Wednesday, 1 June 2016

CONTROLRadioUK Discusses: Bury Your Gays

Editor’s Note: This was originally going to be a review of The 100’s third season, which will now be published at a later date.

Ahh TV. How you continue to disappoint. No spoilers here, but last night yet another LGBT character was killed. Yet again showrunners defended themselves. Yet again people were fuming.

“This is the 20th dead lesbian/bisexual character of 2016, not even counting the ones who’ve died and come back. So don’t try to tell me that I’m just bitter about one from a few months ago. I’m furious. This isn’t a discussion for me. Did you kill your lesbian? Then congrats, you’ve fallen into the “kill your lesbian” trope, and you don’t get to condescend to those of us who are suffering and tell us we aren’t justified. We SHOULD be angry about this. Just because it’s not the same situation as it was on a certain other show, doesn’t mean there aren’t a whole lot of similarities that should be and need to be talked about.”

“I can’t believe another wlw character has been killed, it makes me so angry and I don’t even watch. I think us gays better start wearing bulletproof vests as that’s obviously what happens to us all.”
“I’m so tired of seeing lady loving fandoms ECSTATIC about the scraps they’ve been given on screen, only to have it destroyed before the month is out by the death of one of the ladies.”

“It’s still a show choosing a narrative that apparently REQUIRES the death of an amazing lesbian character (not to mention the death of an amazing black woman character earlier on in the show, still not over it). WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH OF THESE CHARACTERS to go around excusing narratives that kill them. We do not have enough of these characters to be killing them! Period!!! I don’t care if the storyline was “worth it” or “made sense”, lesbian and poc characters need an equal amount of storylines where they DON’T die (equal to the hets and white people, that is) before it is EVER okay for narratives to delve into shock-value killings or sacrifices or messiah deaths or whatever else you wanna label this bullshit.”

stray bullet:*hurls towards lesbian*
lesbian:IM STRAIGHT!
stray bullet:*immediately drops to the ground*
lesbian:phew. that was close.

Despite what showrunners will have you believe, the Bury Your Gay trope has unfortunately existed for years. I first came across it in Buffy The Vampire Slayer when Tara was killed by a stray bullet, which is coincidentally is how Lexa met her demise in The 100 earlier this season. I knew Lexa would be leaving the show so her death wasn’t a surprise to me. Venturing into areas of the Internet where they feel safe to interact with fans & using them for the ratings? That’s not right. In the aftermath of Lexa’s death the ratings for the show did indeed fall and there was a massive wave of publicity. All of which I deem a good thing.
As said, this trope has existed for years. People have mocked shows, hoping their favourite character doesn’t come out as LGBT or be introduced as that from the off, for fear of them dying. If an LGBT character gets a rare happy ending, it’s celebrated for days and showrunners thanked which is quite sad. Yet 9/10 times if a showrunner is brought up on it, they claim they did not know the trope existed. Or their show is doing things differently. Or better yet they write things so far in advance that when the ep broadcasts, the timing is unfortunate but they can’t change it. Yes you can. It’s simply called don’t kill your LGBT character.

Which brings us to our next point: This is the 21st century. Parts of the world are still unfortunately homophobic. Some people still vehemently defend their interpretation of religion, telling LGBT people what they can and can’t do (Being gay is still punishable by death in parts of the world, gay marriage is accepted in places whilst opposed in others and of course the transgender bathroom debacle) whilst claiming they don’t care what LGBT people do as long as it’s away from them, like being LGBT is a disease that can quickly be caught. But we’re trying to move away from that. We’re trying to be more positive, being vocal in support for LGBT pride and telling people they don’t have to be afraid of their sexuality, you’re allowed to love who you love and don’t let anyone else tell you different. For some of those people watching an LGBT character on TV is part of the process in realising their own sexuality. They can come out and admit what they are because their favourite character did. Life may be hard and stressful, but they can seek sanctuary in their favourite TV show and online community and talk to people just like them. When an LGBT character dies that sanctuary is taken. How is a person supposed to be comfortable and happy in their life when TV is telling them that being so leads to nothing but death and despair? Kind of goes against the message we’re trying to get across isn’t it?

Why are LGBT characters always first on the list to meet the Grim Reaper over a straight one? That’s the big question. Are showrunners supposed to keep an LGBT character around long past their time, just so they’re not adding to the trope? No and again to use the example, that is why Lexa’s death did not greatly annoy me. Don’t get me wrong I loved the character and defended her to eternity during s2. But in shows like The 100 I go into it knowing that characters are always dying. If they didn’t, well there’d be no show. Lexa was a warrior and when you’re in a war, there’s two solutions and Lexa met one of them so I get that. But killing a person by a stray bullet meant for someone else, mere scenes after a relationship’s been consummated? I’ll accept that’s just cruel. Had her finale exit of going off to face A.L.I.E’s army instead been her first exit? I think people would have been more understanding. Killing an LGBT character to further a straight person’s story, eliminate them from a triangle so the bi woman and straight man can live happily ever after, having the death mean absolutely nothing at all to the story going forward or leaving the fate of a character in the balance for eps at a time, giving the audience hope it will be ok before taking that away? Not cool.

During a discussion I commented on the pilot shows for next year and how despite the anger people feel, I don’t see anything being changed because if it was going to, it would’ve been by now. It was put to me the trope could exist because of bigotry and sexism. That society cannot accept a woman might not want or need a man in her relationships and because of that, the characters being punished. Why so many deaths have happened this year compared to any other? Possibly a backlash to the fact same sex marriage is an option in more places. Is it a conscious or unconscious action by showrunners? Possibly a mixture of both. But all are based on sexism and that belief ‘queer’ women should never be happy unless with a man. In my honest opinion I do think that argument holds weight.

The LGBT community has long been tired of it. They want to see their favourite characters in relationships that are not just background noise. They want them to be able to watch them at the centre of storylines. Not going online for clips of the character’s part in the ep which are only 2 minutes long. Of course in a drama, a couple and characters are going to have problems, but those problems can have a happy ending. Let the straight person be the one to take the bullet for once. Stop treating LGBT characters like an endangered species hunted for sport. Most of all, the LGBT community just wants to be respected and accepted as an equal. So stop Burying The Gays.