I think we can all agree that 2016 has been kind of a dumpster fire of a year and unfortunately, LGBTQ representation on TV took a major hit. In 2016, almost 30 queer female characters were killed off, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider that queer women make up a very small percentage of regular or recurring characters.
This year saw the Bury Your Gays trope attract a lot more attention, due in part to fan response to Lexa’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) death on The 100. Showrunner Jason Rothenberg took advantage of the large LGBTQ following the show had, going as far to straight up lie to fans and tell them that they had nothing to worry about. He and many other showrunners also claim ignorance to knowledge of the trope. Lexa was murdered in a way reminiscent of Tara Maclay (Amber Benson) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a death that happened 14 years ago. It has taken 14 years, the deaths of over 100 characters, and a fan movement for the Bury Your Gays trope to receive attention from major entertainment sites and be featured in GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report.
However, 2016 wasn’t ALL bad, two characters were “killed off” only to return later, one character gave us a huge “F you!” to the Bury Your Gays trope, and one character had one of the most real and beautiful coming out story lines I’ve seen on TV. Rose (Bridget Regan) on Jane the Virgin was shot and believed to be dead in a February episode and then revealed to be alive in the season two finale in May. Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) on Orphan Black was shot in the season three finale in 2015 and fans were lead to believe she was dead for a year until the season four finale back in June.
The Syfy series Wynonna Earp, premiered this year and featured two queer characters, Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell) and Waverly Earp (Dominique Provost-Chalkley). In the season one finale, Nicole is shot after a declaration of love from Waverly, but she’s wearing a bulletproof vest, so she survives. Wynonna Earp showrunner Emily Andras, actually made a point to reassure fans that both Waverly and Nicole survived the season because she knew about the trope and understands the importance of representation.
Supergirl gave viewers a couple of gifts in season two this year; the introduction of Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima) and Alex Danvers’ (Chyler Leigh) coming out story. Alex’s coming out story is atypical of what we normally see on TV. Coming out stories are usually reserved for teens, and it’s nice to see someone slightly older (she’s just in her 20’s) be figuring everything out and feeling like a teen. Generally when there’s a coming out story with someone who isn’t a teen, we often get the casual “Oh, I like girls, that’s cool” without the struggle to come out to themselves or family members. It’s important to show that it’s not just teens who have that experience and it made it that much more relatable and impactful.
This year saw more LGBTQ characters on TV than previous years. This year also seemed to feature more LGBTQ characters that weren’t just one-dimensional characters with little to offer, we were given three-dimensional characters that were more than just their letter in the acronym. I hope both of those trends continue in 2017 and that we see a lot less of the Bury Your Gays trope and more positive representation.