LGBTQIA+ characters deserve happy endings

December 3, 2020 — by Minsui Tang and Lily Zhang
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Staring affectionately into each other’s eyes, the lovers Clark and Lexa share a strong connection.

TV show writers, please stop killing your LGBTQIA+ characters.

Editor’s note: This story contains some spoilers for the TV shows “Supernatural” and “The 100.”

Getting emotionally attached to queer characters is always a bit of a gamble: Even if the writers manage to avoid harmful stereotypes, a happy ending is often unlikely. 

LGBTQIA+(the I stands for intersex and the A stands for asexual) representation in media is rare, and entertainment companies that do include queer representation don’t necessarily do it well. TV shows are particularly guilty of this — so much so that their habit of killing off queer characters has become a trope called “Bury Your Gays.” 

TV shows such as “Supernatural” and “The 100” have been guilty of this sin, with queer characters having disproportionately more deaths and often being used solely to advance the plot for the success of a heterosexual protagonist rather than having their own meaningful character arcs. 

Writers also tend to define a queer character solely by their sexuality, which further supports the implication that they only appear in the work to fulfill the purpose of having a diversity of characters instead of showing actual dynamic growth within them.

Though the way TV shows kill off their queer characters has changed over the years, the ending and message delivered to the audience remain the same: Queer characters are expendable and that to be queer is to struggle.

The most recent example of the trope occurred in the final season of “Supernatural.” After 15 seasons of shipping Dean Winchester and Castiel, the writers finally made the ship canon in 2020 — in the worst way possible.

To save Dean’s life, the angel Castiel agreed to die in his place. As per a deal he made earlier, he was forced to confess that he loved Dean before being dragged to what fans have called “super hell.”

This ending is a classic example of bad LGBTQIA+ representation and caused outrage from its fans: By outing a queer character and then immediately killing them off, “Supernatural” sent a rather negative message to all of its queer followers. 

Queerbaiting, a marketing technique in which creators hint at a queer character or a relationship without actually depicting it, is also present in the show. While the creators hinted at a romance between Castiel and Dean, they led viewers on for 15 seasons and eventually made the relationship one-sided.

The death of Lexa from “The 100,” a sci-fi series, has also caused quite a commotion among its fans. Female leaders Clark and Lexa share a mutual liking for each other and share many ambiguous, affectionate moments. However, when the lovebirds finally decide they are ready to take on their relationship, Lexa unexpectedly dies from a bullet accidentally shot at her. 

As most TV shows don’t have many queer characters in the first place, it’s disappointing to see producers kill off some of the only positive representations a show has.

Because this medium has such powerful potential impacts, TV writers need to be more conscious of what they are normalizing to their audience.

It also often seems as if queer characters in media are written for straight people: Writers will attempt to stir up feelings of pity in their straight audience by putting their LGBTQIA+ characters through traumatic situations. 

While informing people about the struggles queer people face is important, it is also essential to show that they can live regular and happy lives just like the straight characters. Someone’s identity should not be demonized as tragic, no matter how good the writers’ intentions are.

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