Dead Lesbian Syndrome. Bury Your Gays. This trope has a few names, and although I like to think it was fading, this 2014-2015 TV season have proven me oh so wrong. We have had no fewer than 3 queer female characters be killed off in 3 weeks. Let me repeat that- THREE queer women in THREE weeks. That’s bordering on ridiculous. Of course, that’s almost as bad as killing off 9 queer women in 2013 TV season alone.
This is not a case of “They are being treated like every other character.” I would accept that, if we had enough queer women on TV to have a fair sample, but we don’t. The GLAAD “Where are we on TV” report just came out, and we are almost exactly where we were last year. 3.8% of scripted characters on TV are LGBTQ. This means that way more of a percentage of gays got killed off than the typical straight white male. This is not equal representation. This is quite literally, “Bury Your Gays” (with a mix of Fridging.) And it needs to stop.
The excuses behind these characters deaths are also trite and hard to swallow.
Isabelle Hartley (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D): Isabelle was killed off during the season premiere (where she was also introduced!) Her sexuality was never discussed on the show, ever though in the comics she is canonically queer. Then she was killed off. THEN the writers gave an interview stating they didn’t talk about her sexuality because they “Would’ve been known as the people who killed off two lesbians on a show.”
Well, that makes me feel SO much better. Not mentioning her sexuality does not make her automatically straight. Beyond the fact that indicates that “hetero” should be the default sexuality, tons of fans of the show know that in the comics, she WAS gay. Not saying it doesn’t make it so.
Leslie Shay (Chicago Fire): Leslie was killed off in the first episode of the season. The writers admitted that it was to further the storyline of everyone else- basically saying she was way less important then everyone else. If killing someone is the only way to further someone’s character development, that’s just plan bad writing.
Sara Lance (Arrow): Sara, knows as the Black Canary, was also killed off during the season premiere. Are we sensing a theme here? The writers claim it was to further a storyline, but it also sets the stage for her sister, Laurel, to take the mantle of Black Canary (as she is in the comics.)
I’m all for Laurel being the Black Canary, but did they really have to kill off her sister to do it? Is there some unwritten rule that two women can’t be superheroes at the same time? Would the world end or be sucked into a black hole? They already have both Oliver and Roy as two of the heroes on the show. Could Sara not have trained Laurel? Once again, it’s terrible writing. There could have been 100 other ways to have done this that would have been less cliché and painful for the LGBTQ community.
It’s already hard enough to find myself in TV characters (we won’t even get into the lack of Butch representation,) but to give all the queer kids out there a sliver of hope and then take it away? Not cool. How many queer kids are watching these shows thinking “Look, they are just like me!” only to watch them get brutally killed? This just reinforces the stereotype that queers don’t deserve happy endings, especially when there are SO FEW of them already on TV.
Well, you know what? We do deserve happy endings, and good story lines, and to be more than a way to further some straight person’s character development. And it’s time for TV to start reflecting that.