Thankfully, 2017 has been a (mostly) peaceful year for the ‘bury your gay’ trope. After a violent 2016, we’ve seen a sea-change in representation. After Lexa and Poussey in particular, showrunners know they can’t kill us off without facing a backlash.
And sure, we close out 2017 in a better place, but today we’re looking at some of the saddest/most important dead queer lady characters from the ghosts of TV past.
1. Yorkie and Kelly, Black Mirror
Black Mirror‘s ‘San Junipero’ is one of the single most beautiful episodes of TV ever. Cinematic in scope and sweeping in story, it tells the tale of Yorkie and Kelly and their intrepid (spoiler!) after-life together.
Set in the near future, San Junipero is an idyllic land where dead/dying/ill people can escape to reprieve their youth. Kelly and Yorkie cross paths in the eighties and start a love affair. Kelly is vivacious and vibrant where Yorkie is gentle and sensitive.
As timelines collide, Yorkie and Kelly have decisions to make: how serious are they about each other? Will they both cross over to San Junipero to live in a digital creation forever?
Long story short, both our heroines die but elect to live in San Junipero, essentially subverting the ‘bury your gays’ trope and creating a miasma of sound and love and eternal feels.
2. Sara Lance, Arrow
Sara Lance is one of the coolest motherfuckers alive. She’s a former member of the League of Assassins, a vigilante, and is ex-Team Arrow. She’s dangerous and beautiful with a wicked sense of humour and a back-catalogue of weapons to murder you with.
Regardless of the time period she’s in, she’s a staunch feminist and absolutely fearless in her convictions.
In 2014, Arrow killed off the fan favourite in the third season premiere. Heavy criticism followed as Arrow‘s creative team succeeded in hitting two tropes: fridging and burying an LGBT character all at once.
Sara’s erstwhile Canary would place further up this list if only for a saving grace: the powers-that-be brought Sara back for spin-off, Legends of Tomorrow, complete with grief, romance, and the same devastating wit.
3. Maya St. Germain, Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars is bat-shit insane. Chart the plot of the show through all the seasons and you’ll create a tapestry of insanity. Mistaken identity. Burying people alive. Ezra’s super-lair, statutory rape, and place as a favourite in fandom. Mona’s attempted fake death.
The time Spencer kidnapped Ezra’s not-child. The doll house. CeCe’s storyline and the disgrace it was to the trans community. The dolls. When Emily’s eggs were stolen and used to impregnate Ali and force them to become endgame.
Spencer’s fucking twin and her Dickensian accent.
The list goes on and on and on.
However, before all of that, PLL was a feminist, forward-thinking show about the friendship of a cast of relatively diverse teenagers. Among them was Emily Fields, a baby gay in the making.
Maya St. Germain was Emily’s first girlfriend. A free spirit, she nudged Emily out of the closet though she had a penchant for weed that got her sent away to rehab. Following rehab, our two baes picked their relationship back up, only for Maya to run away and be killed.
And so began the cycle of danger of being Emily Fields’ love interest – granted, it would be so worth it.
4. Tara Maclay, Buffy
We were late to the world of Buffy, binge-watching the first five seasons in about a week a couple of years ago. It was fine. (Controversial, we know!)
Our entire raison d’être for watching Buffy was to a) experience Willow and b) see the Tara/Willow relationship, a gamechanger of its time.
While we liked Willow and found Tara’s sweet nature endearing, we didn’t go hardcore. (Buffy and Faith are our Buffy OTP.)
Even still, Tara’s death, by a rogue bullet, was intensely disappointing and robbed the pair of a solid relationship of firsts that might actually make its way onto TV. (A large metaphor for the Tara/Willow relationship was literal magic, because the network weren’t comfortable with ladies kissing.)
If nothing else, Buffy is a case study in how far we’ve come.
5. Root, Person of Interest
Disclaimer: we’ve never actually watched PoI. Our interest in the show was purely superficial as we watched all the Root/Shaw moments on YouTube.
Root and Shaw were built on subtext and sizzling chemistry. Will-they-won’t-they storylines between queer women are often lacking – unless it’s neatly wrapped up within the context of a coming-out story.
Sometimes, we believe so hard in subtext it becomes a sort of reality – and for the longest time that seemed to be the case with Root and Shaw until Shaw went and kissed Root and then disappeared into the ether. Shaw returned and episode four of season five (the only entire episode of PoI we’ve watched), pitted our duo on a crash-course towards togetherness. And oh how it sizzled.
6. Dana Fairbanks, The L Word
Every baby gay who has ever binge-watched The L Word has a character they identify most strongly with. For us, it was Alice, the motormouth, over-the-top journalist who harboured a serious soft spot for her best friend, Dana.
In season two, Dana became attached to Tonya, who was the worst. Eventually free from Tonya, Dana embarked on a secret relationship with Alice, which was the cutest until Alice gave in to a jealous and needy side.
Fast-forward to season three and Alice and Dana are no longer together; Alice is OBSESSED with Dana; Dana is back with Lara (from season one) and, later, Dana discovers she has breast cancer.
It’s crushing and sad, but ultimately reflective of real life. Good people get cancer and die.
7. Lexa, The 100
Lexa’s death sparked a movement, with ‘LGBT fans deserve better’ being tweeted more than 280,000 times. Even more impressively, fans of the show orchestrated a fundraiser of over $170,000.
To say fans were pissed is an understatement and a poor representation of why Lexa mattered. Indeed traditional media reported about it in droves, though many positioned it as irreverent fan irritation.
Clarke and Lexa’s relationship was tumultuous but beautiful, showcasing a star-making turn from Alicia Debnam-Carey as the Commander.
8. Naomi, Skins
Unnecessary and mean, Naomi’s death (to cancer) broke our heart into pieces. Emily and Naomi were our first OTP. We wrote fanfic about them. They helped us (and a nation of queer kids) realise and accept their membership to the LGBT club.
In a word, Naomi’s death was cruel.
9. Poussey Washington, Orange is the New Black
Poussey’s death was devastating and it devastated – more notably for how it paralleled the real world. Poussey’s final words, “I can’t breathe”, came straight from Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who was killed by the police.
Though fictional (and entirely divisive), Poussey’s death mattered – both on TV and off. On TV, it set the course for the finale and events of season five. Off TV, it put institutionalised racism front and centre on one of the most-watched TV shows ever.
Poussey’s death was enormous. Was it necessary? From a story point of view: maybe. It was, and will continue to be, divisive. If nothing else, Poussey’s death thought us (and by us, we here mean queer people) that we deserve better and we will not be silenced.