If you've been watching season seven of The Walking Dead, then you know that Negan is kind of... intense. The dude's best friend is a barbed baseball bat name Lucille, and he bludgeons and burns anyone who crosses him. He is a terrible human and an irredeemable villain. But on Sunday night's episode, we learned a fascinating tidbit about the bad guy's past that adds some much-needed nuance to his character — and it fits in perfectly with the man we know him to be be.
Negan was a high school gym teacher in his life before the zombie virus apocalypse. There are two types of high school gym teachers: Regular and militant. Negan, obviously, falls into the latter category. Negan's male dominance factor is off the charts — he has a need to be in control at all times. He barks orders, shames perceived weakness, punishes any disobedience, and overall cultivates fear. Can't you see him yelling at a shrimpy sophomore struggling to keep up in class? "Stop running like a girl! Drop and give me 20!" Oh, and there's also the way he wields that baseball bat.
As Uproxx points out, though, Negan's past life is also the key to understanding his relationship with Carl. We learn that Negan thought cursing in front of the students made him cool their eyes. In a similar way, Negan seems to want Carl to think he's cool. He chose to keep him around after his transgression. And he's always having Carl witness his acts of cruelty and violence. "Hey, kid, look what a bad-ass I am!" Does he have a need for Carl to not only fear and respect him, but perhaps idolize him? Maybe he thinks that's the key to total loyalty. Perhaps it's an insecurity? Maybe that impulse is a result of his coaching days. Or maybe, like many a militant gym teacher, Negan has always been an asshole.