Why Daryl Dixon is the Most Popular Character in ‘The Walking Dead’
Daryl Dixon, the crossbow-wielding redneck on the AMC zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead, is by far the most popular character on the series. Interesting that Daryl should be considered the knight in shining armor in AMCs extremely popular series in light of his rough beginnings as a brooding and self-focused loner, loyal only to his abrasive and racist brother Merle. Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl in the show, has been around the block making a living as an actor for a number of years, but his run on The Walking Dead has elevated him to a bonafide sex symbol. What is it about Norman Reedus, and his portrayal of Rick Grime’s right hand man in TWD, that has fans, male and female alike, singing his praises from the rooftops? Daryl, it appears, wasn’t ever intended to be a major character at all, and he never appeared in the graphic novel series that spawned the AMC adaptation. How did it happen that Daryl is the hottest ticket in apocalyptic horror?
1. Daryl is like The Fonz
Reedus’s friend a co-star Sean Patrick Flanery, speaking at a convention and reported by ComicBook.com, made a very direct parallel to Reedus’s portrayal of Daryl and Henry Winkler’s iconic stint as Arthur Fonzerelli on TV’s Happy Days:
“We met Henry Winkler a couple of months ago,” Flanery told the crowd at the end of their panel. “It was really f—ing cool and it was like that dude that–we go to these and we see all kinds of famous people and celebrities and whatnot but to me that was a different level. That was the Fonz, right? And it’s pretty rare when roles like that come along and they match it with the right actor to play it and he hits it out of the park. And people are like, ‘Oh, a character like that is easy to play because the writing is so amazing.’ Let me tell you this–an amazingly-written role, 99.9% of the actors, even though it’s a fastball straight over home plate. they chip it right down the first base line maybe for an easy out. Or they’d slice it for a foul, you know? My boy took Daryl Dixon and sat Mark McGwire the f–k down with his hellacious swing and cracked that f—er over the center field fence. That motherf—er is Fonzie.”
In addition to being compared to The Fonz, Kevin Smith of Comic Book Men also compared Daryl to Han Solo… and Chewbacca.
How is it that Reedus has been able to bring the character of Daryl to life in such a compelling way? There is indeed writing and setting, but that is far from a guarantee of a successful interpretation on the screen. There is something magical that happened between the actor and the character that set off some serious sparks.
2. Norman Reedus is Like Daryl
During “The Suicide King” episode there was a quote from Norman Reedus displayed, where he talks about the similarities he has to the Daryl Character, again reported by ComicBook.com:
“I’m pretty damaged already I guess. He doesn’t know what to say and neither do I, as you can tell by this answer. I’m loyal to my friends and would do anything for them, but I’m kind of quiet. I believe in people and the cause, but I really don’t want to ever be the center of attention. You can tell when Daryl speaks from the heart and doesn’t hesitate-I’m like that at times. The ways I’m not like Daryl are too numerous to write down here. We can save that for another time.” – Norman Reedus.
Is the secret sauce that Reedus finds much in common with Daryl (presumably without the tendency to kill wantonly and run around with dead squirrels hanging from his belt)? It has said that this is the role for Reedus, and the character is so in line with Reedus' own personality that his acting is just a natural extention of himself. My interactions with Reedus, along with the long reputation he has for taking his roles very seriously and applying a great deal of forethought and focus into getting it right, suggests that if this is true, it's only partially true. The role may just be the perfect role for Reedus, but it's his focus and skill that brings Daryl to life with all his complexity, making it look easy.
3. Daryl is a Bad Boy with a heart of gold
All of this is well and good – the character, the fit, the “cool”… but why does it work? Daryl has fans across the board, but it seems to be the ladies who are particularly smitten. What’s the appeal? There is the obvious and stereotypical answer: He’s the Boy My Mother Warned Me About. Bad boys seem to be what women want, in spite of the fact that many claim to want something more stable. Well, I can’t claim to understand fully “what women want” to be honest, but the roughneck element certainly seems to have some appeal. But then, Shane was a bit of a roughneck too, and not many people cried when he joined the zombie hoard. The bad boy element has got to be tempered with something more… something deeper. When Daryl set out on his quest to find Sophia in Season 2, and refused to give up. CriminalElement.com said it well with:
“And we can’t ignore that beneath the gruff demeanor he frequently affects, Daryl has shown he has a caring heart. In the initial story arc of season 2, he was the most invested in finding the lost Sophia, and went out of his way to be kind to her grieving mother, Carol. A capable hard case with a heart of gold: what more could we want?
He has a softer side.
It may be a strange concept for many horror fans—a group that is predominantly male—to wrap their heads around. But Daryl Dixon is essentially the heartthrob of The Walking Dead. He’s the little something for the ladies, yet is competent and badass enough for the guys to enjoy.”
In fact, as was widely reported in both print and image, Daryl’s treatment of Rick and Lori’s baby caused a pretty severe physical reaction in female fans. From HeroesAndHeartBreakers.com:
“Most recently every woman’s ovaries exploded when he held Rick’s newborn daughter and dubbed her “little ass-kicker.” The phrasing was rough around the edges and filled with sincerity. It was all Daryl.”
Boudieka spelled out the specifics of Daryl’s appeal with 4 simple points (leaving out her admiration for Reedus’s good looks) on her Tumblr blog Bluestocking Vanguard:
1.He is an excellent provider. He could find food for himself, you, and your offspring. He could kill predators and find or make you shelter. His selfishness could be an asset as a father.
2.He is bad boy. Self explanatory. But if you do need explanation, click here.
3.He is distant. This article explains why playing hard to get makes one more attractive. It has to with scarcity.
4.He is damaged goods. Many women love a man with tragic past. Why? I don’t know and I couldn’t find a link for you. Sorry.
4. Women Swoon for Daryl
Erin La Rosa of BuzzFeed dedicated quite a bit of time and imagination to explain exactly why she believes that Daryl Dixon is the Sexiest Man on The Walking Dead. Everything from his arms to his eyes, posing like a god and allowing himself to cry. For this woman, at least, these things make Daryl the ultimate character.
David Marks on his “Blog of the Living Dead” polled several women via Twitter, and the thoughts are pretty consistent:
5. Guys Want Someone Like Daryl on Their Side
Aside from all of the “he’s so hot” gushings about Norman Reedus and his portrayal of Daryl, ultimately the guys are fans too. Daryl is an ass kicker, but doesn’t have the ego that can often be attached. Daryl is all about getting the job done, being loyal and honorable, and then stepping back into the background for someone else to take the limelight. What could be more perfect than that? Daryl is a rough and tumble guy who will always have your back, with skills that most of us wouldn’t have readily at our fingertips. If/when the zombie apocalypse comes knocking at my door, I can only hope that there is a Daryl Dixon around to help keep things sane. Or better yet, what I really hope is that when the chips are down, I can be counted on to be that guy myself. Dig deep and make it happen – every guy wants that in his friends, and in himself.
Additional information resources on Daryl Dixon:
- Wikipedia - This page gives a complete background of the character Daryl Dixon on the TV show The Walking Dead.
- Facebook - Daryl Dixon fan page featuring intersting facts and images.
- Amazon.com - Purchase Daryl Dixon collectables
- Facebook - The Official Facebook of Norman Reedus.
- Twitter - The Offical Twitter account for Norman Reedus.
- IMDb - Top 10 Daryl Dixon quotes.
- Sound Bites - Daryl Dixon quotes including sound.
- devaintArt - Great fan art of Daryl Dixon
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