Monday, October 20, 2014

Must Kill TV

With all due disrespect (see what I did there, eh eh?) to pimps, it’s hard out there for a lesbian/bisexual character. This has been a brutal year for queer females on television. Tara Thornton. Leslie Shay. Sara Lance. Dead. Dead. Deadity dead.

Things are so dire that I only half jokingly called a future bride-to-be in a coma a slightly positive representation for queer female characters. Yes, really.

So, what’s up? Why do we keep getting offed? Granted, it’s not that lesbian characters are the only ones getting axed. But with the continued underrepresentation (and decline) of queer female characters on TV (we went from 43 percent of all the queer characters on TV to 40 percent in the last year), each loss matters even more.

The most galling thing about these deaths is not necessarily that they happened, but why they happened. In almost every instance the death was declared a motivating factor for another character or characters. True Blood executive producer Angela Robinson said, “We need to kill someone to show that the stakes are really high going into the last season.” The Chicago Fire executive producer said they chose Shay because she “affected the most people.” And an Arrow executive producer said Sara was picked because “it buys us a lot of story.”

In essence, these queer characters’ lives were less important than what these queer characters’ deaths means to the plot. We’re disposable, plot devices, motivations for the characters who really matter.

Look, I don’t doubt that these TV producers earnestly felt the deaths were necessary. But by not taking in account the added import of every queer character on television they did us all a disservice. Does this mean you can never kill off your LGBT characters? Of course not, you kill whichever characters you want, you heartless TV dream killing bastards – I mean, writers. But think, really think, if there’s another way to make the same point that lets a gay character live on and become a fully realized part of your show instead. In other words, try harder. We’re people, not plot points.

p.s. Also, yo The Good Wife writers, don’t be getting any funny ideas about killing off Kalinda now that Archie Panjabi is leaving the show. I mean it, no funny business.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, for yet another post in which I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment!

I am damn tired of watching shows, falling in love with characters and then seeing them get killed off for nary a good enough reason.

I was just thinking the same thing as I watched 'The Good Wife' yesterday - PLEASE to TPB... DO NOT kill off Kalinda. I would (personally) love to see her ride off into the proverbial sunset with FBI Agent Lana.

I stopped watching 'Chicago Fire' after this seasons first episode... while I like Monica Raymund (and love that she's a member of the LGBT community) she was not enough to keep me watching the mainly testosterone filled drama week after week.

I am still watching 'Arrow'... however that show has other female characters that are central ones and doesn't leave me as empty as 'Chicago Fire' now does.

I will be keeping my fingers crossed that we don't have any more lesbian characters (not that we really have that many out there to begin with) killed off on any other shows.

Anonymous said...

I guess the lesbian viewer is a minority, but we are often passionate and loyal viewers. There are lots of choices out there, and I choose not to watch Chicago Fire anymore - not on out of spite, it just isn't as interesting without Shay. So, maybe the deaths of lesbian characters are catalysts for more than just the other characters on the show.

Anonymous said...

It's no surprise that networks are obliterating lesbian characters when your readers won't even acknowledge being lesbian.

Most young readers haven't even settled on a sexual identity, opting instead for the cumbersome: LGBTQIAZCXSV community.

It's as ridiculous as the never ending acronyms above.

I am a lesbian, I am not queer, I a not curious,I am not bisexual and I suggest that lesbians band together to save our identity from the "Hangers On, Lesbians need to stand fast to our identity and stop letting every group that comes along latch on.

I can remember organizing a gay pride parade and back hen the challenge was whether we should add bisexual to the acronym. Little did I suspect that adding one letter: :b: would open the floodgates.

Dutchcloggie said...

Not quite how I would have put it but I do feel that thrrowing everyone who is not straight in to one basket makes no sense. Quite apart from the fact that it actually creates a divide between those that are considered "normal" and everyone else, it is not scientifically correct either.
Being gay, straight or bisexual is a sexual orientation, about who you love or sleep with. Being trans, intersex, gender-queer etc is about how you feel about yourself and then there is the lot of kinks we also apparently need to include in the acronym which is even more inappropriate because what you like in bed is not reason to demand social equality. I feel it has made everyone loom ridiculous.

Sorry for the off topic....

Anonymous said...

anonymous, you're a troll and I should not feed you, but seriously?

I identify as a lesbian. I am a cisgender woman attracted to woman-identified people.

I am also queer, in that I have a non-normative sexuality.

If I were also attracted to dudes, and ID'd as bisexual, I would still be interested in Dorothy's site. Bisexual women also like to look at chicks in tanktops. Pansexual people are angry about Chicago Fire. People who have chosen to just ID as queer want to see straight girls acting "gay."

Stop language policing and get with the times, man.

Dutchcloggie said...

What is a cisgendered woman?

Not sure Anonymous was saying this site should be for lesbians only but if she was: Bad Anonymous!! No biscuit!


Tristen said...

I hope they give Sara of Arrow her own show. Her character needs to be fleshed out and in my opinion it would be a big hit. I know they killed her but death isn't always final. They could show her with the Assassins before she returned.

Anonymous said...

i have a feeling that the producers kill off the lesbian characters because they can't deal with the responese of the community. it's very sad.

Stefanie S said...

Dammit! This post could kinda have done with a spioiler alert for us poor people in the UK who haven't viewed yet - notable Chicago Fire and Arrow >.<

So frustrating though :(

Anonymous said...

While I agree that we shouldn't be going with a 'kill all lesbians' thing, I also think we shouldn't get into the trap of 'save all lesbians'.
Now I can't speak for Chicago fire, but there is huge precidence for *spoilers* killing off major characters/love interests in both true blood (alcide, pretty much anyone the main characters sleep with) and arrow (Oliver's best friend, mother, lover on the island, mentor on the island and presumably more I've missed).
I'm not going to say I don't get sad when my representative characters die, but if it makes for a good story, and it fits thematically with the 'anyone can die' trope that's popular in TV now, then I say go for it.
I'll just have my little cry when I watch it. Plus, without a queer character, I get to see if it was actually a show I would have watched anyway!

Madeline Erb said...

It pisses me off that lesbian and bisexual characters keep dying. I'll watch a show, get invested, and think, it won't happen this time. I trust these writers. And then, boom, my girl is gone. And I'm aware that on some of these shows, anyone can die. But the death isn't always problematic within the show, it's problematic within the larger pattern of ALL THESE CHARACTERS DYING. I'd like to note Wynonna Earp as a show that has promised not to kill it's lesbian and bisexual, in a move that made me very happy.

I'd like to see some lesbian and bi writers come up in hollywood and write stories where we don't see this trope. Although being lesbian or bi isn't a guarantee, as we can see with Ilene Chaiken, also known as satan.