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March 30 2016

Salon Mag wants writers to stop killing off TV's lesbians. Willow and Tara (among others) are alleged to exemplify a "pattern ... of lesbian characters routinely punished for coming to terms with their sexuality or pursuing their desires."

I cannot really speak to the other shows that the author cites as examples, but I confess I never interpreted Tara's death to be a punishment, of her or Willow. This trope may well exist in other shows; forcing this interpretation on Buffy is even more dismissive of these characters/relationships than the trope itself.
I don't honestly think anyone has an agenda behind killing off lesbians on television. Especially with most of the examples listed in the article. Joss has said Willow's lover (whoever it was at the time) was destined to bite it because it was the final push into Dark Willow territory. The 100 also killed off Lexa for story purposes and because the actress' contract with another show limited them to having her. I can't say I love the way Skins handled Naomi in the final season, but they also killed her for story purposes; they wanted to show a struggle with cancer and she was one of the few characters back to do it with.

The three shows I listed (Buffy, The 100, and Skins) are three of my all time favorites. The writers really care about diversity and do/did a great job with giving out diverse characters. We can't /not/ kill certain characters because they happen to be gay. Story is more important (in my opinion, at least) from an artistic point of view, so if a character needs to die to further the plot and create specific needed drama, kill them. Even if they're gay or lesbian.

Do we need diversity? Heck yes! I'm a gay man. I love seeing more and more LGBTQ characters on television. I loved all of those lesbian characters that got offed. But if we look at black characters that get killed, or Hispanic, etc. is it any different? SHOULD we be looking at them as defined by their minority? SHOULD their minority status keep them safe from death? No! Every character is open to death; well, unless they're immortal or something, obviously.

There will be more lesbian characters, more lesbian romances. More gay characters and romances. More black characters, more disabled characters, etc. And some of them will die. Because they're characters in dramas. But that doesn't mean their representation isn't important; it so is.

So while there IS a trend of lesbians being killed on dramas, there's also the trend of killing off characters in general, and some of them just happen to be lesbians. I don't think writers are conspiring against lesbians. And I don't think the writers feel like their stories are less important because they killed them. They killed those certain characters who happened to be lesbians because they KNEW you'd care, they KNEW their stories touched you. It's what dramas do, yo. The writers went out of their way to tell these amazing stories, these amazing characters, because they wanted to and because they knew there'd be an audience for them. And they know how to pull at your heartstrings.
It might be that some of this is a problem of a lack of protagonists. It's like the cliche of the white cop with a black partner who dies. Whoever that protagonist's partner was, he was going to die. The trouble is that the black actor consistently didn't get the lead role. Nobody was trying to write movies where the black guy died, they just weren't willing to give him any better job than that.

There was a similar protest not long ago about the character of Cho Chang in "Harry Potter". Part of the argument was that being the girl that the hero dates before finding true love was the best an Asian character could get. Maybe there wasn't anything wrong with that, but if they never get anything better, there's a problem.

So here we get the pattern (which will never change) of supporting characters getting killed, and we see that mixed with the problem of lesbians routinely only being supporting characters. The combination highlights how bad the problem gets.

I liked. "Lost Girl" made it clear that their lead was bisexual from start to finish. That was always treated as normal by everyone around her.

Do you all think that this kind of portrayal is something we're seeing more of?
Funny, I've been watching the latest season of South Park with the politically correct people taking over the city. This looks like something they could've written.

I mean it CAN be an issue but I think that many of these characters don't die because of their sexuality but because the audience likes them and it's been a sadistic trend to kill off likeable people. I think that if gay characters can't bite the dust at any moment ONLY BECAUSE of their sexuality, it would be plain positive discrimination and wouldn't do anything against the central issue -- homophobia.
I have argued passionately and to the point of screaming that Buffy does not fit this trope, so I wo';t do so here, I'll just stare I strongly disagree.
People whining about Tara are the reason we got KENNEDY
Isn't not killing them because of their orientation the true discrimination here? XD
No. There's a lot of fan anger here and for once it seems deserved. So " funny" comments have gone down like lead balloons in several quarters as a lot of fans want this taken seriously. There's several issues at stake here. It does look like that lesbian characters are more likely to be killed off than straight characters. Which I think is rather old now. And a bit sad too. It's as if most shows don't know how to write gay characters well. There's also the issue of the relationship between writers and fans. I don't think either side has come out smelling of roses over what has happened.
Yeah, but Joss kills off everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Buffy's been killed twice.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2016-03-31 15:29 ]
When I hear a show, especially a genre show, is writing a lesbian character or couple really well, I avoid it. I know what Lucy is going to do with that football, every time.
It's funny, I was having this discussion recently but about a different issue - in the AV Club review of the Agent Carter episode where (spoiler if you haven't seen Agent Carter) the reviewer said that her being shot was an example of "fridging" particularly in that the fact that a injury to a woman's body was solely portrayed from the perspective of a man.
This led to a long discussion of whether it was fridging, or was just because she was a secondary character and it's fair treatment etc etc.

