Why do lesbians and bi women always die?
March 12, 2016 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Ylva’s Steffi Achilles posted a piece asking that television stop killing our queer heriones and Autostraddle took the opportunity to enumerate All 90 Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters On TV, And How They Died.

This raises the question of why LGBT characters are murdered on television so often that we have our own TV trope, which mentions Dead Lesbian Syndrome as a head-on collision between Sex Is Evil and All Gays Are Promiscuous, though The Depraved Bisexual trope is also of interest here as is the history of the Hays Code requirements that “the love which society has always regarded as wrong and which has been banned by divine law [...] must not be presented as attractive and beautiful.”

Last October, AfterEllen posted an article noting the 33 most horrifying lesbian and bi character deaths on television, noting that
while networks are getting better at putting LGBT women in more recurring and major roles instead of bit parts or very special episodes, one trend remains going strong: They keep getting killed off.
This is true in film as well, as noted by James Rawson:
Since Philadelphia there have been, by my count, 257 Academy Award-nominated portrayals of heterosexual characters, and 23 of gay, bisexual or transsexual characters. Of the heterosexual characters, 16.5% (59) die. Of the LGBT characters, 56.5% (13) die. Of the 10 LGBT characters who live, only four get happy endings. That's four characters in 19 years.
posted by bile and syntax (78 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Man, I read this yesterday when they were at 75 I think? And now they're at 103???
Ooof.
I mean, I am sadly not surprised that there keep being more and more to add but the sheer number is blowing my mind.
posted by primalux at 2:54 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


This post is fine, but maybe no spoilers on the front page ?
posted by Pendragon at 2:59 PM on March 12, 2016


Eep! I have just sent a comment to a mod requesting that the spoiler get removed, and I apologize!
posted by bile and syntax at 3:04 PM on March 12, 2016


[Spoiler elided! Carry on.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:05 PM on March 12, 2016


Thanks cortex!
posted by bile and syntax at 3:05 PM on March 12, 2016


I'd like to point out that these results don't appear to include Midsomer County, and thus the actual total is likely far higher.
posted by selfnoise at 3:10 PM on March 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


I watched 100 from the moment it aired. But when they did some usual suspect things with a black character, I gave up on that bs. In the years since I saw all kinds of calls that it had turned into some marvelous, wonderful show. Then they did what they did, and a lot of people that looked the other way when yet another black character on television got treated like yet another black character on television, suddenly realized they should have been upset from the beginning. Anyway, this trope (bury your gays) needs to stop, and the writers that continue to employ it need to shape up or ship out.
posted by cashman at 3:14 PM on March 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


But when they did some usual suspect things with a black character, I gave up on that bs.

What are you referring to?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:27 PM on March 12, 2016


Was Jadzia Dax technically a lesbian, though? There was the famous Lesbian Kiss Episode but that was supposed to be about being a man in a previous life, and by the her death (two seasons later) she was married to very-male Worf and an ongoing plot complication was was whether she could conceive from all the frenzied Trill/Klingon banging that was presumably going on.

Also, basically half the plot of Prisoner (also screened as Cell Block H, Prisoner Cell Block H, and for all I know Block Prisoner H Cell Cell) was about who was a lesbian or could be persuaded to swing that way while interned.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:32 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Helena Cain is an interesting addition. Sure, she was shot by her ex-lover, but what she did to that ex-lover was... well...

And her ex-lover popping up a few items later, well, she also had her reasons for doing that...
posted by qcubed at 3:36 PM on March 12, 2016


I'm four episodes in to Season 5 of The Wire, I guess I should have known not to look
posted by The Gooch at 3:39 PM on March 12, 2016


I mean, that's a long list of dead characters, but some of those deaths do make sense in context?

Though, "murdered by Ilene Chaiken" is a cute nod to what happened.
posted by qcubed at 3:39 PM on March 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Jadzia a tough classification job because she's carrying around a whole pile of memories of personalities with their various sexual histories and preferences, so "is she really a lesbian" is probably doomed to bar argument purgatory, but she's definitely a character notable on Star Trek for being a major cast member who wasn't capital-s Straight. It'd be reasonable to consider her to be (within the confines of DS9-era Star Trek's writing) at least unambigiuously bi in her complicated many-lives way.

