I want to give you all a spoiler-free version of the Midamericon description of the panel I moderated:
We Deserve Better: Lesbians and Bi Women for Change
In March 2016 some show killed spoilery spoiler of an spoilery spoiler spoilers. Fans launched a Twitter campaign that became mainstream news. They objected to the “Bury Your Gays” trope, referring to the disproportionately high number of lesbians and bisexual women killed on TV. Two weeks later, one of some other show‘s only lesbian couple was killed. We discuss this disturbing pattern and ask how audiences can help prevent it.
My partners in crime were Jaylee James, Nina Niskanen, and Jay Wolf.
I’m not much for freewheeling moderation. I always show up intending to listen and direct discussion, rather than talking myself, and with questions in hand. What’s more, the four of us did a certain amount of predigesting of the topic, checking out things like this (also-spoilery) list of 162 dead TV lesbians and talking about related topics like queerbaiting and fridging.
Like all good panels, we worked up more material than we actually got to discuss, circled ’round it in an order other than what follows, and we also didn’t get into one of my personal bugbears, the idea that the word “deserve” is actually quite a cruel concept. It’s an important and necessary word, but it has thorns: “You deserve this,” can be honestly intended or victim-blaming. “I deserve this” can be simple truth or blatant entitlement.
But I’m home now, and I’ve noticed that the list of questions I prepared for my panelists is interesting in its own right, a good orientation to the topic if anyone wants it. And so I decided I would post that here.
- Focusing first on TV, which lesbian deaths were most memorable and meaningful to you personally, both going way back and recently?
- Then there are deaths that aren’t necessarily canonical but that have lesbian freight around them. The fate of Ellen Ripley in the third Aliens movie comes after she’s been, to a great extent, masculinized–she’s not gay, but when she dies she has been made to look and act very butch.
- If a show queerbaits us and then kills one of the alleged lesbians involved, is that better or worse than if they hadn’t solicited queer viewers in the first place?
- Looking at the list of 150+ dead TV lesbians, I wondered: were any of those surprises, or did they trigger any Aha! or Uhoh! moments?
- How gender-skewed is this phenomenon? I mean, we all remember how Brokeback Mountain ends. Is it just a woman-on-woman version of fridging?
- I’ve mentioned fridging because it’s another common story development that we, as more sophisticated and politically savvy audiences, have become aware and critical of. All of these tropes have been the subject of discussion and debate within fandom and the writing community. What do you think of this?
- Now, since I’ve glided on to cinema, what about this phenom in comics and prose? In the past, there were the 1950’s bad girl lesbian dies books… does anyone know how this is playing out now?
- As writers, how do you balance the need to occasionally kill off characters with an awareness that every queer character is precious?
- If we add in characters with implied deaths, including incidental victims or even crazy killer lesbians who aren’t part of the main cast (guest star deaths, in other words) then I wonder if the question shouldn’t be: Who’s done it right? Who has survived? Who do we love who hasn’t been killed off?
photo by Kelly Robson
One of my irrational peeves about pop culture is the way writer homes are sometimes depicted as vast, cool, expansive spaces, with tons of square footage and twenty-foot high ceilings with massive amounts of natural light and floor to attic bookcases on the walls. This doesn’t bother me about Castle, however, because Nathan Fillion’s character is portrayed as having come from money in the first place and being extraordinarily successful in the second, but when the fictional writer in question isn’t a New York Times bestselling born-with-a-silver-spoon personality, it irks.
Having said that, my little condo doesn’t much look like a set designer went nuts on the premises, but it does have an extraordinary number of luxuries attached to it.
The hot tub you’ve all probably heard about, and like most of these places, there’s a gym, communal barbecues, and an event room. The real perk is the location: we’re five minutes from the subway and smack in the midst of cultural treasures like the AGO, the TiFF Bell Lightbox, City Halls new and old, and all the theaters.
One of the things I probably don’t mention all that often is that my marvelous well-located building also has a library, complete with a random scattering of books, WiFi that mostly does work, and a TV and faux fireplace that–as far as I can tell–aren’t plugged into anything.
It’s big, spacious, quiet, and frequently empty, and it has a couple of workstations as well as the lounging chairs pictured here. There’s a window along one wall which lets in the light of day. It’s where I go to clear my head when I need to get away from home, cats and distractions, but can’t or don’t want to go all the way out to a coffee shop.
I’m sitting here as I write these words, sifting through projects and priorities for the coming month, with Of Montreal’s Sunlandic Twins playing via a portable Bluetooth speaker and a view of gray and rainy clouds.
I suspect and hope that 2016 is going to be an extraordinary year, filled both with wonders and opportunities. This little bit of quiet, at the stub end of the year, is all about gearing up and getting ready.
This week’s BtVS essay is on “Entropy,” which–in case you’ve forgotten–is the one where Anya and Spike get drunk together and things happen. Sad, spoilery and not too difficult to understand stuff.
I’ll be on the road this weekend, so I may pop in on the comments thread very sparingly.
I am several weeks ahead of these essays in terms of viewing, so right now I’m watching the very last episodes of S6. For all that the general woe of this season doesn’t work for me, I do love the rampage at the end, and its resolution.
I’m up to “Intervention” on the Buffy Rewatch.
Plas related to our relocation are coming along. We have firmed up locations and dates for services, arranged some important banking and medical stuff, and acquired a bed. (Our frame is busted and isn’t coming with. Anyone want a pristine queen-sized futon?) Tomorrow the Frog Boxes arrive and we start packing.
I am obsessing over the bird checklist at the Leslie Street Spit. There will be owl photos.
In the midst of this, my mother-in-law is in town, which is super-delightful! We’re cat-sitting for friends for a bunch of days. And we are saying a lot of goodbyes. Holy crap do I know a lot of people in this neighborhood.
We’re moving into more of a discussion of Spuffy with my essay on “Crush” on the Buffy rewatch now.
As with any series of columns, there’s some lead time in play here. “Crush” is the rewatch that’s on Tor right now; this past week I’ve watched “The Body” and “Forever.” I’ve been to a lot of family funerals in the period between the initial airing of these episodes and this month, and it made the experience of reviewing them more intense. I am really looking forward to getting a little distance from the tragedies of season five. I’d be looking forward to it even more if a lot of what happens in S6 and S7 wasn’t so grim. Still… musical episode soonish!