By: Megan Haas and Bridget Liszewski
Identification is a powerful tool. When it comes to representation on television, the connection between character and viewer is what makes the medium so unique. Television does what film cannot: It allows us to get immersed in a story week after week without losing you by breaking for years at a time. We come to love the characters we see on screen. Something about them keeps us returning week after week. We develop relationships with these people and when we lose those characters, we are losing people that we truly care about. Identification is a strong weapon.
Despite significant strides being made in our society, there’s still a huge issue with proper representation of LGBTQ people on television. Not only is there a lack of LGBTQ stories and main characters, seemingly positive examples of representation have fallen victim to exhausted and familiar tropes. According that very helpful Autostraddle article, there are over 18,000+ straight characters in the television universe, but only 383 lesbian and bisexual characters–95 of which have died and only 30 received happy endings. Are we as viewers expected to just to go on as normal? When there are only 30 lesbian and bisexual characters granted happy endings, what are we telling the world? How can we expand our stories into compelling television, free from tropes, when we still have the majority of our queer characters dying on screen?
Something has to give.
With so many LGBTQ character deaths, and the subsequent fan outrage over them, representation is a topic at the forefront of viewers’ minds. It makes us wonder what can be done to get what is on our screens to be more reflective of the reality we live in? How can we get a more positive representation of LGBTQ characters on TV?
Fans recently proved that they are done sitting on the sidelines as they watch queer characters succumb to faulty storylines. The backlash The 100 recently received was not just in relation to one show. The 100 very much found itself in the midst of a perfect storm brewing when it received the intense reaction to Lexa’s death. It was a storm that was only made worse by the show’s up til then positive representation of Clarke and Lexa’s relationship. Many fans also felt duped by showrunner Jason Rothenberg’s promotion of Lexa in the finale on Twitter. Fans are done. Queer fans are tired. They are no longer willing to stand idly by and watch their existence portrayed on television simply to have it die.
Change needs to happen.
What are writers, actors and producers doing to change this? Fans proved that they are not going to wait for those professionals to take action. After Lexa’s death, many immediately utilized social media to express their passionate exhaustion. Viewers are creating positive outcomes, such as the coordinated effort by fans to raise more than $123,000 for the Trevor Project, a charity that looks to help LGBTQ teens, in Lexa’s name. Meanwhile, a group of writers on the Canadian medical drama Saving Hope signed a pledge to the LGBTQ fandom advocating change in the quality of LGBTQ representation on television. It’s all a start, but there is still much work to be done.
While change is slowly happening in the industry, we here at The TV Junkies want to keep the discussion going. Let’s bring those pleas off of Twitter and Facebook and put a face to this issue. There are professionals in the television industry producing positive portrayals of LGBTQ representation. How can we continue with their work and what are the obstacles that they still need to overcome when it comes to getting more LGBTQ stories at the forefront of our television series?
Stay tuned here at The TV Junkies for our series of interviews with writers, creators and actors, where we will look to address the issues surrounding LGBTQ representation on the small screen. What are the people bringing you television episodes every week thinking about the issues right now? For the actors given the chance to play these queer roles, what are they thinking as they take on something that will always be historic until it’s not?
Stories change us. They are what we see, what we tell, and what we live. At the end of the day, the world comes home to stories. How can we possibly evolve as a society if we have nothing to go on besides flawed representations of characters that do not exist in the real world? Lexa may be just a fictional character, but the young queer girl standing up to society is real. So is the young fan watching at home who is trying to come to terms with how her sexuality will look on paper. That young boy seeing himself on screen is real. Parents watching a series and trying to understand their child are out there. These people exist in all of our lives. They are out there. It’s time we stop killing them in our stories.
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