The conclusion that some of us came to is that you kind of have to look at each case from two perspectives: its own merits, and whether it is part of a pattern. Similar to what Jason_M_Bryant was saying, it can make sense that a secondary character is killed, but if women/lesbians/blacks/other minorities are constantly secondary characters then they're disproportionately being killed.

I agree that Tara being killed wasn't about destroying a lesbian relationship, because every relationship in Buffy was destroyed, more or less, and in this case it represents normalisation. But if you look across the TV landscape and you see heterosexual relationships that work and those that don't, and you look at and only see homosexual relationships that end violently (or in 65% of cases according to the article), then each case in which it happens becomes another example of the pattern, even if the individual case is justified.

The solution is obviously to have more diversity in television, in which case you can do whatever you want to the secondary character (well, not whatever you want), because you're doing it equally. But until that happens, I think that rather than defending Buffy, we should defend the values it represents, and say we need more successful lesbian relationships on TV alongside the unsuccessful ones. Or, maybe just not kill them off quite so much.
Joss is famous for his positive representation of women and minorities. He's also spoken out many times about the need to fight sexism and other forms of bigotry. And yet, even Joss killed off every single non-white character on Buffy. (I can only think of two exceptions, and those characters disappeared from the show and the comics really quickly.) We have a long way to go before these sorts of tropes are dead.
This article from The Mary Sue gives a better explanation of why the trope is problematic. For anyone doubting that the trope matters, or that it is harmful, I'd encourage you to read it. NOTE: spoiler warning if you're not up to date on current US TV shows.

It would be fine for the occasional lesbian character to die on TV, if there were lots of TV portrayals of lesbians who got to be happy-ish, too -- but there aren't. Autostraddle did an exhaustive list of lesbian and bi characters on TV, and 148 of them ended up dead (usually in violent/tragic ways). Only 29 of the lesbian/bi women on TV got happy endings. And out of the 148, a surprising number of the tragic deaths are quite recent. I'm sure most writers have only good intentions when they include queer characters in their stories. But that doesn't make the trope less of a problem.

On a more personal note, I'm bisexual. A lot of my best friends (and my girlfriend) are lesbians. I identify with a lot of fictional characters for a lot of reasons, but there's something special about seeing a genre show that portrays a relationship between two women, because it's rare. The 100 was a huge deal to me, because it was a sci-fi show with a bi girl as the hero. That almost never happens. With the exception of Lost Girl, I've never seen another genre show where the bi girl gets to be the hero. So for this show, especially, to play into this old, tired trope -- it sucked. A lot. And it sucks that most people only seem to write fiction about people like me, and my girlfriend, and my best friends, when the story ends in violence and death.
I think maybe part of the problem is that it's also genre shows like "Buffy" and "The 100" that either have more freedom so they can add LBGTQ characters, or they're just more willing to push those boundaries, but those shows usually exist in worlds that are much more dangerous and a higher number of characters perish. If there was more representation in more main stream shows to balance the representation on the sci-fi and fantasy shows, it wouldn't be as much of a trend or trope would it?

It does feel a little like forcing an oval peg into a circular hole (because the example isn't that far off, really) by including Tara on the list. The fact so many other characters have died in less impactful ways or with less development makes Tara's death one that isn't outright a pure example of the trope. (I think Tara fits more with the "fridgeing" trope actually, since it was the thing that pushed Willow to want vengeance and go evil.)

*SPOILERS* for Jessica Jones, The 100, Orphan Black, and Lost Girl to follow:

I'm not sure why "Jessica Jones" is listed. The only character I can think of is the (soon to be) ex-wife of the lawyer character, but the role of the lawyer was originally written as a man, so... she was going to die regardless.

I don't watch "The 100", but knowing an actor's contract is going to end really isn't a good reason to end someone's storyline in a way that's been done before and will most likely just piss everyone off. Tropes are really things that should be played with and turned on their head, not followed. (I think "Orphan Black" is going to do that with Delphine... at least I hope so.)

"Lost Girl" had a lot of problems. Tons. But they at least didn't end by killing Lauren off. Except, she was actually supposed to die at the end of the 4th season. The only reason she didn't was that Ksenia Solo wanted out of her contract so they switched character deaths to accommodate her. So they were headed towards the trope (which I think they would have turned on it's head, if Bo was going to do the same that she did for Kenzi in the fifth season, which I'm sure she would have) even though they were progressive in other ways. (A bi-sexual lead and the show trying to be sex positive, even if they were seriously wonky on issues of consent...everything they did with Tamsin's character...) I was a fan of the show but more for the actors than the writing. The first season was pretty good, had potential. The second season was ok. The third and fourth they were trying to do certain things that were interesting, but fell flat. And the fifth season they had to clean up the mess from the previous seasons and couldn't do it all that well. Plus the before mentioned stuff with Tamsin that still baffles me. (Love the show, but it makes me a tad ranty. Like Star Wars and the prequels.) If there was ever a show I would heartily vote for a reboot, it would be that one.

