A few months ago, The 100 killed off one of their most popular supporting characters: Lexa, the military leader of an entire people, a fascinating person, and a lesbian. Her death was shocking and seemed totally gratuitous, prompting fans to leave the show in their droves, and causing . The controversy raged on as several LGBT female characters were killed off in other shows very soon after — among them were The Walking Dead’s Denise, Nora and Mary of The Vampire Diaries, Mimi and Camilla on Empire.
With an alarming 157 queer female character deaths in modern entertainment media (Autostraddle’s report dates from 1976), this certainly seems to be a trend. And the frequency of these deaths are increasing: 18 characters have died in 2016 alone, over 10% of the 157 total, and we’re only halfway through the year. The latest on this list is Root from Person of Interest.
[Note: this scene isn’t actually when Root died. It’s just a really cool moment.]
Her death hasn’t drawn quite the controversy that Lexa’s and Denise’s did, which could be because her death was actually quite heroic, and a fitting end to a fascinating character arc — first introduced as an antagonist, Root’s story has focused on her shifting morality and blossoming loyalty to the team, not to mention her romantic feelings for Sameen Shaw.
But although this death was an arguably fitting, if tragic, conclusion to her development throughout the show, Person of Interest does not exist in a vacuum, making Root just the latest in a long, long list of fridged female queer characters.
The Importance Of Representation
Especially in light of recent events, conversations about queer representation in the media have an even greater weight of importance.
The cold, awful fact is that LGBT people face a high risk of violence towards them in real life, not to mention ranking disturbingly high for risk of mental health conditions and suicide. The latter is something which was talked about a lot after Lexa’s death on The 100 — as this is a teen show, many young LGBT viewers were affected by her death. Considering , as viewers we tend to give special importance to the few queer characters who exist. We live vicariously through them, because honestly that’s what entertainment media is for. And when they die, well. It’s not exactly fun.
Many reports after Lexa’s death focused on the danger of teaching young queer people that their purpose within fictional stories was to die and forward someone else’s character development. Although there are some LGBT protagonists, mainstream shows tend to feature queer people as secondary or supporting characters (if they’re there at all).
So there’s another argument to be made about teaching LGBT people that they’re not the heroes of the story too. But that’s getting off the point.
Allowing A Heroic Death
Ultimately yes, Root should be allowed to have her heroic death. Just as Sara Lance should be allowed to die fighting with her friends (note: Sara is the only one of the 157 characters to be resurrected). And Xena ( ) should be allowed her dramatic sacrifice.
But for each female queer character who has a good death, one which is narratively satisfying and heroically tragic, there are countless more who are killed off for shock value. The Person of Interest writers told Entertainment Weekly that they planned Root’s death long before Lexa’s on The 100, but Bury Your Gays is not a new trope by any means.
All that needs to happen, really, is for showrunners to be aware of the impact of queer deaths on the viewers. Here’s hoping that this tradition is broken, now that there’s been so much conversation about it. As for Root — RIP, you gloriously sapphic hacker badass. You shall be missed.
Who’s your favorite LGBT character right now?
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MP staff writer. I talk about superheroes a lot. Sometimes I’m paid for it.