda when he was at least hinting that he was going to use the two most badass/most popular characters to show that being gay "shouldn't matter." It strains belief to think that it was a coincidence that Kirkman intended 2014 to be the year of "Surprise! The badasses love manasses!"

    I do not read/watch such things to be lectured about the way the creator thinks I should act, think, or speak. I come for the zombies and craziness, not Kirkman's efforts to "normalize" a tiny minority's behaviors.

  2. First off dude, just because Robert Kirkman introduced Jesus' sexual orientation a little while after Jesus was introduced doesn't mean anything. As he said : "In my opinion there should be more awesome gay people in fiction because there are plenty of awesome gay people in real life. I want **Jesus to be a character where his sexuality is as unimportant as Rick or other heterosexual characters. So we won't focus on it constantly and it won't be the focus of any big storylines for him**... but he'll make out with a dude every now and then... before going out and drop kicking zombies. He's one of my current favorite characters." Meaning his character has more to him tha than his orientation unlike how other forms of media use mostly gay males for shock value and to mock. Jesus isn't the only character who is gay so you have no reason to think he was gay to please as you said 'social justice warriors' it was perfect how they brought up Jesus' sexual orientation because they were dealing with Negan and all of that it would be random for Jesus to bring up 'hey I am gay by the way" it seemed natural to me as it should be. Instead of throwing it in my face. It would be the same if Andrea walked in and cuddled with Rick. It was perfect timing to introduce that fact about him. 

    Oh and Jesus called Abraham a beefcake in issue 92. Beefcake is gay slang for a masculine, buff dude like Abraham is.