Compare with e.g. Bev's TNG encounter with a male-hosted (weird version 1.0 take on a) Trill, where she fell in love, the Trill became Riker, she fell in love again, the Trill became a woman, and she just flat couldn't deal with that. Nothing wrong with Bev being straight as the day is long, but the contrast to Trill characters as by nature seemingly a lot more open to a spectrum of sexual attraction is there in both cases.

But mostly it's just Star Trek, where a character's sexuality is, like most things, not really a core character issue as it is a useful tool in whatever morality play they're writing that week.
posted by cortex at 4:01 PM on March 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Joe, they are listing lesbian and bi women. Jadzia clearly expressed romantic and sexual interest in another woman during the course of the show. It is true that the show played fast and loose with the whole "it's not REAL gayness" trope via the Trill (a couple of times).

But it really sort of sucks, as a bi woman, to come in here and have a straight man picking at the REALITY of Jadzia Dax's same-sex attraction/romantic preferences, because SEE, she married a MALE, and earlier was in relationships with MEN, and also when she originally loved her former partner, Dax was joined with a MAN.

I personally appreciated the undefinability of joined-Trill sexuality when I was a lonely little queer girl watching the show in the middle of nowhere, USA.
posted by Naamah at 4:11 PM on March 12, 2016 [31 favorites]


Here's hoping for Bryan Fuller creating a fully bisexual space future with equality of murder.
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on March 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


Is it sad that I look forward to the possibility of murder equality?
posted by bile and syntax at 4:28 PM on March 12, 2016 [10 favorites]


Podcasts are not immune either. The otherwise amazing Adventure Zone recently featured an arc where this occurred. It was heartfelt, but come on... Everyone deserves a happily ever after.
posted by m@f at 4:30 PM on March 12, 2016


Metafilter: a fully bisexual space future with equality of murder.
posted by solarion at 4:33 PM on March 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


ETA: Okay, I’ve added Xena after doing further research about network pressure, and because if one more commenter takes up space on this thread — a thread I’m using to find more characters to add, and also to engage with thoughtful and funny and interested readers who have opinions and feelings — to tell me that I “forgot” Xena without reading this introduction, I will become the 200th dead lesbian and the cause of death will be “Walked off a cliff with a commenter in her arms. Murder-suicide.” But Xena will be the one and only inclusion based on subtext.]

Ha!
posted by rtha at 4:33 PM on March 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


But when they did some usual suspect things with a black character, I gave up on that bs.

What are you referring to?


Rot13: Gur qrngu bs Jryyf Wnun
posted by numaner at 4:49 PM on March 12, 2016


Please, Jadzia Dax is a bit questionable when it comes down to defining gay/bi. Oh you humans, applying your novel ideas of sexual orientation to aliens is just plain ole cute in an insignificant pale, blue dot kind of way.
At least most of these characters died in bad ass ways. Except for poor Tara from Buffy. Totally senseless death but it did lead to one of the best and brutal scenes of a gay character killing a straight one!
posted by Muncle at 4:53 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


" Anyway, this trope (bury your gays) needs to stop, and the writers that continue to employ it need to shape up or ship out."

It's one of those immediate Hack Writer alerts: You can't kill off a character that people aren't invested in or don't know, unless they're just one of the faceless multitudes gunned down by Protag the Destroyer. But, see, that's not just Jeff over there, it's Black Jeff or Gay Jeff — they have a struggle, man! They have a character! They're black or gay or some other historically oppressed person whose even being allowed to be on a show is, like, totally progress! Their death MEANS SOMETHING. But because they're not Jeff, you can kill 'em and have the show go on.

My wife and I have gotten to the point where our basic rule is: If you only have one representative from whatever not straight-white-cis-male group, and you kill them, we're out. We've gotten really close with Walking Dead more than once, to the point where now we're worried that a character of color that we like is walking into the trope of Fall In Love To Die. Which, if that happens, we're out. We'd rather they kill the main dude so we don't have to hear "Caaaarrl" gargled again.

Likewise, if there's Rape As Plot Point, we're out. Too much other shit. Maybe we'll come back, maybe not, but it's so fucking lazy and there's so much good tv that I don't need to watch lazy shit.
posted by klangklangston at 5:03 PM on March 12, 2016 [21 favorites]


To be fair, 103 deaths is an infinitesimal number compared to the overall number of people who die on TV. A vast percentage of prime time and cable TV is about people dying. How many people die on CSI every week? How many on any HBO show?

