In 2019, media representation for minorities has hit an all time high. Movies with casts made up entirely out of minority groups storm the box office. Television and music continuously break boundaries previously set and present representation for all. However, some communities still feel slighted and left under represented. The LGBTQ community gained major ground with representation in major television shows such as Modern Family and The Fosters, despite the glaring disputes of controversy among viewers. In defiance of the increase in portrayal of LGBTQ characters, there is a common pattern seen.
This trope has been recognized and named as “Bury Your Gays,” and modern entertainment, specifically television, has played a large proponent in the spread among media. The trope was first emerged as many people began to recognize that LGBTQ characters are subjected to a similar fate. No matter the theme of the show or how the story line progresses, many LGBTQ roles end abruptly and tragically.
Any television or movie character’s death often strikes audiences in a multitude of ways. However, after the character Lexa, from the CW’s series The 100, was abruptly killed off the show in Mar. 2016, fans and LGBTQ consumers went into an uproar. The perpetuation of primarily bisexual and lesbian women dying in primetime television has angered fans for years.
Jason Rothenberg, the writer for the television series, defended his decision as he told Vanity that he believes Lexa’s death does not follow this trope.
“We’ve created this world where it doesn’t matter what color you are or whether you’re a male or a female or who you love, whether you’re gay or straight. It’s about survival, it’s about ‘Can you help me survive today?’” Rothenberg says to Vanity.
What Rothenberg and many other entertainment writers don’t understand is the cries of the community are not because they are dead, it is because of the stigma it strengthens. Many viewers left furious that the nature of these characters death leaves the actors departure anticlimactic.
Further, the trope radiates the idea that happy endings and heroic triumphs are not in the cards for LGBTQ people. Of course, anyone can die, that is indisputable. However, with the little representation that LGBTQ are given in entertainment, gay characters more often than not face brutal endings.
More than two hundred lesbian or bisexual deaths have been documented throughout television series. The genres of these programs range from sitcoms, dramas, science fiction, and even historical fiction.
According to Autostraddle, “It’s incredibly rare that any dramatic television series lasting over three seasons will never kill a main or recurring character, and all those deaths have driven a stake through the heart of fandom,” So, anyone can die? Yes, but later on in the article “All 202 Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters On TV, And How They Died”, the author, Riese, also says, “We comprise such a teeny-tiny fraction of characters on television to begin with that killing us off so haphazardly feels especially cruel.”
Out of the six LGBTQ charcters that are represented in the post apocalyptic show The Walking Dead, four have been killed off within the last three seasons.
The death toll is racking up, and proves for a larger discussion on inclusion and justice. There has been a significant increase in positive representation for the LGBTQ community. Now finished Freeform show The Fosters followed the lives of the Adams-Foster family, who are parented by a lesbian couple. The couple shows a trying, but loving relationship and highlights realistic challengers such as racism and homophobia, and better yet, neither of them die. Modern Family includes a gay couple who are navigating the life of new parenthood in today’s society, and spoiler, neither of them have yet to die. The 2018 movie Love, Simon encaptures a teenage boy maneuvering his newly accepted sexuality, and at the end, it may come as a shock, but he lives!
Of course death is inevitable, but killing off what minimal representation for this community there is in film and television, maintains the the fear in many LGBTQ people have and preserves the insinuation that a happy ending for these people is just not realistic. In the modern entertainment, creators must strive to do better and not only increase representation among all minorities and communities to reflect the true population, but also actively fight against stereotypes that keep homophobia alive.