The “bury your gays” trope in media has led to the death of innumerable fan-favourite characters in novels, movies and television shows. Queer characters simply seem to be seen as more expendable than others, and therefore, they die much more frequently. Warning, spoilers are coming.
One recent case of this trope that received a lot of backlash was the death of Lexa on the popular CW show The 100. Although the show has a remarkable number of LGBTQ+ characters compared to other shows and is full of death, fans found the way Lexa died very upsetting.
Many fans thought that, if she had to die, she deserved a death scene befitting the badass that she was. Her death was rushed, and many fans were very upset. Some fans went as far as sending death threats to the producer, Jason Rothenberg.
Beyond this instance in The 100, both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Pretty Little Liars are guilty of employing this trope.
Tara, a recurring character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was one half of one of the first same-sex couples on mainstream TV. She was killed by a stray bullet in season six, a death that is closely mirrored by the death of Lexa in The 100. In Pretty Little Liars, both Maya St. Germain and Shana Fring were killed off to further the plot as opposed to being given fleshed-out storylines or anything resembling a happy ending.
This trope is exceptionally problematic for many reasons. It’s very hard growing up without seeing accurate or lasting representation of people like you on TV or in movies. This is true for people of colour, young girls and the LGBTQ+ community.
Coming to terms with your sexuality is made more difficult by not having access to any sort of media that normalizes feelings outside of heterosexuality. While this harmful trope seems pre-eminent in media, there are more and more shows that are subverting or avoiding its use. One example that comes to mind is the show Shadowhunters.
One of the main couples, Magnus and Alec, or “Malec” as the fandom has dubbed their relationship, is a romantic pairing consisting of a gay man and a bisexual man. Their relationship is shown to be very happy and healthy, and they are arguably the most stable couple on the show.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine also has cases of realistic representation, particularly in the characters of Captain Holt and Rosa Diaz. Both are openly queer characters, with Rosa coming out as bisexual in season five. Neither of these character arcs are dependant on their sexuality, and that, in part, is what makes this show so phenomenal.
They are not just characters who are included to add some token queerness — they are both characters who exist because they add to the show. They live their lives and are involved in storylines as any other character would — they just happen to be queer.
It is undeniable that there are more queer characters in mainstream media than there have been in the past. Love, Simon is a mainstream coming-of-age film with a gay lead. This is a huge step forward. The movie has a 92 per cent critic rating and an 89 per cent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
This clearly shows that there is an audience for content that includes and is centred on representation. Beyond that, Love, Simon was compelling to critics and enjoyed by people who are not a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Reviews like these are bound to lead to more queer stories finding their way onto our screens.
When writing is inclusive, there is a chance to create better stories. Queer people exist, and they deserve to have their stories told. Queer characters are not more expendable than other characters, and members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve to have their stories told in healthy, positive ways just like cisgender heterosexual people so often do.