Also, Willow Rosenberg: major lesbian (or bisexual, but she called herself gay) character, not killed.
posted by musofire at 5:05 PM on March 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


"To be fair, 103 deaths is an infinitesimal number compared to the overall number of people who die on TV. A vast percentage of prime time and cable TV is about people dying. How many people die on CSI every week? How many on any HBO show?"

Right, but the argument isn't "LOOK AT ALL THESE LGBT PEOPLE CLOGGING UP TV MORGUES!", it's that there are relatively few LGBT people on TV, and the ones that are, tend to die at disproportionately high rates.

Like, statistically, black people dying of heart disease is a minority of the overall heart disease mortality pool, but more black people die of heart disease than you'd expect given their proportion of the population, which means it's something worth noticing.
posted by klangklangston at 5:15 PM on March 12, 2016 [29 favorites]


This list was even more depressing than expected. Poor Bianca from All My Children had not 1 but 2 dead lovers on the list! And The 100 death was the most egregious of all for multiple reasons. The parallels to Tara's death on BtVS were ridiculous. It was practically plagiarism! I am glad this Trope is getting lots of attention because it really needs to go away.
posted by pjsky at 5:23 PM on March 12, 2016


> "Also, Willow Rosenberg: major lesbian (or bisexual, but she called herself gay) character, not killed."

While that show did kill off my favorite character solely as a means to motivate what I would deem one of the worst-handled plot developments of the first six seasons, I will admit that yes, I suppose I do still appreciate they did not kill off ALL of their lesbians.

*grumble*
posted by kyrademon at 5:25 PM on March 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


We were actually conditioned for this long before television and even before movies. I read old newspapers for fun or when I'm bored, and one day I set out to find when mention of lesbians (and the many euphemisms used to describe us; I forget the other search terms I used, but I used a lot) started in the US print media. It started in the late 19th century, and I couldn't find a *single* story about a lesbian that wasn't about either murder, attempted murder, suicide, or murder-suicide.

It's easy to blame television or current hidden (or not hidden) biases, but this is a common narrative -- the default narrative, actually -- that has been around much, much longer than you'd think.

Sex + violence + women + criminal women + deviant sex is a story that has always sold well.

(I'd link to some examples, but dinner is on the stove.)
posted by mudpuppie at 5:30 PM on March 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


I know I was pretty disappointed about a certain someone on Supernatural... but then, they've done a lot of disappointing me pretty much since Season 6.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 5:33 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gur qrngu bs Jryyf Wnun

We've already gone through the Jadzia Dax thing, you don't need to rehash it with Klingon comments
posted by Greg Nog at 5:34 PM on March 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


"To be fair, 103 deaths is an infinitesimal number compared to the overall number of people who die on TV. A vast percentage of prime time and cable TV is about people dying. How many people die on CSI every week? How many on any HBO show?"

But the point is how many of the lesbian/bi deaths are written and staged to imply that the character just really had to die because 1) the gays may be cute but homosexuality is evil & 2) you cannot let a woman who doesn't need a man for sexual gratification go unpunished.
posted by pjsky at 5:35 PM on March 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


For those pointing out how normal character death is, and how many of these deaths are sensible in the context, the issue is not that these characters have died, but the near absence of counterbalancing characters who got to walk off happily into the sunset.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 5:53 PM on March 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


you don't need to rehash it with Klingon comments

Klingon komments, surely.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:09 PM on March 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Heh. I was thinking "Hang on, wasn't Tasha Yar gay?"

Well, it turns out that she wasn't written as gay but everyone seems to think she was and the actress that played her (Denise Crosby) got to be Celebrity Marshal in the 2013 Boston Pride Parade.

On TNG she played the ship's chief security officer; in the parade she was a marshal which is sort of like a security officer, so I guess this is a real-life ret-con.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:26 PM on March 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Didn't Tasha fuck Data?
posted by infinitewindow at 6:35 PM on March 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, but she was under the influence of an alien bacteria.
posted by Atreides at 6:36 PM on March 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Data is only nominally male. It's like Kira and Odo. Incidentally, bad-universe Kira hooked up with bad-universe Ezri Dax, whose symbiont was formerly part of Jadzia Dax, which I guess is a point in favor of the gay-Jadzia theory.

