Last night, The Walking Dead killed another character. Usually that wouldn’t warrant any sort of lengthy article from me because they kill a lot people, it’s kind of their thing, but the character who died last night was the latest to fall victim to an overused trope.
If you haven’t watched, you will get spoiled if you keep reading….
(SERIOUSLY YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)
Dr. Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever) was shot in the head with a crossbow bolt that was actually meant for Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and shot from his crossbow (which he had lost earlier in the season). Denise is the eighth queer (queer is being used as an inclusive, umbrella term) female character killed on TV just this year (the overall number is 146 and growing). Denise is also the most recent in a long list of queer female characters who have been accidentally shot. Of the four characters killed in the past four weeks, three of them were shot by a bullet or bolt that wasn’t meant for them.
Denise was shot on her first supply run, during a monologue about strength and facing your fears where she talked about how stupid it was that she was afraid to tell her girlfriend that she loves her. It was actually a nice monologue and it’s a shame that it was overshadowed by the fact that many LGBTQ fans have been worried about Denise and Tara (Alanna Masterson) since they got together. We knew one (or both) of them were doomed for sure when Tara dropped the “I love you” that Denise didn’t return, promising she’d say it when Tara returned.
It’s also worth mentioning that Denise is in the comics, although she is not gay, and does die. She dies in a different manner and ends up sacrificing herself for her boyfriend. In the show, Denise dies the same way Abraham does in the comics. So not only was Denise’s death a way to further a straight white man’s story (Daryl got his crossbow back), but her death saved another straight white man.
I understand that every character in The Walking Dead falls under the “Anyone Can Die” Trope, but queer characters dying is a huge problem that goes beyond “Anyone Can Die.” As I mentioned in my piece about Lexa‘s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) death on The 100, media doesn’t exist in a vacuum and even when you’re producing a show where anyone can die, you have to consider the broader social ramifications. If you want to look at just the show, The Walking Dead has had three lesbian characters and as of last night, two of them are dead and who knows when it’ll be Tara’s turn.
LGBTQ fans deserve better and since Lexa’s death, have been making themselves heard and demanding better treatment. We deserve to see ourselves represented and we need to see ourselves represented. We deserve better than seeing queer woman after queer woman become victims of violence, mostly at the hands of men. We deserve better than the same old cancer story line or suicide story line. LGBTQ people do not exist to be some tragic story to further someone else’s character development. We deserve better than seeing 80% of the small percentage of queer women on television die.
If straight white male characters died at the same rate that queer characters do, there would have been outrage years ago. It would have stopped years ago. If representation for straight white men was the same as it is for LGBTQ people and people of color, this all would have been changed years ago, it would have barely been a problem. Representation is important, media representation gives people hope, it gives people someone to look at and say “Hey, they’re like me.” When the only characters we see to represent us either die or lead unbelievably miserable lives, what do you think that says? We need change and this needs to stop.
If you’d like to read more about the LGBT Fans Deserve Better movement and why fans are so upset about The 100 , you can check out these sites.
If you’re interested in supporting LGBTQ youth by donating to the Trevor Project, you can donate here.
If you’re interested in learning more about LGBTQ representation on TV, you can check out the 2015-2016 GLAAD “Where We Are On TV” Report.
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