Monday, March 21, 2016

The Walking Deadbians

[SPOILER ALERT: Major Walking Dead Spoilers Below]

There TV goes again. Another day, another dead lesbian character. Never mind a bigger boat, we’re going to need a bigger graveyard to keep up with all these gays we are burying. In last night’s episode of “The Walking Dead” Denise, the town’s de facto doctor, was killed by an arrow through the eye. The shooter admitted afterward that he was actually aiming for someone else – so it was basically an accident. So it wasn’t exactly a heroic or noble death. It was more of an oopsy-daisy. Cool, cool. That’s not insulting at all.

A little background on Denise – we first met her at the beginning of this the sixth season. She was one of the town’s original inhabitants. She started out as unsure of herself. But over the course of the season she found more confidence and a girlfriend. Denise struck up a friendship with established lesbian character Tara, who has been on the show since season 4, which then turned into flirting which was cemented with a kiss and for the past few episodes they’ve been shown living together. Yes, even in the zombie apocalypse lesbians totally U-Haul.

So that made them one of the show’s very few happy couples. (There is one – at least for now – alive and happy gay male couple in the town.) This, however, is the show’s second dead lesbian. Tara, poor thing, lost her girlfriend Alisha back two seasons ago when she was shot in the head during a battle. Her new girlfriend Denise was killed while Tara was on a two-week supply run, so she wasn’t even in this episode. And, it came two episodes after Tara told Denise she loved her, and Denise said she would tell her when she came back. Seriously, writers, seriously? They don’t even get to say proper “I love yous?”

Even more galling is that another established character, Abraham, is the one who dies in the comics from an arrow through the eye – not Denise. While thee situations aren’t exactly the same, they’re similar enough for this to clearly be a swap from the comic books to the TV show. So it’s save the straight guy, kill the gay woman. In fact, one could extrapolate that Denise’s death was ultimately Abraham’s fault because he left behind another character who later got caught by the opposing group which then led to the ambush. Neat-o. I love everything.

At this point, I just want to place all the lesbian and bisexual female characters in a protective bubble and send them to a deserted island away from all stray bullets, arrows and anything else pointy and/or heavy. Denise is actually the second queer female character to be killed off since Lexa’s death on “The 100” at the beginning of the month. (The other was a queer woman of color named Kira on “The Magicians.”) Beware the Ides of March is real and coming for lesbians.

Look, of course, characters die. It’s one of the oldest plot twists in the book. And this is a show about zombies, so death is kind of a leading character. Writers are allowed to write what they want, but as fans we are also allowed to demand better and more truthful representations. As LGBT fans we have a right to see ourselves, and our own happy endings, reflected back to us. But the fact that our stories, particularly as queer women, have been overwhelming tragic on television is not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to court LGBT fans only to feed us the same tired stories we’ve been force fed so many times before.

So here’s the thing. The loud and righteous fan outrage over Lexa’s death has been heard and even gotten mainstream coverage. Which is amazing. But if is going to make a real and lasting difference, it has to continue. It has to not be just about one character, but about treatment of all LGBT characters. It has to be a rallying cry and warning to showrunners and creators. We are not cannon fodder. We are not expendable. And we are watching. LGBT fans most definitely deserve better.

p.s. I’d also like to say that I will very much miss the wonderful Merritt Wever, who was wonderful as Denise. Here is her first kiss with Tara. (If you don’t want to sit through the build-up and some gross puss removal – she’s a doctor, remember – it starts at 4:03).

p.p.s. I could go on another long rant about how “The Walking Dead” needs to stop telegraphing its deaths by giving supporting players actual screen time and character development. But, mostly, I just can’t fucking believe we have another dead lesbian TV character.


Carmen SanDiego said...

I was so mad about Dr. Denise. One of the few likable characters, her arch was wonderful.
But we get to keep the alpha male meathead, joy.
3 weeks, 3 dead lesbians on TV: Rose from Jane The Virgin, Lexa. Form The 100, Denise from Walking Dead

Anonymous said...

I agree it sucks, plus you could she her death coming from a mile away. However, to be fair, her character in the comic is straight and also dies.

Andrea O'Neil said...

well you can add another one to that list on thursday night, when in Australia the second season of Janet King starts and in their infinite wisdom they
have decided to kill off her partner Ash by of all things a stray fucking bullet. Sigh

Rain said...

Do you watch The Magicians?
Kira was a one-episode guest star with maybe 5 minutes screen time. She was already in a coma and the only way to interact with her was by astral projecting into her mind.

I'm not sure what the solution would have been here? Making her straight and white?

Anonymous said...

I thought this is what you wanted? You wanted equality for people from the LGBT community. If a character could not face hardship, or die in a series because of their sexual orientation, wouldn't the depths of their character diminish. If you want more visibility in pop-culture this is also a part of it. If hetero sexual people can die, so should every other type of sexual orientation.