Quit Burying Your Gays
By Ariell Branson
You sit on the couch in your living room curled up in your favorite blanket. You’ve anxiously waited all week for the newest episode of your favorite television show and it’s finally here. It may not be your favorite because it has the most amazing plotline, cinematography, or depth. It’s your pick because it features a character that’s kind of like you – gay. You watch the episode and instead of being filled with joy as per usual, tears run down your face. You think, “No, no, not this again!” They’ve killed off your character and even though you should have seen it coming, it still hurts.
The death of LGBTQIA+ characters in film and television isn’t unexpected; in fact, it’s the status quo. It’s a well-known trope often referred to as Bury Your Gays (or Dead Lesbian Syndrome) in which a homosexual character, often the only one, is killed off to advance a heterosexual character’s storyline. While manifestations of this trope have been seen as early as the mid 1970s, it has recently sparked outrage following the death of Lexa on The CW’s The 100 and Denise on AMC’s The Walking Dead.
The 100 is a science fiction show about teenagers’ return to earth from space after the earth was destroyed and shows them living in factions in an attempt to survive. Lexa was the leader of her faction and in a complicated lesbian relationship with opposing faction leader Clarke. Obviously a relationship between two powerful and dynamic women was too good to be true, leading to Lexa’s demise. The response to Lexa’s death was resounding and even resulted in a fundraiser to raise money for queer youth through The Trevor Project.
That’s who is really impacted by the deaths of these characters, young members of the community who rarely, if ever, see media representation that is both positive and accurate. Sadly, when these characters do appear it’s only a matter of time until the inevitable heartbreak. Queer characters must exist outside of tragic endings, blatant stereotypes, and checkmarks in a box labeled “diversity.” Because if we are to believe that life imitates art, where does that leave us? The answer, according to mainstream media, is in a coffin.