Sorry. tl;dr? But, yeah, there's a problem. It's great that we are getting diversity in casting. It's not OK they are still secondary or sacrificial characters.
To read Tara's death as an example of the trope is just a misreading of that trope. Yes, there really is a trope involving the death of lesbian characters. There are a host of early C20th and mid-C20th stories in which a straight woman is drawn to a lesbian character, flirts with the possibility of "turning" gay, and then has the "problem" solved for her by the death (which can be played as either "ha, good riddance" or as "you're allowed to like her now because she's dying and is no longer a threat to the sexual order") of the lesbian woman. It's even something that happened a lot in stories that, at the time, were largely seen as gay-positive (e.g. Fried Green Tomatoes)--it was a way of bringing in gay themes without totally freaking out the squares.

But it's just absurd to try to shoehorn Willow/Tara into that trope. The whole point of the trope is that the possibility of gay love is raised but forestalled by the lover's (or would-be lover's) death. What's problematic in the trope is not the SHOCKING news that lesbians are mortal too, it's that you kill off the lesbian so as not to have to acknowledge the reality of lesbian desire and lesbian love.

That Willow and Tara's love was entirely as real, as strong, and as valuable as any other couple's love in the Buffyverse was fully established--old news indeed--long before Tara died. Tara getting shot didn't "rescue" Willow from the "threat" of lesbianism--it simply left her bereft...and still gay.

If you are arguing that *any* instance of a lesbian dying fulfills the terms of the fated-to-die trope then you're saying that if you bring a lesbian onto your show you have to tacitly accept that they're immortal. And that would simply be a ridiculous constraint on the writer's freedom. Think about it--if that actually became the norm in TV world you'd be massively discouraging writers of TV dramas and genre shows from writing lesbian characters, because you could never put them plausibly in perilous situations. The audience would say "oh, but that character's a lesbian--she can't possibly die in this scene."
Yoink, thanks for the thoughtful analysis. I was thinking along those lines, but hadn't managed to put it into words.
Happy well-adjusted couples are the death knell of dramatic storytelling. Therefore they have to die. Always. Gender/sexuality dynamics have absolutely nothing to do with this fact.
Yoink, saying that it's "absurd" to consider Tara an instance of this trope is incredibly dismissive of the queer fans who saw it that way. It's possible to disagree without dismissing us. Also, while you're correct about the trope's origins, your definition of the trope is actually much more narrow than the way it's usually defined. See TV Tropes, the article I linked above, or Autostraddle's list of dead lesbians, if you need more examples of how the trope operates in a modern context.

NYPinTA, I'm with you on Lost Girl ... I also liked the characters/actors much more than the writing (the plots were sometimes incoherent). The show never fully lived up to its potential, IMO. And I'm still kind of aghast and horrified about what they did with Tamsin that last season. Just, why.
brinderwalt, I'm not sure that is true. Well... maybe happy and well adjusted isn't as fun, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the relationships always have to end in one of them dying. Death isn't always that dramatic or even interesting, actually. Sometimes, well, most of the time, it feels like a cheat. Which is probably why the trope is so hurtful because it's used a way to end a "problem" for the writers. And it's extra painful since there are hardly any examples of LGBTQ couples sidestepping that 'dramatic' end.

And the trope might have been more specifically about killing off a character before things reached a point just to snatch away that particular development, but it happens so often even after a couple gets together that I think it's been expanded. But it is possible to take examples too far, such as Tara/Willow.

erendis I must have been writing my post while you were posting your previous one because you expressed what I was trying to say but did it much better than I. But to your second post: yes! Why, Lost Girl writers? Why? Tam Tam deserved better.
Tara's death was not only part of the trope under discussion here. Her death also fit into the "evil/dead lesbian" trope, wherein one lesbian dies and the other goes mad. This paper is good discussion point:

I also agree about Lost Girl, which I loved. But Tamsin, at the last episode- not again! Though consider what she left behind...

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2016-04-01 00:45 ]
Not denying the trope exists and is problematic, but tvtropes is a terrible website to use, similar to the earlier days of wiki when people would add anything that wanted and mods would delete entire pages because they didn't agree with it.

Ahem, pet peeve, I dislike that site. Carry on.
The problem with using Tara as a specific example of this trope is that it ignores the fact that virtually every other character that any of the mains was involved with also died. The only reason Oz made it out alive is that he left the show. If Seth Green hadn't decided to quit the series, Oz would have died, pushing Willow into evil, and Xander would've become gay, and HIS lover would have died in the end (Joss has discussed that he wanted one of the major characters to be gay, and that if it hadn't been Willow he was thinking of Xander in that respect.)

