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.