So I found out something not very fun about a book I was planning on reading the other day. I had been planning on reading this book a week from the day I found out, an experience that would have been incredibly uncomfortable for me. And as a result, I have decided to talk! To discuss. To discuss a trope I really hate that just will not die.
It keeps coming back. Like mold. Or like the Maze Runner movies.
I have made a vow to myself to avoid books where this occurs. I’m sure someone is going to comment below and be a dick about this — YOU CAN’T KNOW IT’S PROBLEMATIC TILL YOU’VE READ IT!! Have fun trying to excuse this trope in the comments, but as an lgbtq person, this trope does.not.feel.good.
So let’s talk about why.
—Disclaimer That People Will Ignore—
You guys know how I feel about recognizing nuance and critical thinking. Personally, I think acknowledging the role of the narrative in rep can be really helpful and necessary — too many books have gotten called out pre-reading and it turned out the book was ownvoices for the problematic rep or some crap. I will always boost reviews and discussions talking about the problematic crap, but I am not about saying something is Objectively Shit when I have not read the thing. I am a huge fan of Staying In My Damn Lane. I do not like — okay, sort of despise — when people go about attacking others for their positive or negative thoughts on books. And I think all media is technically problematic.
But there have to be exceptions. There has to be a fucking line. For example, I will not read books that stereotype people of color as dumb or lesser or books about How Horrible Black People are and I don’t think anyone else should. I will not read books where queer characters are converted to heterosexuality and saved from their queer lifestyle (though I unfortunately have). I will not read nonfiction books by racists.
And I absolutely will not read books where the gays die.
Unchallenged bigotry can occasionally be looked at with more nuance and a deep look at how the narrative thinks of that bigotry. But in many situations, gays dying is something I’m honestly not sure you can look at with nuance.
I have hard and fast rules here, my dudes. They will be articulated as we go on.
This will be a discussion about boring, overdone tropes. This will also be a post about how tired I am of dying so straight characters can have their narratives furthered. Or so straight readers can cry a little bit about how sad homophobia is.
—I Attempt To Rebut Arguments People Will Not Stop Using—
But all the characters die!!
Yeah, okay, this is valid if all the characters really do die. But wait. I’ve yet to read a single book where The Gays Died that didn’t kill more queer characters than straight characters. So here’s a new rule for y’all. The same ratio of queer characters and straight characters must die for this argument to be used.
Let’s take Game of Thrones, because I just fucking know someone will mention it. If we’re talking show, there have been four queer characters thus far. Two were portrayed as vapid — that was literally it — and are both now dead. Neither were given much character development before death. A third character was portrayed as openly bisexual and given a decent amount of character development. He’s dead. One still remains alive. (Yay! Let’s place bets on how soon she’ll die.) Point is, 3/4 of the somewhat-relevant queer characters have been killed. Have 3/4 of the major straight characters on Game of Thrones died? I’ll take You’re Pulling Some Bullshit for 400, Alex.
And let’s not even get into the fact that this now means… one sort of important queer character and what, thirty important straight characters? Bullshit.
I demand bi Sansa Stark and a spot on the Iron Throne, but I’ll take Yara surviving till the end of the series. The bar is so low and I bet they won’t reach it.
But it’s a tragedy where the gays die at the end and that’s the whole point of the book!
Theeeeeeeeen you’re fine. I mean, I still think queer tragedy has been done so much that it’s actually just kind of lazy and boring nine times out of ten, but if you’re talking about They Both Die at the End or The Song of Achilles, you aren’t wrong.
Why is this different? Because these books are actually written and marketed as tragedies. It is not a surprise plot twist that the gays die at the end.
But it’s a tragedy where a queer character dies at the beginning and that’s the whole point of the book!
Again, if the protagonist is queer as well, this doesn’t bug me. Come on, guys, you know how I feel about Far From You and similar character explorations.
But if the protagonist isn’t queer, as I’ve seen in several books? You fridged a queer character to progress a straight character’s plotline. You have no creativity and you should feel bad.
But why is it any different from straight characters dying?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s because straight characters aren’t constantly being fridged to perpetuate the narratives of queer people? Idk, seems like that might be relevant.
Are you guys sensing a pattern in all my examples below? It’s a problem when queer characters die so straight people can have their plotlines furthered.
This is what fridging a character is — when you kill off a character to further another character’s plotline. It’s a lazy trope. Obviously. But perhaps even more importantly, it is a plot device that occurs almost entirely to female characters, queer characters, and characters of color. It’s something you might not even notice, just feel in your soul.
Time for a little exercise.
Try to think up a character death that you thought was lazy and meant to prop up the narrative of other characters.
Got a character death in mind? Good. Now imagine that happening with 90% of characters you relate to, in a repeating narrative that originated from society’s hatred for people like you, in a scenario where you already feel alienated by popular media and popular culture.
But it presents a message about homophobia!!
this is perhaps the most pervasive argument I get and I want to retreat to an underwater cave every single time someone says this to me because I am just so goddamn tired
So here’s the thing. Homophobia fucking sucks. We know this. To put it more simply, I know this, and so does every queer person in the damn world. So every time someone writes a book where an attack on the gay character kills that character and a big old message is sent out about how much homophobia sucks, I am not emotionally effected. All I can think is Yeah, it damn well does, and I’m tired of dying for it.
Let’s be critical consumers and think, for a moment. If you’re making a message about homophobia with your one singular queer character dying, who is that message for? Because it’s certainly not for the queer audience.
I don’t care about dying so straight people can cry. I’ve done it enough.