canucks in the community

On Representation in Orphan Black

The first time I ever saw queer women portrayed in media I was a teenager. I covered my eyes and turned off the television. Because it was wrong. Or I thought it was wrong.  I don’t need to get into my adolescent stuff - but I was so deeply in denial that I now think in a sense was  a sort of self-preservation.  

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I can seen more representation in media. I was addicted to all things scifi - and I don’t think I would have been able to resist getting into a show like Orphan Black. If the kind of representation I saw in the first two seasons would have helped me. I’m active online and I see what it has done for young queer kids. And it was beautiful - but also made me very nervous.

You see, at 18, I finally figured out that I was queer. I then embarked on an adventure to consume as much lesbian/bisexual/queer media as I could. I would see myself reflected in media - albeit rarely.  I could laugh, I could watch characters fall in love with women and delight in it, or angst in it or be absolutely terrified.  I quickly noticed a terrible ongoing pattern : they die. A lot. More frequently than anyone else.

So many queer female characters die. There is a long and ever growing list. So frequently, their love is tragic. There’s a “Bury your lesbians/Bury your gays” trope on TV tropes because of how often these characters die (or go insane). It has been that way from the beginnings of representation - anyone curious about how many can go and look it up.  In earlier movies/books it was probably seen as the perverted woman getting the end she deserved. Death.

I am now 26 years years old. I’ve been out for years. Dated women. Fallen in love. Fallen out of love. Got my heart broken a few times. So much has changed. My parents anticipated nothing but grief for me and are in disbelief when people accept me or just simply don’t care about my sexuality. 

In some ways, I’ve been very lucky. I was born 1989 and I have seen this change. There are LGBTQ characters on television - but not enough of them.  When I was a young queer girl - I saw nothing like this. It existed so far outside of my realm of experience and everything that surrounded me that it didn’t really sink in that that was what I am.

I was hoping representation was changing.  With Orphan Black I never intended to become so invested in Cosima and Delphine. But here were two women, academics, scientists, nerds - falling in love with each other.  And it was beautifully acted and portrayed for two seasons. (And definitely beautifully acted in season 3 - thought I was disappointed at the writing a lot of the season). Instead, I became super invested, I wrote fic, I had the opportunity to collaborate and commiserate with the obfrankenfics crew. I had the amazing experience of bonding with people through this fandom - and for that I am grateful.  The last time I had the chance to do that - I was a teenager who thought she was straight (or…denial…I mean take your pick) and it was for Battlestar Galactica on scifi forums nearly a decade ago.  This time? I was authentically myself.

I had great hopes for Orphan Black. Last night (and this morning) my dashboard, the orphan black tag and the cophine tag have been full of distraught fans. Tears and ranting. 

I don’t think anyone should be brushing off their feelings. The loss is valid. Cry. Rant. Get angry.  Realize that this isn’t an isolated creative choice that exists in a vacuum - this is a part of a larger theme in media that queer women die.  I understand that actors have lives (especially very talented ones like Évelyne Brochu).  I understand that writers love shock value - and sometimes any attention is good attention (transgressive lesbian geek spiral bound to end in tears).  This could have been done better, with respect to the characters.  But I guess in so many ways I felt that this season was falling apart at the seams.

I don’t think this was “always the plan”, if they’d actually had a plan they wouldn’t have had the mess of this season and trying to figure out where they were going.

It hasn’t changed. Tragic love. Kill the queer woman. Make her crazy. 

It isn’t some epic creative choice - it’s the easy trope that has been done so many times already.  And for that I am sad. I honestly expected better from Orphan Black. but in so many ways this third season has been a disappointment to me. And it’s not the cast - it’s the writing, the haphazard what would be funny or what would shock people the most.

It isn’t unique. They’ve ended 3 seasons now with a shooting that *may* be fatal and teased it to death.  The only thing unique I have seen is how disrespectful Graeme and John have been to this fandom. I have never seen a creator attack a fan on twitter and defend their creative choice. I have never seen a show push a new love interest so hard in social media.  Especially when to me (and a fair group of others) it falls flat. Until now.

I don’t know where Orphan Black is going from here - but likely more recycled plot lines and less to keep me guessing and engaged.  I think, for me, that this is the end. My blog existed before Orphan Black, and it will continue to exist after it is gone.

I have said many times before that Clone Club is diverse in its range of opinions, in its individuals and in our perceptions of this show.  To all of you? I want to say that I appreciate how much you put into this fandom and enjoying this show (whether you agree with me or not, whether you think I’m a negative cold bitch canuck or just another sobbing fangirl).  You have made this community so rich, and so amazing, and it’s been a pleasure for me to experience tumblr fandom with you. I discovered Orphan Black through tumblr and - thank you for that. For 2 seasons it was the best thing on television. For the last season? My feelings remain mixed.

To my fellow grieving fans? I’m right there with you.  You are not alone.