So something terrible happened to another lesbian character on TV last week. Without getting into the specifics (or spoilers), it’s safe to say that people are sad/angry/confused/exasperated/heartbroken et al. Because that’s what happens to when people become invested in the storylines of all too often marginalized groups – they invest. We invest hard. We invest it all. So then when the bottom falls out, we’re all too often left feeling even more alone and broken and miserable. And what makes it feel especially cruel all too often is the proximity to blissful happiness with which our untimely undoing comes. Consider it the Tara Maclay Effect.
The thing is, our stories matter to us so much because there are so few of them for us to cling to in the first place. For straight, white, non-trans audiences it’s easy to find stories to invest in because there are an infinite number of them to choose from in the first place. Don’t like that one? How about this one? Or that one? Or these 500,000 other ones? And still not happy with those 500,000, don’t worry another 500,000 more are coming.
But for LGBT audiences the paucity of great storylines – despite the wonderful strides we’ve taken in media in recent years – means each one still matters that much more. It’s why a film like “Carol” can matter to so many queer ladies, when to the straight world it may seem like just another love story. Or why a show like “Lost Girl” can resonate with so many gay gals, when to the straight world it may seem a little silly. Or why a rom-com like “Imagine Me & You” is held close to the heart of so many lesbian, bisexual and questioning women, when to the straight world it may seem lightweight. Seeing our reflections and our own happiness reflected back matters.
It will always matter for every group of people unaccustomed to seeing themselves on screen. Over the decades, we’ve become adept at seeing ourselves in other people’s stories. It’s a skill we’ve adapted to perfection out of basic necessity. But to be able to look up and instantly identify – without happing to jump through the mental hoops of transference – is a gift.
Look, one day all of this won’t matter as much. We will have our own millions of stories to choose from as well. So when we hurt of bleed or die it will be all right – because that’s what all humans do after all. We’re not there yet, but if we keep pushing and pulling and protesting and one day we will be.
But, remember this today. No matter what happens on TV shows, gay ladies, take heart. The happy endings you deserve are out there in real life.
p.s. SPOILER ALERT ALERT ALERT: I am talking about the show “The 100” which killed Lexa in it’s last episode. So that’s that.