With respect to Jessica Jones (Spoilers), there is also an extremely high body count on the show. Among those who get trounced along the way are Jessica's entire family, Luke's wife, (okay those are in the past), the girl Jessica is trying to protect, her parents, Killgrave's parents, the police officer just short of retirement, and the Lesbian wife of the lawyer Jeri Hogarth. This is not a show for the faint of heart - or stomach. But both Jeri Hogarth and her lover/assistant survive through to the end of the series, which actually gives them pretty good odds.

I agree that we need more diversity of all kinds on television. But you have to be careful when looking at shows such as BtVS and Jessica Jones, where there are tons of character deaths, of singling out particular ones as being specifically targeted, when in fact, they are actually being treated just like most of the other characters are.
I can't speak to a pattern in all of television but I think in Tara's case this is just silliness and looking for something to be upset about. If Tara was spared to avoid this pattern it would've been discrimination. She was treated as an equal on par with every character on the show in that she was killed for the purpose of the story. If Joss had decided not to kill her out of fear of articles like this, it would have been treating her differently than he otherwise would have because of her sexual orientation. Joss doesn't think like that, and so Tara died. End of story.
PS. If I seem a little grouchy on the subject it's because there IS a pattern of people searching for drama when there isn't any, eg. Black Widow in Age of Ultron. When people who are clearly not sexist and have done a lot for feminism start getting accused on a regular basis, it becomes clear to me that there's another problem entirely. You can twist anything into a breach of politically correct law if you analyze it hard enough. I think a good example is the lack of asian actors in Firefly. While yes, it may seem odd, I don't think it was an intentional error, it may have simply been that anyone was allowed to audition for key roles, and no asian actor or actress happened to fit those roles as well as the person who got them. Actively looking for an actor of a certain ethnic background in the aim of diversity amongst the cast rather than hiring the actor that most fit the role would be discrimination as well, arguably. Zoe was written as a person, not a black woman or asian woman, and Gina got the role Because she was right for it, I'd say. And filling the background with asian extras may have fit the world, and it was an odd oversight not to do so, but then people would have complained that asians only had extra or supporting roles and not main cast roles. I'm sure the race of the extras never entered Joss' mind and that is why in interviews he seems suprised when it is pointed out to him that there were no asian actors.
By the way everyone, just because something is a trope doesn't automatically mean that it is bad. I recently saw a webcomic that defined "trope" as "when you do pretty much anything and someone on the internet has to tell you someone else did it first."

This may be a bad trope, but it helps the conversation if we do a little more to prove that it's bad than just pointing out that it is a trope. Trying to define exactly what is and isn't the trope isn't as helpful as talking about how viewers are affected by what happens to the characters.
The problem with the lack of Asian representation in Firefly is not inherently that there are no Asian characters (although that is an issue, but part of a much larger conversation) - it's that the entire premise of the show is built on the merging of Asian and Caucasian superpowers but then only features one half of that equation, and it's not the half that has been consistently underrepresented in Hollywood. Joss almost always casts on merit which is almost always the right way to go, but not when it belies part of the fundamentals of the show. I love Joss but he dropped the ball on that one.
Agreed @Matt7325. Like I said, it was odd not to do so, but it was a mistake and not a racist choice, obviously. I wonder how a mistake and certain culture or ethnicity being underrepresented on such a scale happens. I doubt it's a choice, so is it directors not actively seeking that ethnicity for films, the fact that there are just far less asian actors, or an unconscious bias from casting directors and the like? I'd be curious to know.

The Walking Dead is another interesting example. That show had one very stereotypical black cast member for the longest time, then the cast was almost 50% black at one point, and then very quickly a large majority of them died and they're back to one or two, who are far more well rounded than the original 'T-Dog'. You can look for a pattern in that and say that they saw their mistake, overcompensated, and then did the wrong thing and killed all of their black actors. Or you can put race aside and maybe consider that that was the natural progression of the show and those characters and that race didn't motivate those decisions. Who knows in that case which is true, but I think overanalyzing these things and looking for a problem is a potential issue that doesn't help when the real issues crop up in race and television, and more obvious and intentional biases occur.

[ edited by Fivewordsorless on 2016-04-01 14:47 ]
It would be great if someone with a lot of time on their hands did a show-by-show analysis of the Whedonverse, looking at ethnicity, gender/sexual identification, etc., and see what they came up with, especially looking at each character's fate. It would be interesting to see actual statistics. Or has that already been done?

