Spoiler alert for TV series “The 100” (season 3 and 4) and the new “Atomic Blonde” movie.
Identity — it’s what a lot of LGBTQ+ viewers seem to chase when they begin to watch a new television show. They are an audience that is clearly a minority in society and in many cases, often struggle to fit into reality. But when it comes to television – representation gives them that sense of belonging they often seek. LGBTQ+ characters might just be characters, but what’s better than identifying with something that makes you feel validated?
Said representation that ceases to be sidelined or lugged through toxic tropes that depict underlying homophobia, that’s what.
Since the sci-fi drama series “The 100” killed off fan-favorite Commander Lexa, considered to be such a strong and positive representation for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women – the trope “Bury Your Gays” (BYG) became widely known. Lexa being the initial ice breaker of an uproar from LGBTQ+ fans in a protest to stop killing off lesbian, bisexual, and queer female characters, after “The 100’s” showrunner, Jason Rothenberg, killed her off with a terribly written plot, even after dipping into LGBTQ+ safe spaces to promise his show wouldn’t venture down that path. But BYG isn’t the only trope Jason has used and isn’t the only negative treatment he has given to his LGBTQ+ characters.
During season four, Rothenberg proudly wrote his bisexual female lead, Clarke Griffin – a once badass leading lady, into a pointless, short-lived, story arc that consisted of said bisexual lead sleeping with one of the shows majorly sidelined lesbian characters, only a week after losing her lesbian lover. A biphobic trope that perpetuates the stigma about bisexuals that are “incapable of keeping It in their pants”. As if it is impossible to write intimacy or the seek of comfort between lesbian, bisexual, and queer women without it being over sexualized. Although, it wasn’t a surprise to many, as Rothenberg had previously stated his views in an interview at SDCC 2016.
“You know, she’s bi, and that really means it (next love interest) can be anybody … I mean, Abby (her own mother) would be a little weird, but everybody else is fair game really.”
This paints an ultimately distasteful picture of how his own mind illustrates bisexual women. The statement alone plays into the stereotyping of bisexuals and the societal mind frame. Fact is, bisexuals do not want to just sleep with “anybody”, then why write bisexual characters in such a way that produces negative representation for fans that want nothing but to feel properly validated.
Other poor LGBTQ+ representations on the show include characters such as Brian and Miller – a relationship between two of the secondary male characters, who were given little screen time, only to awkwardly break up after having no concrete plot in season 4. In addition, as mentioned earlier, there was the majorly sidelined lesbian Niylah, used solely as a sex toy for the mistreated bisexual lead. So where is all this “positive representation” people are talking about? There is definitely nothing constructive LGBTQ+ fans can gain from mistreated representation.
“The 100” may be one of the biggest recent examples but obviously isn’t the only case of harmful tropes and poor treatment of scarce characters. A research team at LGBT Fans Deserve Better (LGBTFDB), a non-profit organization created by passionate fans, found that out of 553 lesbian, bisexual and queer woman characters in tv/film, around 88% are secondary characters or in most cases, sidelined for heterosexual story arc development. With the little representation that is given, still, 24.4% of all lesbian, bisexual and queer women on tv have been killed off via BYG.
Just recently, 2017 new action-thriller movie “Atomic Blonde”, starring Charlize Theron as the leading kickass bisexual, displayed quite an awful case of BYG by having the leads female love interest strangled to death with a wire cable shortly after commencing sexual relations. Same old, same old, using the death of a lesbian, bisexual, or queer woman for pure “shock value” after queerbaiting the entire LGBTQ+ community by using the relationship between two women and raunchy scenes for successful promotion.
But the terrible treatment towards these characters and LGBTQ+ fans need to stop. TV writers need to sit back and take a long hard think about what positive representation truly means and how it affects LGBTQ+ overall. In a world full of such hatred, fiction is a sanctuary to escape to. For validation. For belonging. For hope. But what are fans meant to do even when they don’t feel safe in fiction?