Question: have there been any even arguably, even bad-universe or holodeck male-male relationships in Trek?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 PM on March 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not sure if that counts - All evil alternate universe are bi, it's the female version of the goatee.
posted by Artw at 7:00 PM on March 12, 2016 [24 favorites]


I was trying to look up Asian media's treatment of LGBTQ women, because boy does this region love their Kill The Gays/Make Them Repent trope, but to my surprise the very few TV shows that have LGBTQ women at all actually treat them nicely. India's The Big F and Yudh both have pretty happy queer female couples, and Korea's The Daughters of Club Bilitis is all about three multigenerational lesbian couples who live happily ever after in the end.

I'm also really tempted to start doing data analysis as suggested in the AS comments (# of LGBTQ characters overall, # that stay alive, etc) especially since I just finished an analytics course, but data collection would be a nightmare.
posted by divabat at 7:02 PM on March 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Not sure if that counts - All evil alternate universe are bi, it's the female version of the goatee.

Oh my god you're right
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:25 PM on March 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


It never occurred to me how many lesbian or bi women characters I've seen die on shows that I've watched over the years, but G-d damn, that list. It's really extensive and touches shows in every genre. It's really quite disturbing.

Worse yet, a number of the characters on that list came out on their shows, and THEN were killed off. Tosh on Torchwood, for example.

Not sure if that counts - All evil alternate universe are bi, it's the female version of the goatee.

It's part of the Discount Lesbians phenomenon.

Mirror Willow.
Mirror Kira.
Mirror Ezri
Etc.
posted by zarq at 9:16 PM on March 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Huh, I didn't remember that Susan Ross on Seinfeld was bi.
posted by kafziel at 9:53 PM on March 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


So coincidentally I sucked it up and watched that episode of The 100 today. Whee. We all just loved "Seeing Red" and here it is again! I get that they only had the actress for a limited number of episodes, but I really wish they'd just like, had her have to run away for her own safety or something.

Javier Grillo-Marxauch was writing for the show this season and has quit since then (presumably for reasons of rebooting Xena), and he's apparently letting everyone on social media rant at him while he answers whatever questions he can about that. I'm impressed with his mea culpas and responses and well, letting this go on for as long as it was going. Hoo boy. My impression is that he argued against the death and the showrunner overuled, but admits they shouldn't have done it. I am finding it very worrying that people are telling him there's been suicides and hospitalizations because of this, though. Good lord, people, do not off yourselves because a TV showrunner made a bad decision.

Though on a more optimistic note, we still have more openly gay characters on TV than ever before and we have uproars when stuff like this happens. While admittedly I'm pretty sick of stupid crap like this one going down*, I think eventually this problem is going to get less and less as people evolve. But at the same time, we're replaying Seeing Red...ugh.

* according to the list of lesbian deaths, Emily from Teen Wolf had THE WORST.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:28 PM on March 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Part of the baggage with Star Trek is that they've never shown any unambiguously human LGBT characters. Even in the Mirror Universe, the bi characters are actually limited to the mirror versions of Kira (Bajoran), Leeta (Bajoran), Ezri (Trill), and Garak (Cardassian), and him only really just sort of joking about it. There have been lots and lots of fans shipping various same-sex couples together--the original slashfic couple was Kirk/Spock--but those have tended to be broken up in canon, sometimes in suspiciously unlikely het pairings that don't seem to have the chemistry of their same-sex "friendships" (Garak/Bashir is one prime example of this). So, it's great that they finally got around to showing a woman kissing a woman, even if the cast and crew handwaved it away by "It's a Trill thing", but they've also skipped out on plenty of missed opportunities for more affirmative pairings, or even just letting certain characters stay ahem-ahem confirmed bachelors/spinsters.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:52 PM on March 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping the new series will fix that, but not getting my hopes up too far.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:57 PM on March 12, 2016


Also I'm still sort of mad about Talia.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:59 PM on March 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


When Supernatural did their gross thing I should have stopped watching. I should have stopped watching a long time ago. But I haven't. WTF, me?
posted by brundlefly at 12:16 AM on March 13, 2016


I think some of this, particularly in the more recent stuff where we get to see women in relationships with other women for longer than a few moments, is just the equivalent of 'fridging', where a (usually female) character is killed to provide angstful motivation or character development to another character.

vibratory manner of working, I'm with you, there.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:15 AM on March 13, 2016


Also, Willow Rosenberg: major lesbian (or bisexual, but she called herself gay) character, not killed.

Alyson Hannigan's character was protected by her total inability to act convincingly gay.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:28 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Idk, Alyson Hannigan was pretty convincing when she was in lust with herself in "Doppelgangland." That I 100% bought.