Meanwhile, I have been thinking that the Brits do a somewhat better job of diversity in casting, although by no means perfect. And then I started thinking about Doctor Who, and wondering ... Although Martha did well.
Jocelyn- I think some was trying to do just that:

Not sure if this ever came to pass, though.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2016-04-01 18:19 ]
@ Fivewordsorless,

There are currently four main black actors on The Walking Dead that I can think of.
Sasha, MIchonne, Morgan, Father Gabriel.
In the case of Denise on The Walking Dead, I felt like that was a case of "shock value" death, which the showrunner Scott Gimple has been doing for awhile (especially the Glenn fakeout death). They are mixing it up from the comics, events and deaths not being followed verbatim, so I don't think this is a very good example of the trope being alleged. Denise was a nice secondary character and I enjoyed her, but we still have Tara (unfortunately named in light of the context of this article) and Aaron (a character I really like) and his boyfriend Eric who we don't see much of. This is a brutal world and I'm clear anyone can die at any time, as we will see this Sunday.
Whether or not Tara falls into the DLS category is not really the point. The point is, Willow and Tara were a lesbian couple and Tara died. That is a fact. She is part of a disportionate number of lesbian characters who have died in television, according to the Autostraddle site.

Several posters have mentioned that the characters sexuality isn't reason for death, it's their status as a secondary character that leads to their doom. There is a lot to this. Secondary characters are often killed to infuse drama into the protagonist's story. As the "fridging" trope points out, many of these dead characters are women. If you want to get around this issue w/out making lesbian characters "immune from harm", then cast more lesbian characters as leads. Now you can cast more men as secondary characters, and they can end up in fridges and this will start to even out. You can of course insert any group that is underrepresented in that category.

There are many, many articles on the Internet about minority actors talking about how hard it is to get good roles in television. Gina Torres was featured not long ago on this very site, talking about the struggle she had to get good roles. Many characters are written specifically as white and male, Hollywoold doesn't always pick the best thespian for the job, they pick the one that most embodies the director's idea of the character. Yes, yes, there are people who do strive for variety in casting, and many shows are extremely inclusive of minority characters. It is still a problem.

Let me sum up: Too many lesbian relationships end badly. Cast more minority characters as leads and have more secondary white guys. Racism is still a thing.

PS - If you don't see this as a problem, and think people are makign a big deal of nothing, try to understand. Listen to what people are telling you. It is very claerly a problem for them. Listen.
Jocelyn, I have been thinking that about the Brits too. Still not so great with the main casting, but much better with secondary characters who don't die. There just seem to be, in any show that doesn't demand some sort of actual period authenticity (would Downton Abby have had a Black valet?) a much more inclusive cast. Casanova did have a Black valet who was a pretty significant character, and a black singer. Martha is one of the few Dr. Who companions to come to a really good end. Mickey survives. River Song does die eventually, but she has a reasonably long life. Also there are a lot of mixed race couples I've noticed.

And when you come to gay, bisexual characters, somewhere in space, Captain Jack Harkness is still swaining around. I just wish he'd show up around here.
Killing Tara wasn't a trope, IMO. It was the fact that it came almost immediately after she and Willow made up in the same episode, which is why The 100 fans are upset. Lexa died literally a minute after she and Clarke finally consummated their relationship.

A show runner/writer not bowing to fan service is one thing, but the 100's immediate reaction before he stepped back and even tried to understand the situation was what was more damaging in itself.
I automatically defended Tara's death for years and years after it happened. "Joss is totally pro-LGBT," I said. "Joss kills off characters all the time," I said. A lot of the same stuff people are saying above. Then a couple years ago I actually talked to a lesbian about it. Hearing it from her point of view, I see that while I wasn't wrong about the things I was saying, there is more to it than that. If you know a lesbian Buffy fan, ask her how she feels about it- it might open your eyes!
I dont see many characters in wheelchairs being portrayed at all. maybe Glee? certainly not many. Am I wrong?
FiveWordsOrLess, Tonya J, and Risch22:

Far as black characters on The Walking Dead, there's also Heath (just a recurring one on TV maybe due to the actor's availability and the already-overstuffed Walking Dead cast, but a much more prominent supporting character in the comics and the boyfriend of a not-shown-to-be-bisexual comic book Denise), and there's a bald recurring Alexandrian who I don't know the name of who's had a few lines. But yeah, I don't see how TWD ever flip-flopped on its ratio since Season 3, since we have had Sasha, Michonne (technically she came on board in Season 2), and Morgan (sort of) since then and Father Gabriel since Season 4 or 5. In Season 3, T-Dog died and Tyrese and Sasha came. We lost the prisoner Oscar fairly early on. The show has only gotten stronger in this respect or maintained a consistent number of black characters from mid-Season 3 onward. I forget if the actor who played Bob was a regular at any point.

Far as gay characters, there's another character on the TV series that will eventually be revealed to be gay or bi, if this character's comic book original is anything to go by. It's Jesus from The Hilltop and I've always felt like creator Robert Kirkman created them to challenge some readers' (and now viewers') expectations and to make the more conservative portions of middle-America's heads spin (fun! Fun like watching The Walking Dead's IMDb boards implode over Rick/Michonne, heh heh...also, on a more sombre note: disheartening/we've still got a long way to go).

