A Response to the Lesbian Death Trope

Lexa from the 100

I don’t watch A Game of Thrones. Although it may be, as Ian McShane says, merely “tits and dragons,” it’s also a show that prides itself on killing off characters with no warning, no build-up, and no apparent reason. That’s too close to real life for me, as I explained here back in 2012.

I also don’t watch The 100. I hold off on any serial show until the run is over and I see if the long-term fans are happy with the ending. I made this vow after I was burned by The X-Files (and the recent reboot made me even swear off that). The fans of Lost and Battlestar Galactica have made me glad I didn’t fall for the traps (or tropes) those shows laid for their loyal audience.

But I’m aware of The 100 because the show caught fan venom for killing off a particular lesbian character, Lexa. That’s become a go-to trope, dating back to Joss Whedon’s killing off Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in some circles it’s even called “pulling a Whedon”). LGBT fans were particularly upset, pointing out the long history of lesbian characters dying.

How long? Here’s a handy list. As of this posting, it had 133 entries.

Even though I’m not LGBT, I get this. Sure, straight white male and female characters also die on these shows, but you know what? A lot more of them live. If you’re a straight white male or female, you’re still represented.

Keep in mind, this show airs on the CW network, (as do Arrow, The Flash, The Vampire Diaries and the MILF comedy Significant Mother) and thus a large part of these shows’ audience are teenagers and young adults. Do you remember what it was like as a teenager? Any teenager? Those years are awful, full of self-doubt and misery. Emotions are raw and overpowering, and the conviction things will never get better looms large. Luckily, our society (and the CW) provides plenty of role models in media to show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But only if you’re (usually) straight and (most often) white.

Now imagine you’re an LGBT teenager, with all the extra bullying and abuse it all-too-frequently entails, and all the representations of your “kind” in popular media, in the shows you love, are constantly killed off. It would be hard not to see that as yet another confirmation that there’s no future for you.

I don’t advocate censorship. People are free to write what they like, and to make the TV shows they want. The creators of the show were all over the web explaining their reasons and creative processes. Critics, looking at the show as a whole, had a wide spectrum of reactions, for an equally diverse set of reasons.

But it really, I suspect, comes down to that half-assed style of writing so many in Hollywood have mastered: when in doubt, when the ideas aren’t working, kill someone. I sometimes wonder how many of these writers have ever experienced the death of someone close, because they treat it so cavalierly.

And that’s something you’d think they would have learned: if they treat their audience just as cavalierly, they can’t expect that audience not to get pissed off.

Hell, I’m pissed off. And I don’t even watch the damn show. And if you decide that invalidates my opinion, I can’t argue with you.

2 Comments on “A Response to the Lesbian Death Trope”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *