Why does Hollywood continue to perpetuate the Bury Your Gays trope, despite persistent backlash from the gay community? After Ellen has a few thoughts.
Problem 1: “Special Snowflake” syndrome
Shows believe that the death of their character is uniquely nuanced and crucial to storytelling in a way that other lesbian deaths are not. They recognize that other shows have contributed to a negative pattern, but see themselves as the exception to the rule.
For example, during the 2016 ATX Television Festival’s “Bury Your Tropes” panel, Faking It producer and screenwriter Carter Covington defended Lexa's controversial death on The 100 because it was not "people getting killed off because they’re gay." In reality, the death reinforced both the Bury Your Gays trope and others (e.g., killing a woman immediately post-sex).
Problem 2: Hollywood underestimates how much it happens
Krista Vernoff, a writer for Grey's Anatomy, said that 20 years ago gay characters were "killed in scene one," so at least they're lasting longer now. Gay (and particularly lesbian) characters are still at disproportionately high risk of death, though. According to a study analyzing the 2015-2016 season of US TV:
- female - 43% of characters, 44% of deaths
- non-white - 33% of characters, 26% of deaths
- gay men - 2% of characters, 3% of deaths (1.5x higher than representation)
- gay women - 2% of characters, 10% of deaths (5x higher than representation)
Problem 3: Hollywood is misreading the Lexa Pledge
The Lexa Pledge includes the line, "We refuse to kill a queer character solely to further the plot of a straight one." Many creators (including all of the "Bury Your Tropes" panelists) refused to sign it because they believed it would prevent them from ever killing a gay character and thus limit their creativity. Instead of seeing the pledge as a commitment to writing robust, meaningful arcs for all characters, the promise to give gay characters their due is perceived as a hinderance.
Problem 4: They remain uneducated about broader lesbian issues
Many creatives, including the aforementioned Covington of Faking It, complain about backlash from "the very community [they are] trying to help," putting the blame on fans for not being a "glass half-full fandom" instead of taking responsibility for the stories they choose to tell. For example, Faking It has a strange obsession with straight male characters—even making an ostensibly lesbian character admit to an uncontrollable sexual response to men.
They also claim that fans' abrasiveness makes showrunners wary of including gay characters at all, opting for the relative safety of no representation versus the pitfalls of bad representation.