Queer people face plenty of suffering. From personal prejudice to actual hate crimes, there is plenty of violence against gay people in the real world.
But there is another form of violence the queer community is facing, and that’s in entertainment.
The current body count for dead gay and bisexual characters in TV alone has grown close to 200 since the 1970s. It has become such a common trope that it now has a formal name — the “bury your gays” trope. But it is particularly prevalent among queer female characters, to the point that the “dead lesbian” has become an all too common character in television.
It would simply take too much time to list every single show that has killed off queer female characters, although some recent examples include Private Practice, Battlestar Galactica, Xena: Warrior Princess, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood, Supernatural, American Horror Story, Teen Wolf, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Jessica Jones, Empire, The 100 and Orange is the New Black, just to name a few. And that doesn’t even include shows that have killed off their queer male characters.
Of course, more straight characters have certainly died over the course of television history than gay characters have. But this is due to the fact that straight characters have been present in television for far longer, and there are simply more straight characters in TV than there are gay characters. The representation of queer characters in TV is so few that their high death count means much more.
Furthermore, queer female characters are often not given the same treatment in death as their straight counterparts. Straight characters, especially men, often receive heroic deaths, either in battle or at the end of the greater mission. Queer female characters’ deaths are often much more violent and senseless. Causes of death for queer female characters often include freak accidents, hate crimes, violent sacrifices or torture. Not to mention, they are often killed after directly expressing emotion for another woman — either through a confession of feelings, kissing or sex. Their deaths are also typically put in place to have them become a martyr for other characters or to move the plot forward. Their deaths do not contribute to their own story but rather create a shortcut for increased drama.
So not only are queer characters largely without representation, when they are given a place in entertainment, they often are quickly tortured or killed off, typically for a very shallow purpose.
Of course, like I said, many characters in TV die in violent ways or in ways that further storylines or add to drama. But the idea of killing and torturing queer characters has a very real implication: these characters are doing something wrong, and thus they must be punished. This is especially suggested when queer characters are killed after expressing feelings for a member of the same sex. Whether or not this is the show runner’s direct intention, the fact that there is already so much violence and hatred against queer people in real life makes their fictional reflection feel all too real.
Of course, it is important that queer characters have representation in mainstream entertainment at all. But it is equally important they are able to stay. Queer characters, especially queer females, deserve respect. They deserve adequate storylines. They deserve happy endings. And even if they do not receive that happy ending, it’s about time a queer woman on television received a hero’s death.
Delaney Murray is a freshman studying journalism with a focus in news and information at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. How do you think queer characters in entertainment are treated unfairly? Let Delaney know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting her at @delpaulinem.