[ edited by Kris on 2016-04-02 19:19 ]
Joss, whatever his intentions and over-all politics, hit into the cliché like a player on Charley brown's team hitting into a double-play. Which makes it a fair subject of discussion.
And n that it's still happening is a fair measure of the literary nature of his subcreation.
It is my belief, that instead of complaining towards others what they are doing "wrong", people should do what they believe to be right. If you do not agree with the quantity and quality of lesbian characters and storylines on tv - be the person that does better. Become a writer, tell the stories YOU want to see.
Obviously, not everbody can achieve this. But some will and in the end they will make all the difference in the world.
There are a lot of different people out there. Sexuality is important, but it isn't everything. Race isn't everything. Or gender. What people tend to call "diversity" is actually rather narrow minded. - What about handicapped people? What about people with mental issues? Life-altering diseases? What about the elderly? There are a LOT of topics to cover and one simply cannot please everybody. Therefore, people should tell the stories they themselves care about.

The more important a topic, the higher the number of people caring about it and trying to tell stories about it, the more it should - and will be represented. Tell the networks, tell the producers, tell even the writers what you like to see. If they're smart, they'll listen (especially if you represent a majority - or a major minority that's looking for something to hold onto). But if they don't, accept their decision and do it yourself instead.
"Doctor Who" got mentioned, and I have the highest respect for former headwriter Russell T. Davies. Here you have a gay man, who could've complained about the lack of gay characters and/or the portrayal of the existing ones, but instead he went out and created roughly a half-dozen shows about what he cared about.
The same goes for Shonda Rhimes. You're missing black women in leadings roles? How about casting them yourself?
Joss Whedon wanted to see more equally capable women. And we all know the result.
It's those kind of people the world needs. The kind of people, who take a perceived issue and turn it into a positive.

I, too, have topics, that I care about. Topics, that are not mainstream and that are far less represented than the ones, everybody seems to be calling for these days. - And of course, I look out for stories, that include those topics. Sometimes I stumble upon a story, where one of my topics gets treated in a way that is not to my liking. Depending on the circumstances, I may stop following the story. However, it never crossed my mind to tell the writers about the shitty job I think they're doing. Because this is their story. I may or may not enjoy it, but I have no say over it. And if I were to believe I should, it would make me a rather entitled prick.
In the end, if I want to see certain things done, then I need to be the one doing them (or I may hope for a like-minded person to come through). Because if even I don't care enough to go out there and do it the right way - why should anybody else, who may care little or nothing about the topics dearest to me?
Sahjhan, your argument seems to be: If your car has faulty brakes, you should get trained as an automotive engineer, start your own car company, and build a brand-new car. And maybe, in the long term, that's a good idea, but you're not an entitled prick if you warn people that their brakes might be faulty.

[ edited by Danielm80 on 2016-04-03 14:55 ]
That's apples and oranges. If you buy a car you can expect it not trying to kill you the first chance it gets (unless it's named 'Christine'). You can however not except it to necessarily be available in the shape, or the colour, or with the specific amount of doors, you prefer.

This isn't about car brakes not working, medicine side-effects or poisoned food on store shelves. There is a reason things like those are regulated, while lesbian characters on tv shows are not. You can expect the former to hold up to certain standards, because those things and those standards are rather important. The latter is important, too - but only to a small fraction of the people (and only because all of us take entertainment way too serious). So it's primarily up to them, to not change everything in existence or tell other people what to do, but rather create acceptable alternatives. You simply cannot expect the general public to start considering the needs and desires of every group of people in existence. Like I said before, there are quite a lot of them and there is no reason why the 'lesbian community' should get preferential treatment over the elderly or people with certain mental conditions.

Furthermore, the moment you start telling people about what kind of characters they may use, and/or how they may use them, you limit their creativity in a way, that's not acceptable. Especially once we're not only talking about lesbians, but several groups of people - all of them with an understandable wish for positive representation.
Again, you can't satisfy everybody. So instead of trying to satisfying one group of people over the other, you should focus on the emphases you yourself care about.
I think the brakes analogy is reductive. A car is a utility; a car manufacturer is obligated to deliver the customer a machine that provides a very specific service. Writers are spinning a narrative that readers/viewers can choose to engage with, or not. Narratives can benefit (or suffer) from critical feedback if writers choose to respond to it, but I think it crosses a line when readers/viewers act as if writers are obligated to respond to their criticism.

Clearly, The 100 is a special case insofar as the creator apparently raised false expectations that the character in question would survive. Nevertheless, I don't envy showrunners today; social media engagement is pretty much required, but also inherently fraught.
If every single person in this conversation dropped what they were doing and went to film school, all the people who are already making shows would still continue. Even if a significant percentage of us ended up having the talent to make great shows, the luck to get breaks and develop shows, and the connections to get those shows on the air, all those shows that still make problematic content would still be there.

In addition, none of us would be able to say anything about pollution because we'd be too busy starting careers as writers to start our own car companies.

None of us would be able to say anything about poverty because we'd be too busy trying to become writers to start our own non-profit organizations.