(I like AH just fine, honestly, but I did find that funny.)
posted by Naamah at 7:25 AM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes. Doppelgangland was fun, but it was particularly great for all the Willow vs Evil Willow interactions.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:06 AM on March 13, 2016


Data is only nominally male.

Data is fully functional in every respect.
posted by hippybear at 9:21 AM on March 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


The very thin silver lining to this horrific, Apocalypse-worthy-rain-cloud is that flipping through the pictures accompanying each death, I was surprised at the diversity in portrayal of lesbian and bi characters. They weren't all Butchy McManFlannel. Often I feel like TV show writers just go for the lazy stereotype and it really constrains the portrayal of what actual lesbians and bisexual people look like.

We were actually conditioned for this long before television and even before movies. I read old newspapers for fun or when I'm bored, and one day I set out to find when mention of lesbians (and the many euphemisms used to describe us; I forget the other search terms I used, but I used a lot) started in the US print media. It started in the late 19th century, and I couldn't find a *single* story about a lesbian that wasn't about either murder, attempted murder, suicide, or murder-suicide.

That is FASCINATING, but sadly not surprising. You should see the reporting about Chinese Americans that went on around the turn of the century. Shocking.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:58 AM on March 13, 2016


I was going to bring up vampire Willow (who is definitely bi, given her "self" lust), but I do have to agree that she does fit into the discount lesbian trope. Which is a shame, because she was one if my favorites ("Hands!")
posted by Hactar at 11:35 AM on March 13, 2016


it's that there are relatively few LGBT people on TV, and the ones that are, tend to die at disproportionately high rates.

True. I think part of it is because of there being very few main/starring (and therefore not very easily killed off) LGBT characters, or any other minorities, for that matter. Also lots of shows on the list are fantasy/sci-fi shows which always have a higher death rate. I don't watch many in that genre, are they doing better than average in the number of lesbian and other minority characters? Maybe, I'll start tuning in for the diversity.
posted by bluefly at 12:02 PM on March 13, 2016


Oh man, "Prisoner" (which aired as "Prisoner of Cell Block H", I think) aired on my local UHF channel for a while when I was growing up back before I was even a babydyke, more like a protobabydyke. I definitely had a whole "Ring of Keys" recognition, there, though.

The whole "you can have lesbian characters but they must DIE" trope goes back at least as far as The Well of Loneliness and The Children's Hour. It just took a little longer to get into movies. (Hays code, I am looking at you.)

If the history of this kind of representation interests you and you haven't seen The Celluloid Closet, I recommend checking it out.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:03 PM on March 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Prisoner was shot here in Melbourne and (as a kid) the lesbian bits went right over my head. I really thought they were just good friends. I mean, prison isn't a nice place, you'd feel lonely without any friends.

I did a bit of Googling and apparently it went on for years and years after I stopped watching. At the time I think it was our second longest-running TV series.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:59 PM on March 13, 2016


Oh, it went over my head at the time... Over my head and straight into my developing limbic system, I suspect.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:16 PM on March 13, 2016


"Also, Willow Rosenberg: major lesbian (or bisexual, but she called herself gay) character, not killed."

That made me think of Serena Sooutherlyn, stealth lesbian.
posted by klangklangston at 5:17 PM on March 13, 2016


The very thin silver lining to this horrific, Apocalypse-worthy-rain-cloud is that flipping through the pictures accompanying each death, I was surprised at the diversity in portrayal of lesbian and bi characters. They weren't all Butchy McManFlannel. Often I feel like TV show writers just go for the lazy stereotype and it really constrains the portrayal of what actual lesbians and bisexual people look like.

As the Butchy McManFlannel type myself, I had the opposite reaction and was disappointed to be reminded of how overwhelmingly femme the queer female representation on TV is. I love my soft and hard femme sisters and 100% want that representation out there too, but there's no escaping the fact that most f/f relationships on television are put out there with the desires of straight men in mind.
posted by northernish at 6:26 PM on March 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


As an alternative: The Lesbians Live (books, tv, and film featuring lesbians who do not die)
posted by dinty_moore at 6:49 PM on March 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, Willow Rosenberg: major lesbian (or bisexual, but she called herself gay) character, not killed.

She's a really interesting example, because of the "discount lesbian" bit in the third season. Whedon might have dropped it there and left it like (e.g.) bad-Kira in Star Trek, but I think it's pretty clear that he knew where he was going with it from the start.

