Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A disturbing trend...

Early this season on the hit CW show Arrow, fans were outraged as popular character Sara Lance was killed. Sara was the Black Canary on the show, and was also portrayed as openly queer, being an ex-girlfriend of main character Oliver Queen and also having girlfriends. Season 3 tracked down her murderer and saw her sister take up the mantle, but the fact remained that it was seemingly pretty easy to pick off a female character who had sexual interest in other female character.

The season finale of Gotham didn't fare much better. Barbara Gordon—Jim Gordon's estranged wife—wound up turning psychotic towards Jim's new romantic interest and turned violent towards her. In the end, it was a fight to the death between the two women, and Barbara lost. And Barbara had been clearly depicted kissing other women passionately, making it clear that she was bisexual or pansexual.

But that wasn't the only casualty. Crime lord Fish Mooney (played by Jada Pinkett-Smith, one of the highlights of the first season) was killed during the season finale. She had been depicted as recruiting a female second in command, with one of her tests being to seduce her. I had cheered on Gotham for "bringing in the gay with the girls," but by season's end, the two main female queer characters had been killed off.

Before we get to our latest offender, we might think, "Hey, gay men get killed off all the time! What about Brokeback Mountain? The Normal Heart? Philadelphia? A Single Man?" Consider this: we guys get the lion's share of exposure when it comes to queer characters. 

Recently the show Looking was cancelled after two seasons with a combined total of eighteen episodes: not one main character died. Glee recently ended with a large number of characters who had same-sex attractions: none of them died. (And may I add, of the major gay characters throughout the show, only a couple were women, and the show even went so far as to dismiss bisexuality or pansexuality.) And yes, we get it with AIDS-crisis movies: it was really that deadly.

The deal with depicting queer people with male characters is that it's actually the more popular option. When discussing sexuality, men wind up being the dominant and women wind up being the submissive. You are expected to relate more to a man than a woman. Traditionally, men have needed no one to define themselves, particularly when it comes to romance or sex. However, women have nearly always needed men to define themselves. The independent man is easier to accept having another independent man for a lover. But how could two dependent women find love with each other?

That mode of thinking is misogynistic, outdated and flat out WRONG. Real life female same-sex couples exist and thrive (except when it comes to legal rights). They do not need men to define themselves. While both male and female same-sex couples come under discrimination from outside the LGBTQ community and its supporters, there is preference given to males when it comes to representation. This is why people like Ellen Page coming out is a big deal. Not only does it send the message that it's okay to have same-sex attractions, but that it's okay to have them and be a female.

So, who is our "latest offender?" Supernatural. In Season Seven of the show about two brothers who drive around in a cool Impala and hunt monsters (but their lives otherwise really suck), we were introduced to one Charlie Bradbury, played by the winsome, red-haired Felicia Day. She quickly made it clear that she was a lesbian when Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) asks her to attempt seduction. She soon became a friend of the Winchesters and would become a popular recurring character with her winning personality and love of geek culture. She even had a brief storyline that saw her spend time in the Land of Oz. (Though yours truly wasn't crazy about that treatment.)

Yet, tonight's episode saw Charlie get frustrated at trying to find a way to remove the Mark of Cain from Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), and she leaves the protection of the angel Castiel (Misha Collins) to do her own research in a peaceful motel room, finding new information, when the new human bad guys on the show break in and disembowel her. And thus, Supernatural finally had Charlie—despite never being a love interest for the Winchesters—join the long list of female characters who died on the show. 

Consider the message that these deaths send: Sara on Arrow dies to give more drive to Oliver and inspire her straight sister; Barbara on Gotham dies pretty much to let Jim know he made the right choice; Fish Mooney dies so the Penguin can become the new crime king of Gotham; and now we had Charlie dying just after she sends off what will likely become crucial information about the Mark of Cain.

These women die to elevate the survivors who are usually straight, and more often than not men. These deaths send the message that queer women have a purpose that can assist men. That's right. Rather than just going down fighting, their deaths wind up defining men. Even then, it still gives the idea that women who have ever engaged in same-sex relationships are more likely to take dirt naps.

This is in contrast to male queer characters who are always their own person, and if their deaths do have an after effect, it usually just makes them succeed in their goals post-mortem.

"Oh, come on!" you might say, "These are only four examples! And pretty recent! It's not like it's an actual trend." AfterEllen.com has a list of 35 deaths of female characters who were depicted as having same-sex attractions at some point during their run. Maybe some were better-handled on their shows than others, but in these recent cases, we see it going from beloved queer regular characters dying to the complete erasure of any queer lead character, and further examples of women existing only to serve men.

I hope your heaven  has the best Wi-Fi, Charlie.

1 comment:

The Fried Critic said...

Thanks for writing about this. The killing of strong female characters, especially queer ones, on television or in movies is really disheartening to me. We have such a long way to go in terms of representation in mainstream Hollywood, and yet when we get it, the characters are so often treated badly.

Also, I love your Oz blog. Just thought I'd say that!