I am a lesbian going into Mechanical Engineering. This blog is meant to do two things: a.) relieve the stress on myself from being closeted, and b.) to let people know that there are members of the LGBT community in engineering fields.

If you want to contact me, you can send an email to lgbt.engineer@gmail.com

Monday, June 20, 2016

TV Trope: Dead Lesbian

       I loved the show "The 100", it started off great. Interesting premise, interesting character development in seasons one and two, and it even had a strong lesbian lead character: Lexa. Then they killed her off (a scene after she and Clarke made love), after months of the producers clamoring about how LGBT friendly they were. Her death was meaningless, I mean Clarke could have saved her with the equipment in the room. I'll admit I've still kept up with the show, even after they killed off a strong POC lead character (for no reason), mainly because of Raven.
       Anyhow, this made me wonder, why are all the lesbians dead on TV? I looked at the Ultimate Infograph to Dead TV Lesbians and All 158 Dead Lesbians and How the Died by AutoStraddle. The Infograph is a great way to compare the number of lesbian characters to the number of straight characters (the numbers need to be updated a bit). But it doesn't go into detail about networks or death specifics like the complete list does. So I went through the 158 Lesbian list and came up with the graphs at the end of the section. This list focuses on live action TV, and does not include any Western animated series or anime.
       In Figure 1 the number of lesbian characters killed off has been increasing dramatically in the past four years. 2016 looks like it might be a record year for lesbian TV deaths, since it is already more than half of 2015 deaths. It would be interesting to compare the number of surviving lesbian characters in each year, but that would require a lot more data finding.
       Figure 2 shows the types of deaths that kill the lesbian characters. I knew that getting shot was a common way for writers to kill of lesbian characters. I did not expect to see categories of explosion, bludgeoning, and throat slitting to be so popular. For graph clarity the disease category covers lung cancer, heart attacks, etc. This is also applied to the murdered and shot category. Some of the categories in "Other" are childbirth, electrocution, drowning, being eaten by monsters,drug overdose, etc.
       It was actually unnerving to see Figure 3, and how many deaths were intentional acts of violence. Many of these were carried out by ex-lovers/husbands, etc. The "N/A" category exists since some minor characters were killed in a manner that makes the motivation unclear.
      Finally Figure 4 shows the number of lesbians killed off on a given network. ABC is currently the worst offender in terms of death toll. However, the CW's Lexa death has been the most controversial, and the most talked about in recent years. The "Other" category is networks that have had under 5 lesbian character deaths, and are generally non-US networks.
       Now it is nice having representation on TV. However, when I begin watching a show and I see a lesbian character and think "I wonder how they are going to kill off this one." or "I'd better not get too attached." there is a problem. I wish that more live-action shows took the approach that many children's animated shows (i.e Bubbline, Korrasami, Garnet). It's ridiculous that kids shows have alive and happier lesbian couples than live action, more adult shows. This theme in TV reinforces old fashioned thinking that only young girl/school girls are allowed to be gay and once you get older you need to be straight. If it's one thing we can thank Jason Rothenberg for it's that Hollywood will hopefully think twice (or more) about killing off lesbian characters for "shock value". Hopefully we can expect more lesbian characters who live throughout a series in the future.

Fig 1: Graph displaying number of lesbian character deaths on TV per year.
*2016 data only from January to June.

Fig. 2: Method of death, with corresponding number.

Fig. 3: If the actions that resulted in a death were intentional by another character (i.e Lexa was accidentally shot, so her death was not intentional).

Fig. 4: Number of killed off lesbians on each network

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