This post contains spoilers for season 9 of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead has frequently included marginalized people and minorities as important characters and that type of representation is more than welcome. The show has included multiple black, Asian, gay, and even one deaf character but they are not seen as black, Asian, gay, or deaf. Rather, they blend in with the other characters to show that they’re not as different as other people think. However, anyone who has watched The Walking Dead knows that many people die (as is to be expected in the zombie apocalypse) and some deaths really hit hard. In the latest season, two popular gay characters were killed off rather violently and fans were not happy about that. Hearing such complaints from the fans, Angela Kang, The Walking Dead‘s showrunner, has opened up about the decision to kill off two LGBTQ characters, reports Comicbook.com
The two gay characters that were killed in season nine are Jesus, played by Tom Payne, and Tara, played by Alanna Masterson. The two characters died violent deaths, with one getting stabbed to death and the other decapitated. I enjoyed both of those characters as they were strong-willed and did what they had to do to survive so I was slightly upset to see them go. Kang explains that the reason why Jesus and Tara were killed off was that the show has frequently included people from “historically underrepresented groups” and that at any given time, the show features two or three different groups and that while the cast is diverse, the writers don’t want to engage in tokenism.
Additionally, Kang said “We want every single person to have the same full story that anyone would have. Taking death off the table for any group for any reason limits the types of stories we can tell for them.” While the deaths of Jesus and Tara were painful for myself and others, I have to agree with Kang here; just because a character is gay doesn’t mean that they can’t be killed.
Kang also mentioned that the show often diverts from what happened in the comics and that by killing characters in the show that weren’t killed in the comics and vice-versa, the show remains surprising to the fans and readers of the comics. Admittedly I haven’t read the comics so I can’t really say how accurate that statement is, but it does make sense.
Many beloved characters have been killed off, such as Lori, Noah, Tabitha the goat, Glenn, and of course Carl but the show continues, mirroring the mindset of people trying to survive in an apocalyptic world. However, there are still LGBTQ characters who have survived, such as Aaron and lesbian couple Yumiko and Magna, so the show continues to represent marginalized groups.
The deaths of Jesus and Tara were not easy to digest for many fans because they really were great characters. However, Kang’s explanation does hold water, and while it’s not quite a cistern, it does make sense. But is it good enough? I would like to hear your thoughts about it.