Incidentally, bad-Willow was actually killed. So technically, this counts as one for each side.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:21 PM on March 13, 2016


The Lesbians Live site has only 8 tv-shows on the list, while Auto straddle's list is up to 132 Dead this morning. And, I think it's optimistic of them to include Person of Interest on the Live list -- the writers of PoI have already played the Dead Lesbian trope to the hilt, with Shaw being shot only seconds after the first Root/Shaw kiss. While she turned out to not be dead, just written out indefinitely due to the actress' pregnancy, there's no telling whether either Root or Shaw will survive this year's season finale to take the relationship beyond that one kiss, they can still kill one or both women. Given their track record, I am not holding my breath.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:36 AM on March 14, 2016


Didn't the US dub of Sailor Moon change Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus (who I always viewed as a couple) to cousins ? That's also a form of erasure. Any other examples of this ?
posted by Pendragon at 6:12 AM on March 14, 2016


Didn't the US dub of Sailor Moon change Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus (who I always viewed as a couple) to cousins ? That's also a form of erasure. Any other examples of this ?

Yes and no. They were officially "cousins" but who were also still clearly very gay together.
posted by kafziel at 11:18 AM on March 14, 2016


They weren't cousins in the japanese subbed version I watched, so I don't know where you got the "official" bit from. But I decided to google it: Sailor Moon Begins Streaming 'Uncensored' on Hulu.
posted by Pendragon at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2016


What I'm saying is that in the dubbed US version, the characters were stated to be cousins, but they didn't edit out the romance stuff, so it all just got weird.
posted by kafziel at 2:54 PM on March 14, 2016


What TV Can Learn From ‘The 100’ Mess
What has occurred since March 3 is not just a problem for “The 100” and the CW, it’s a cautionary tale for all of television, which increasingly depends on fans to bang the drum for shows and increase their profiles.

As it happens, the resurgent CW just made a big bet on fan-driven entertainment as the future of TV. The network just renewed all of its shows, in part because it measures engagement in a host of ways; overnight ratings are no longer the be-all and end-all. Social media engagement counts for a lot, and word-of-mouth promotion is often what makes or breaks a marginal show. That’s especially true at the CW, but in the age of 400-plus scripted shows, that’s also the case for many other programs on broadcast, streaming and cable.

But intense fan engagement is a double-edged sword. The fans who know how to help raise a show’s profile and make noise on social media are also whipsmart in any number of other ways. Today’s TV viewers won’t stand for being used as pawns, nor will they help promote a show when they feel it has let them down. With the events that occurred in the March 3 episode of the show, many think “The 100” did just that.
posted by moody cow at 12:45 AM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


What I'm saying is that in the dubbed US version, the characters were stated to be cousins, but they didn't edit out the romance stuff, so it all just got weird.

Ah, I understand now.
posted by Pendragon at 2:40 AM on March 15, 2016


As much as I'm a lifelong trekkie, Jadzia's bisexuality only gets developed in a handful of episodes linked to Curzon and Torias's experiences and otherwise is connected with a series of male partners (physical and virtual.) I'd like to think we've done better since then, but I'm struggling when it comes to bi characters on screen at this moment.

The 100 development has largely killed interest in catching up with the show. The existence of LGBT characters is no longer incentive enough to watch everything that has them.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:18 AM on March 15, 2016


As much as I'm a lifelong trekkie, Jadzia's bisexuality only gets developed in a handful of episodes linked to Curzon and Torias's experiences and otherwise is connected with a series of male partners (physical and virtual.) I'd like to think we've done better since then, but I'm struggling when it comes to bi characters on screen at this moment.

I have to give the Jadzia storyline some credit. For airing in the mid-90s and having one of the first woman-on-woman kisses on TV, I think it's remarkable how well it was handled - no one, at any point, even brings up the fact that it might be unusual for two women to be romantically involved. And it's pretty clear that they had to fight tooth and nail to get even as much as they got onscreen.

(Luckily, there's pretty much no chance in hell that the guy who gave us queer Hannibal Lecter won't include gay characters in the new Trek. I can't wait.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:52 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a new companion piece: All 29 Lesbian and Bisexual TV Characters Who Got Happy Endings (hopefully to be added to, but, well)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:35 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I started following this today: They Don't Die, a collection of media in which women who love women do NOT die and actually finally have a happy ending together.

