(Content warning: Descriptions of television death scenes)
In the past month alone, five LGBT female characters on five popular US TV shows have been killed off. Jane the Virgin started the death spree when it had Rose Solano (Bridget Regan) murdered by her own step-mother. Next came the death of Ashleigh (Aimee Pederson) in Janet King. Then we witnessed the sudden and nonsensical death of Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) of The 100. Continuing the trend, The Magicians then killed off a minor character, a lesbian of colour called Kira (Yaani King). And finally, Sunday night brought us the gruesome end of Denise (Merritt Wever) on The Walking Dead.
This string of lesbian and bisexual female deaths isn’t anything new, it’s actually a sadly popular trope in TV known as “Bury Your Gays”. LGBT characters are far too often killed off, often to progress the storyline of straight characters and other times just because queer characters don’t deserve to get happy endings, clearly.
The culmination of these deaths finally came to a head when Lexa was killed off in The 100 the other week. Lexa was a fierce lesbian Commander and one half of a popular ship “Clexa”. Lexa had a complicated relationship with a bisexual woman called Clarke, and after writer Jason Rotherburg baited fans of this ship ever since the first time these ladies kissed, to only have the couple end in one half dying, fans are understandably hurt. The 100 fans better pray Clarke doesn’t go anywhere soon…
Denise’s death was the tip of the iceberg on Sunday. This isn’t the first time The Walking Dead has killed off a girlfriend of Tara’s. Tara being another main cast lesbian. In season 4 we saw her short-term girlfriend Alisha be shot in the head by a little girl. Nice.
To be fair, TWD has provided us now with three lesbian characters and two gay males. However, Eric (one of the gay men), hasn’t spoken since season five and two out of three lesbians being shot through the head (Denise was killed when an arrow went through her eye) is too much in the space of two seasons.
Not only is this ongoing trend of “weak” women who decide they want to be strong to only be killed too soon after and before they’ve reached their full potential (Andrea, Beth, Deanna, Jessie, Denise) getting really tired on The Walking Dead, but the lesbian killing is too.
Representation for marginalised groups is incredibly important! Writers need to understand that having people of colour, having strong women, having LGBT characters is so, so, so important. Keeping them alive is important. And if they do have to die then have it so it further the plot in a meaningful way. So far it seems like the “queers dying to further a hetero’s story” trope could play out on TWD as Daryl appeared to be the one most affected by Denise’s death in Sunday’s episode. Tara doesn’t yet know her second girlfriend has met her demise.
When representation for lesbian and bisexual characters is so lacking, it is cruel to insist upon killing off the ones we do have. It reduces LGBT women to yet another stereotype in TV and makes their stories predictable. So why is it that writers feel so compelled to murder gay characters? Just another example of the deep-rooted homophobia in our society?
Dear TV show writers.
Please stop killing lesbians and bisexual women. Please give them storylines centred around something other than heartache and death.
Sincerely, all your LGBT fans.