Stop Burying your Gays, and Other Representation Problems.

There is a lot one can write about representation, and this barely scratches the surface. Nevertheless it felt good to write. Please educate yourself further, perhaps starting with the links I included at the end?

There are a few things in literature and movies that I can’t stand: abusive fathers, cheating couples, love triangles. But the absolute worst one, is the unnecessary killing of LGBTQ+ characters, commonly known as “bury your gays”. So when “The Letter for the King” fell victim to that trope in the last few minutes of the first season it was as dead to me, as the gay kid was dead in the show.     

The thing that makes it even more absurd is that “The Letter for the King” is very much a kids show, focusing on representation! All of the actors are of appropriate ages, not twenty-somethings playing teenagers. And they are of multiple ethnicities. The main character is black, the chosen one is female. The supporting characters are a diverse group, and when two of them, males, began a relationship the representation was at a top. The show is not only great at representation, it also deals with some heavy topics that kids need to learn about: racism, class prejudice, war and other moral questions. All important stuff! So why the fuck would they bury their gay?

Firstly, an explanation on “Bury your gays”. Bury your gays (also knowns as Dead Lesbian Syndrom) is the name of a TV trope where, kind of self explenatory, the gay (or any typ of LGBT+) character dies or have an unhappy ending (TV tropes, NDa). 

The origins of this trope are awful. It comes from a time in Hollywood when the only way to portray gay people was to have them pay for their so called immorality (McConnaughy, J, 2016, 29 of Mars). This was due to the Hays Code, which banned many things considered immoral, such as nudity and sex, blasphemy, as well as interracial relationships and homosexualiy, both of which were considerd perverted! (TV tropes, NDb). 

The Hays Code was made by Hollywood, but it wouldn’t have had to be a thing, if not for the fact that the US Congress were already planning to make laws for censoring films. This, due to public complaints of the “perceived lewd content of films” (TV tropes, NDb). 

Nowadays there is literally no need to kill gay characters. Homosexuality is no longer seen as shameful and bad (in these parts of the world) and there is nothing stopping people from writing happy gay stories. Still, it goes on. 

One example is of course “The Letter From The King”. But there is also “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “The 100”, “Arrow”, “Brokeback Mountain” and way more tv series and movies (TV tropes, ND). 

Well, now that we all know what “Bury your Gay” is; let’s talk about why it shouldn’t be done. 

It’s because representation matters. It’s as simple as that. Stories have always been human things, we tell eachother things all the time. Nowadays there are stories everywhere. Not just stories we tell eachother, there are movies, books, blogs and so forth. But, what does it do to you, if the characters that are just like you, always meet a bad faith? If you can’t get a happy ending? Constant heartbreak and death? I would get pretty depressed, and I’m guessing you would too. 

From personal experience, I tend to avoid autistic characters because I know that most of the time, they will be nothing like me and I’ll just be disappointed…I do not have a perfect memory. I do not like trains and I do not have that much trouble connecting with people. I would just want to see people like me, who get overwhelmed easily, don’t like eye contact, do like structure and occasionally don’t get the social context. And, you know, is a woman. How hard can it be?

That is also what I would like for others to see. Because, as Nancy Wang Yuen writes “on-screen images can shape our views of reality”(2019, 22 of May). So if all you ever see, are autistics with superpowers or just in general autistic white men (who often act like boys), then that will influence your perception of autistics. This, of course, applies for all types of representation. 

Bad representation of people like me is mostly an annoyance, and a reminder of sexism. But to others, especially people of color, this is outright dangerous. If we want “Karens” to stop calling the paid murderers (Police) on black people, who are just existing, then a part of it is to stop bad representation. It will not fix centuries of systematic racism. But perhaps it will stop some “Karens” -actions and save some peoples’ lives in the end.  

Good representation in movies is important both for the person being represented and for the people watching. It will not fix everything, but mixed with other “fixes” it will lead to a better, more tolerant world. Something we desperately need. Also, I just want one cool autistic woman with a well developed story line, played by an autistic woman, to look up too, please. 

Representation matters. Black life matters.  

Shortly after I wrote this I started having second thoughts, perhaps I was too mean, too controversial about coops. Maybe I shouldn’t have called them paid killers. But then I saw the news. On the very day that I wrote most of this text the police shot Jacob Blake, a black man, in his back eight times in front of his kids. I no longer hesitate to call them paid killers. That and the fact that Breonna Taylors killers have not been arrested, it has been over five months.  

Sources

Beside my normal sources I will also link some articles.

https://www.nytimes.com/article/breonna-taylor-police.html – The NY Times, about Breonna Taylor 

https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/8/25/21400481/jacob-blake-kenosha-police-shooting-riots-evanston – Chicago Sun Times, about James Blake

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/us/minneapolis-police-george-floyd.html – The NY Time, about George Floyd

https://blacklivesmatter.com – Official site 

The movie 13th (det 13:e tillägget) on Netflix is good to watch.

McConnaughy, J. (2016, 29 of Mars).What Led to Lexa: A Look at the History of Media Burying Its Gays. The Mary Sue.  Retrieved from 

TV Tropes. (NDa). Bury Your Gays. Retrieved 2020-8-14 from 

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BuryYourGays

TV Tropes. (NDb). The Hays Code. Retrieved 2020-8-19 from 

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/TheHaysCode

Wang Yuen, N. (2019, 22 of May). Why Is Equal Representation In Media Important? Forbes. Retrieved from 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2019/05/22/why-is-equal-representation-in-media-important/#89654082a84e

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