Nobody would be able to talk about healthy eating because we'd be too busy with our new film careers (which we didn't actually want, we only started them so we could talk about LGBT issues) to talk about nutrition.
This makes absolutely no sense. Nobody stops you from talking. Talk. Suggest. Prefer. But don't demand. Don't feel entitled about things going your way.

There is no "problematic content" here. There's only content that "you" don't like. This doesn't make the content wrong, it makes the content wrong for you.

Now, if you don't like a particular work product, you can absolutely tell the person or company responsible about the issue you have with it. If it promises more sales, they will probably see your point. Maybe they'll even find a different reason to agree with you. But should they not, it is up to you - or a like-minded person - to pick up the slack and put a product out there that holds up to your standards.
This shouldn't actually be a problem, because there are only two possibilities:

a) Enough people care enough about a certain topic (e.g. lesbian characters in fiction) for a realistic chance of some of them ending up in prominent (storytelling) positions to do something about it.
b) Not enough people care enough about a certain topic.

I honestly have no idea what percentage of the general public identifies as lesbian (or bi-sexual, or...). Obviously, they should have the biggest interest in this topic - followed by friends and family. Others can be interested, too, but it's less likely (though there is of course the possibility of opportunists smelling a market gap).
So it comes down to how many people are truly interested in this. If we are talking about 0,1%, then sorry, but there are about 999 other people who simply don't care.
However, if we're talking about 10%, then again, doing it "yourself" shouldn't be an issue, because this amount of people simply has to include a writer or two destined to put a couple of stories out there.

And once enough (actually interested) people put out stories where lesbian characters don't die, and don't "get punished for their existence", the couple of stories where they do will no longer weigh as heavily. Because it's not actually individual instances that are being problematic. It's tendency. A show exclusively about white men isn't condemnable per se. But there need to be enough shows about black women, aswell. Now, if white men tend to make shows about white men/people (which actually makes a lot of sense, because that's what they primarily identify with), then other people need to make shows about people that share characteristics with them. And if they don't get the opportunity they need to find a different way. Nobody holds all the power. Heterosexuals don't, white people don't, Hollywood doesn't. If Hollywood is incapable of treading women the right way, then maybe (powerful, influential) women need to organize themselves and create Follywood. If people truly care, things can get done. And they can get done without imposing your will upon others and forcing them to satisfy your wishes above their own.
Sahjhan, you're just talking in circles. You went from:

"It is my belief, that instead of complaining towards others what they are doing "wrong", people should do what they believe to be right"


"Nobody stops you from talking."

You told people to stop complaining. Now you're saying that you're *not* telling people not to complain.

If you think people should do instead of complain, that's fine. You be you.

[ edited by Jason_M_Bryant on 2016-04-04 12:18 ]
A reminder that we stick to the topic here rather than attacking people personally.

If you know a lesbian Buffy fan, ask her how she feels about it- it might open your eyes!

Posting in threads like this feels like duty at times, for this very reason, but it's also always signing up for fresh pain, since inevitably I watch people shout over those of us posting from personal experience while they rationalize away the very existence of the problem. I thank you for being the rare person who has listened.
Jason, there is a difference between discussing, complaining and demanding. If you believe you have a right to tell others to give you exactly the kind of entertainment you desire (but others may not), so be it. I believe otherwise. Feedback is important, but people are not required to listen to it. Accepting this is equally important. Often however (and especially regarding what we group together as "diversity issues"), the tone of the feedback is constructed as such, that it's less of a request and more of a demand. Which is why I speak of entitlement.

Sunfire, there are different viewpoints to this. If you're a lesbian, or if you care a lot because your daughter/sister/bff is one, it's quite understandable for you to wish for positive examples in fiction. It is also understandable if other people don't care as much, (maybe) because they are neither lesbian themselves, nor closely connected to such a person. If only the latter kind of people get to make tv shows, then yes, we can speak of a problem.
I believe very much in reasonable representation. If X out of a 100 people identify as lesbian, then roughly about X out of a 100 tv show characters should do so, too - as well as roughly about X out of a 100 tv show writers(/producers/directors/...).
Again, the problem aren't shows like "The 100" or "Buffy" and the decisions of writers, who probably couldn't care less about a specific topic. The problem is if there aren't any other examples to put things into proportion.

Like I said, I have "mis"- and/or under-represented topics close to my heart, aswell. I also have (female) people close to me, who identify in the very least as bi-sexual. I can definitely sympathize. I simply differentiate between personally wanting something and believing other people are required to give it to me.
This issue has now hit mainstream news:

There is a lot to be said here. I will not rehash arguments and discussions I have made many times in the past, and it is really only this issue that could bring me out of retirement. I respectfully do not agree with any part of Sahjahn's argument.

