SPOILERS: For Series 10 Episode 11 “World Enough and Time”
In lieu of Doctor Who’s most recent episode, the trope Bury Your Gays has been popping up as an explanation to what went on within the episode. To put it simply, Bill – a lesbian – has been turned into a Cyberman. If you’re unversed in the Doctor Who universe, a Cyberman is a being that used to be completely human but is now made out of metal. They feel pain, but have an implant that prevents them from feeling it. They are supposed to be improved human beings, but in turning into a Cybermen, they ironically give up everything that makes them human.
Some watchers have been up in arms, citing the use of the Bury Your Gays trope and calling the show out. So what exactly does the trope entail of? According to tvtropes, it’s when a gay character isn’t allowed a happy ending.
The problem isn’t merely that gay characters are killed off: the problem is the tendency that gay characters are killed off in a story full of mostly straight characters, or when the characters are killed off because they are gay. – additional information from them
From a glance, it appears that the character of Bill is going down this path. She’s openly gay, and something terrible has happened to her. She’s been shot at, operated on and trapped. But are assumptions getting flung around too quickly? People seem to be forgetting that this is the first part, of a two part episode. There is plenty of time for the story to pick up, and for something miraculous to happen.
If worst comes to worst and she remains a Cyberman, then yes, that will be terrible. But it won’t be because she’s gay. If you look into the history of the Writers in conjunction with this show – terrible things happen to everyone. I’m not going to name any names, because I can’t divulge spoilers for the entire show, but people die. Two main characters get ripped away from their world, never to see their family again, and end up as gravestones by the Doctor’s feet. Another gets erased from the world of doctor who, and another has the world of doctor who erased for her.
The point that is trying to be gotten across, is that bad things aren’t happening to her because she’s gay. It’s not a causation, but a correlation. Having her die does not take away from all of the good things that she has managed to bring the show. People seem to be forgetting all of the good that Bill has brought to Doctor Who. She’s normalised girls liking girls, taught us about the meaning of consent and brought us a black companion. She’s introduced the Doctor to the real, human life of having to attend college. She’s been a little bit oblivious at times, but overall spectacular.
I don’t know about you, but having LGBTQ+ characters being treated as real human beings as opposed to fragile entities who are ‘simply there for diversity’ sits quite well with me. Yes, there aren’t enough representatives in the media but perhaps it’s out of fear. If people are scared to be inclusive from the fear of doing something wrong, then we’re limiting the chances of diversity being normalised.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be on the lookout. Call shows out if they’re being problematic! But as long as someone’s sexuality isn’t singling them out, or what’s causing them to die – then please don’t quick up a fuss that there doesn’t need to be. It makes it appear to some screenwriters that having LGBTQ+ characters in their shows will be more trouble than it’s worth, and that’s simply not true. Encourage, don’t discourage.