Books, films, music videos, anime, games, short stories - submissions welcome and it's well tagged with notes about violence etc. I'm clicking happily away.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:24 AM on March 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sorry, to add - this was started in direct response as well to the 100 episode, the list creators said.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:25 AM on March 19, 2016


...Auto straddle's list is up to 132 Dead this morning...
posted by oh yeah! at 5:36 AM on March 14


that comment was a week ago. the autostraddle list is at 146 now, including 2 more since lexa (aired 3/3/16). i don't watch these shows so i'm relying on articles here--kira from the magicians:
the death of a queer person of color should not be used as a mechanism of spiritual growth for a white lady. I get that this oversimplifies what happens in that subplot, but it also…doesn’t.
bonus: she asks the white woman to kill her. and, last night, denise from the walking dead:
In the comics, it’s Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), not Denise, who dies with an arrow through his eye. The comic book version of Denise does die, yes, but a little later on down the line. And while being a lesbian doesn’t mean a character should be bulletproof... the writers did decide to swap the gay character in for the straight, white alpha male.
...
And just when she achieves romantic clarity (and a can of Crush for Tara) Denise dies.

So while Denise’s death didn’t come immediately after she and Tara consummated their relationship, it did interfere with her plans to tell Tara she loved her when they saw each other again.
in summation (emphasis theirs):
This is day 80/365 of 2016 and Dr. Denise Cloyd is the 8th queer woman to die on primetime this year. A queer woman has died on our screens every 10 days in 2016.

According to GLAAD’s 2015 report of “Where We Are On TV” of the 881 regular characters expected to appear on broadcast primetime programming this year, 4% were identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. There were 23 lesbian characters, 33 gay characters, 12 bisexual females, and 2 bisexual males.

In 2015 there were only 35 fictional wlw characters on television and 80 days into 2016 they’ve killed 8 of them.

That is a fourth of them.

In less than 3 full months of the year.

Let that sink in.
posted by twist my arm at 1:20 AM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


That is a fourth of them.

um i didn't mean to post that just yet. i think the math in my last link is hinky and we're talking a range of one-off characters all the way to full cast members. autostraddle's list is i'm guessing every character they can think of whereas with GLAAD's list (warning PDF)-- "Counts are based on scripted series which air or are expected to air in primetime between 6/1/15 and 5/31/16 for which casting has been announced." basically i don't know who would fall into the 35 announced primetime castings in a year crowd. not a great metric either but if we go by number of episodes 5/8 might qualify as important-ish characters. autostraddle's dead in 2016 so far:

zora - the shannara chronicles (2 eps), carla - code black (4 eps), julie mao - the expanse (10 eps), rose - jane the virgin (15 eps), ashleigh - janet king (8 eps), lexa - the 100 (15 eps), kira - the magicians (1?), denise - the walking dead (9 eps)

i counted 25 dead in 2015 on there, so that's 1 dead every 14.6 days, and now the aforementioned 1 every 10 days in 2016. i guess people are pissed enough that this will be the year of keeping track, so we'll have the constant cannon/gun salutes to look forward to. showrunners and staff will learn to be really clear in their please-don't-yell-at-me-on-twitter interviews that they know about the trope and it totally wasn't homophobia/racism/sexism This Specific Instance that killed them off but necessary plot development and their deadly post-apocalyptic universe/jobs. straight fans will continue to miss the point wondering why gays are watching a zombie show expecting someone to live and look there's another gay (side) character 2 seasons ago that showed up for 3 episodes and didn't die, why can't you people just be happy with what you do get sheesh. gay people can't even help reproduce in the post-apocalypse!!!!! (i'm making stuff up but these are all arguments i've seen in general)
posted by twist my arm at 3:09 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just finished up reading Bujold's Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen over the weekend. It's an unapologetic fanficy romance involving an unapologetic bi man. It popped into my head that it's not just the case that LGBT people die on shows where anyone can die at any time. It's that LGBT people rarely get equivalent casting into the kind of aspirational roles where characters tend to be safe and develop relationships, careers, and families.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:02 AM on March 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's more that the characters aren't gay, no? So the stage for LGBT deaths has been set right at the start: if the main characters are all straight then LGBT characters will necessarily be minor and will be the ones most likely to die. There's probably still an excess of LGBT deaths among major characters, but once again it will come down to decisions made very early in production.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2016


That's probably a factor, but isn't the case Lexa on The 100, which was the death that started this go-around of increased attention to the trope. Anyway, I'm not sure why it matters when in production they made the decision to disproportionately kill queer women.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:03 PM on March 21, 2016


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