But I think what is important now is context and timing. The situation today differs from that of Tara and Willow. At the time T and W were a couple, there was no representation at all of a loving lesbian relationship on television, and that is why, I believe, there was such an outcry when it ended. And it ended with the representation of an old, tired and decidedly not-gay-friendly trope. With the 100- and note that the WaPo article discusses something like 30 lesbian deaths on TV this year- context has changed. Today, we have political movement to deny gays any rights whatsoever, to write discrimination into law. It is important now, as it was then, for there to be representation. TV is not just TV, it is social context. People invest. For 100, what I read was that the writer said that he felt he had earned the trust of his audience and could therefore "defy" the trope. He was wrong. He did not understand that people view what he wrote as more than just a story being told. After all, that was pretty much the argument Joss made as well- the story was what mattered, But when you bring your own subtext, there is more to the story than the story.
If the reader's subtext matters more than the actual text, then everyone may as well just stop writing altogether. It's just as simple as that.
That's an odd comment. A reader's subtext surely matters to the reader.
There's nothing odd about it. If I write "The sky was blue" and the reader's subtext says "But the sky was really red", then I've wasted my time when the reader obviously couldn't care less what I actually wrote. Why bother reading OR writing when the actual words don't matter?
That's a factual matter, Rowan. But many subtextual televisual issues are not. One can interpret Tara's death as playing into the dead/crazy lesbian cliché, or one may not, but neither person is wrong in that interpretation- even if Joss says that was not his intent.

Mo Ryan says it well: "But I will certainly never sit in judgment of anyone who feels that a development on a show fits into part of a larger pattern that is painful to not just them but a group they are part of. The Clarke-Lexa story line was one that engaged many gay, lesbian and bisexual viewers on a number of deep levels. For people to say last night or today, “Just get over it, they had to kill her off, the actress had another job” — please don’t rush to minimize others’ objections (as long as those objections are stated in ways that do not wish violence on other human beings, of course).

The point is, these angry and disappointed reactions are rooted in reality. The way a character leaves a show is important. If you choose not to see the larger context of how gay and lesbian characters are treated on TV — just be aware that your lack of awareness is a choice. Not all of us have the luxury of being able to ignore or wave away a larger context. This is one of those cases in which it’s helpful to listen to others extensively and not start in immediately with recommendations on how they should think and feel. That rarely helps in general, and it certainly won’t help viewers of this show now."
"Not all of us have the luxury of being able to ignore or wave away a larger context."

Sometimes a story is just a story. You can read into it whatever you want, but there IS such thing as objective reality, whether you want to accept that or not. And not everything is part of some big conspiracy - especially now that most everyone is aware of the trope.
Who said anything about conspiracy? I did not. At the time of Tara's death, not a lot of people really knew about the trope. At the time of Lexa's death, they did. And that is at core the issue- the show writer stated that he felt he had earned the trust of his viewers enough to violate the trope. And he then found out he was wrong. So, a question for you, Rowan: Was his writing decision wrong? Can that question even be meaningfully asked? If, in the end, the decision leads to viewers leaving the show, at the least it was a bad business decision. Since the show is a commodity needing to be "sold."

I guess this one resonates since it repeats nearly everything that happened in Tara and Willow- the shocking death after expression of love, the mislead by writers who showed up on fan boards to provide disinformation, the lack of apology right after, etc. But the times have changed and gay rights are under attack in new and horrid ways, so representation is a key part of fighting that wrong.
So then, does the existence of this trope mean an author can't ever kill off an LGBT character no matter what, or make them react badly to a personal loss? Remember, Willow was prone to strike back at an injury with any means at her disposal, long before she (OR the audience) realized she was gay. And how many other demographic groups must now be "untouchable" because there are, beyond any legitimate argument, similar tropes that exist for those groups? Should we not ever have anything bad happen to an African-American character simply because they were overused in the past? I'm from Kentucky; how about I throw a fit every time a Kentuckian character is ignorant or bigoted or murderous, even though it logically follows for that character within the storyline? Where do we draw the line? If an author can't write their story without pandering to one faction or another, they'd be better off driving a truck.
Here is what Jason Rothenberg said about his decision. Rowan, I get you will not agree with me- you are focused on the writer's decision and I am focused on the receiver of that decision. But this:

"But I’ve been powerfully reminded that the audience takes that ride in the real world — where LGBTQ teens face repeated discrimination, often suffer from depression and commit suicide at a rate far higher than their straight peers. Where people still face discrimination because of the color of their skin. Where, in too many places, women are not given the same opportunities as men, especially LGBTQ women who face even tougher odds. And where television characters are still not fully representative of the diverse lives of our audience. Not even close.

Those of us lucky enough to have a platform to tell stories have an opportunity to expand the boundaries of inclusion, and we shouldn’t take that for granted."
Which addresses none of my questions. "Expanding the boundaries of inclusion" is NOT the same as catering to a specific audience to create a class of character that is, for all practical purposes, invulnerable. Sounds like just more of that "reader response" stuff: i.e., the actual words no longer matter.
There is no reader response without words.
If your reader response contradicts the author's words, what good are the author's words to you? You might as well make up your own words in the first place, because that's exactly what you're doing in the end.

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