I love it. I write an article on “Shame” and it inspires me to write about Daryl Dixon.
I loved Norman Reedus when he was in Boondock Saints. I ran to The Walking Dead because I learned that Norman Reedus was in TWD. When Reedus auditioned for the role of Merl, the writers loved him so much, they created the role of Daryl Dixon. Not just for the show, but for Norman Reedus. Daryl Dixon owns that role.
My twelve year old daughter has hemophobia…Irrational fear of blood. Although, in her case, it’s not so irrational. When she was nine, she stepped on a boy’s face and broke his nose. Six months later, she watched a boy hit another child in the face with a hockey stick. The injury severed the child’s nose clean off their face. As I said, she has just cause to be terrified of blood.
I love The Walking Dead. Who doesn’t, right? At this moment, I have a bad cold that borders on flu and yesterday I spent the day in bed watching TWD. At 3:00 my daughter came home from school. I wanted to try an experiment.
“Do you want to watch TWD?”
She seemed very interested, but I had to warn her.
“There is a lot of blood. It’s all fake and there are some parts I won’t let you watch, but you can try if you want.” This was my second viewing and I knew where all the really bad parts were to warn her or simply block her view.
“Will it help me get over my fear of blood?” she asked.
“It might,” I said. She gave it a try. She did very good too. She came in at Season #2 right after the zombie in the well scene. She knew when she needed to look away and, at one point, I muted the TV, put on subtitles, and read the scene to her. I even acted it out for her. It was a hoot! She was also able to look at the blood and say, “That isn’t what blood looks like.” Too funny.
(241 words and I am still not on Daryl! Argh! I’m getting there, ladies.)
So, my daughter gets to Daryl Dixon.
“He has a real pretty face,” she says.
Inside, I snicker. Get in line behind me and a million other women.
“Welcome to the club,” I said to her.
She watched Daryl fall off the horse and his arrow pierces his side. She gasped in all the right places. She watches Daryl climb back up the cliff as Merl jeers at him from above.
“I like him,” she said.
Yep. What female doesn’t?
A scene later she points at Lori.
“I hate her. does she die?”
“I don’t like her either (Andrea).”
“I hate him (Shane).”
It was amazing to watch really. Here was my twelve year old picking apart the characters and I watched her draw the same conclusions I and millions of fans also concluded. Love Daryl. Hate Lori and Andrea. Wish for Shane’s death. Mind you, she missed the part when Shane and Otis get the meds from the school and she still wanted Shane to die.
Then we get to Daryl again and this was interesting. It was the scene when Carol emotionally gets close to Daryl in the stables. Daryl already hallucinated his argument with Merl, but there was Carol drawing in on Daryl and what does Daryl do? Lash out.
My daughter was confused. “Why is he being mean?”
I smiled and paused the show.
“You have two children. One who grows up with parents who love them. One who grows up with parents who hate them. When the child with loving parents cries after they scrape their knee, the parents hug them and pick them up again. What does that child learn?”
My daughter thought for a moment.
“The child learns trust and love. It teaches the child to love their child.”
“Exactly,” I said. “Also, the child learns confidence and self-importance. But most of all, the child learns to associate intimacy and physical contact—closeness—with security and safety. Now, let’s look at the child with parents who neglect them. What if love, hugs, and support isn’t there? What does the child learn?”
My daughter looks at Daryl.
“He doesn’t learn to trust?” She sounds unsure of her answer.
“More than that,” I said. “The child learns to associate a close relationship with pain because the only close relationship he had—his father, in this case—hurt him. The child will learn that intimacy will hurt them. They will learn that if a person gets close enough they will get hurt. And so, to protect themselves, they will push the person away.”
This is CEN—Childhood Emotional Neglect—and almost everyone has it in some minor form or another. In severe cases, like Daryl, you never learn how to love properly and the adult-child requires therapy.
“But Carol won’t hurt him,” my daughter argues.
“This is a trained response from environment,” I explained. “Subconscious…this is all below Daryl’s awareness. Carol getting close to Daryl scares him and so he lashes out. He associates the closeness with pain and that scares him. Think of a spooked cat. What does a cat do when it gets scared?”
“It poofs up to look big.”
“It wants to scare away the threat,” she answered.
“So what is Daryl doing by lashing out at Carol?”
“He is attacking Carol to scare her off so he doesn’t get hurt.”
We proceeded to watch and sure enough, the next scene with Daryl, he apologized to Carol for his behavior. My daughter was thrilled with that. But again. The next scene, Daryl pushed Carol away again. My daughter was upset all over again.
“He just apologized! Why he is he being so mean again?”
I paused the DVD.
“Because Daryl wants to be close. His instincts tell him to be close. He craves it. He wants it. We all do. We spend our lives searching for closeness, but Daryl’s childhood taught him a lesson that contradicts his instincts…That human closeness will hurt him. So he instinctively wants Carol to be close and he pulls her close. Then his environmental training implanted into his subconscious kicks in and tells him he’s in danger so he pushes her away to protect himself. He doesn’t know why he does it, but he does. He can’t help it. This is why he apologizes later because deep inside he doesn’t want to hurt Carol or push her away. And he says it, “I don’t know why I said those things.”
We proceed to watch and during his argument, Daryl throws his hands up. Carol flinches.
“Why did she flinch?”
I paused the DVD.
“Because Carol has her own issues. She was beaten by her husband. So she is waiting for a man to strike her because that is what she was taught.”
Personally, I suspect Carol was raised with parents who beat her as a child. And her husband mirrored her own parents to feel secure. There’s that instinct again, telling us to model our parents for the emotional security blanket we crave. But something clicked inside of Carol that made her determined to not pass on this behavior to Sophia, which is why Sophia was never beaten. Carol broke the cycle. Good girl!
“But why doesn’t Daryl just stop pushing Carol away?” my daughter asks.
“Because he has known nothing else and that kind of effort requires a lot of therapy. You missed the scene, but earlier, Daryl talked about the time he was nine and got lost in the woods for two weeks. No one even knew he was missing. He wandered home after two weeks with a bad case of poison ivy on his butt and made himself a sandwich. But think about it. No one knew he was gone…for two weeks. What does that teach a child?”
I ran away from home once and was gone for more than 24 hours before any one noticed I was gone. I know exactly what that does to a child. It teaches them that they aren’t important. That no one cares. That they aren’t loved. It reaffirms that they don’t need anyone. No trust. No comfort. Alone. This is what Daryl learned.
It was amazing really to watch Norman Reedus and the writers catch all this and write it into the script.
Another great example of this very topic is “Good Will Hunting.” Will pushes away his girlfriend because she gets too close. Will thinks closeness will hurt him. His therapy with Robin Williams covers this.
Writers. This is character development at its finest. If you want to be a better writer, study psychology. You won’t miss a trick…I see another article. My psychological creation on Kallan from Dolor and Shadow. Next article!