If this were a movie, I’d probably be dead by now. It may seem a little dramatic to be so hyperbolic, but it’s the truth. The “bury your gays” trope exists for a reason.
Movies and TV shows are finally pulling away from stereotypical representations of LGBT+ characters, and yet we continue to see LGBT+ characters die in seemingly high numbers. There are plenty of gut wrenching examples of this trope being played out. In 2016 alone, television has killed off at least 12 lesbian or bisexual women. Let’s discuss some of them.
On The Walking Dead, as soon as Tara told Denise that she loved her, and Denise refused to say it back, I knew something bad was going to happen. The Walking Dead isn’t always subtle, and they made it quite obvious that one of those two would not make it through to season 7. Surprising almost no one, this turned out to be true. We will have to wait until next season to see the repercussions of the death. There have been a few other deaths recently that seemed equally unnecessary, and were a surprise to many fans when they occurred. One of which was the love interest of Clarke Griffin on The 100, Lexa.
Lexa finally experiences clarity with regard to her relationship with Clarke, and then she is immediately struck down (basically minutes after they have sex). Denise actually follows a similar course. She admits to Daryl and Sasha that she loves Tara, and that she should have gone with her on the supply run. She didn’t go because she was afraid, and she chose to face her fears by going out with Daryl and Sasha. Immediately after expressing her feelings she is shot in the eye by an arrow. Highlighting another frustrating factor, neither one of them were the targets of their attackers. The attackers were attempting to kill someone they just happened to be standing by.
One can certainly argue that Lexa’s death was meant to further the overall narrative - it wasn’t necessarily for the personal development of Clarke. Her death sparks a series of events that will directly impact many of the characters and changes the course of their lives. So yes, while it was executed in an utterly infuriating manner, it can objectively be viewed as necessary. The creator of the show has also stated that part of the reasoning for killing off Lexa is that the actress, Alycia Debnam Carey, is unavailable due to scheduling conflicts. This does make sense as she is currently a main character on Fear The Walking Dead, which just started back up on April 10.
What about Denise? Was her death necessary to the overall narrative? Well as of right now, no. What will likely happen when Tara is back on screen, is she will a) die before she finds out about Denise (which would be the most merciful route at this point) or b) learn of her death and be absolutely devastated. Remember, this is Tara’s 2nd girlfriend (that we know of) to perish. Discovering Denise’s death will either lead her to be a recluse, or it will cause her to become reckless which will likely result in her death (or the death of someone else). Either way, if she survives, she will probably be damaged goods.
Some other recent, and unexpected, LGBT+ deaths were Nora and Mary Louise on The Vampire Diaries, and Rose on Jane The Virgin. The two deaths on The Vampire Diaries were particularly unsettling for fans, in part because the show killed off a well-liked lesbian couple. There haven’t been quite as many gay and bisexual men killed off so far this year, but there are plenty of examples of men dying just as tragically in 2015. Characters like Paul Woodrugh on True Detective, Lucas Parker on The Vampire Diaries, Michael Corrigan on House Of Cards, and many others.
I get it, in The Walking Dead, The 100 and Vampire Diaries there are plenty of characters who have died for seemingly no reason. That’s what these shows do. We can’t be overly upset over every single character who perishes because we know it’s an inevitability. For all we know, everyone will eventually die and no one will get a happy ending. With that being said, why the hell do we continue to see LGBT+ characters killed off at such high percentages relative to the number of them represented? Don’t producers understand that the LGBT+ community desperately wants to have more characters like them in TV and film? We want characters we can admire and be proud of. Killing them off (often tragically) only disenfranchises us. People may perceive us as overreacting, but we are already underrepresented so we value every LGBT+ character we can get. Except for Jenny.
This is something that’s so pervasive, that Autostraddle even has a list of (just about) every TV lesbian or bisexual woman who has died and how they met their demise. The list is updated regularly, and includes the most recent TV deaths I have mentioned here. Queerty has a similar list they recently dropped that features men.
What I find personally upsetting in The 100 specifically, is that the show has done a pretty solid job providing us with diverse characters. The creators of the show have crafted a world where gender, race and sexual identity have no influence on the the character’s position of power. No one questions their authority based on those factors, and they really aren’t an issue in any other aspect of their lives. The Chancellor on the Ark was a black man, the main character is a bisexual woman, the main character’s mother is a respected doctor and distinguished member of the group at large. Octavia is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, and the list goes on. The 100 is not perfect by any means, but it’s doing better than some other popular shows.
We aren’t asking to make all LGBT+ characters immune to death. That would just be silly and quite frankly, a little boring. What the real issue is, or at least for many of us, is that there just aren’t enough LGBT+ characters in general (especially LGBT+ people of color). Give us a handful of well written, three dimensional LGBT+ characters who we can love and hate. They don’t have to be flamboyant or stereotypical. They can be just as boring or exciting as any other character in their world. When there are a few characters to choose from, a death or two is much easier to swallow. We just want to see their lives, and deaths, play out more or less the same as their hetero counterparts.
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