Demanding Better Stories: Tropes and Fan Influence

Stories are important. They reflect the world as we see it, and so, if the stories we see do not reflect certain groups, it’s important to speak up and change it. To demand better. To say no, this is not how the world should be.

So today I’m going to talk about tropes for a bit.

Tropes are basically story stereotypes – they are plot devices or character archetypes that keep cropping up again and again. Of course, there are a lot of these. You only need to go to TvTropes.org and several hours later, you’ll find that there are a myriad of diverse and often conflicting story devices used in books, movies and TV shows.

However, there is a particular trope seems to be cropping up a lot lately – Bury Your Gays. This trope refers to the alarmingly frequent deaths of queer people in stories. In the rare cases that LGBT+ characters feature largely in a story, they are not granted a happy ending. This trope is harmful because it shows that people who aren’t straight don’t deserve a happy ending, that they don’t have a proper place in our stories, and by extension, the world.

One particularly egregious example of this trope is the death of Lexa, played by Alicia Debnam-Carey on the sci-fi show The 100. This show had a lot of LGBT+ fans, these fans being understandably upset when the showrunners, who encouraged the fans to ‘ship’ Lexa and Clarke, had Lexa shot almost immediately after that relationship was consummated.

But this time the fans made their voices heard. Many went online to express their dissatisfaction with the trope, and exactly what they thought about the execution and misdirection that occurred with this particular case. The show’s main screenwriter, Jason Rothenberg, found his twitter followers decreasing dramatically. People protested via their blogs, their twitter, their videos, and several other channels that are now available to us.

In addition, this event has sparked a major movement. Donations to The Trevor Project, a charity dedicated to supporting young LGBT+ people, increased due to this, and there was also a creation of a pledge, signed by media makers, that states that they will treat LGBT+ characters with respect.

This shows that we now have voices. We have power. If we don’t like what we watch, we can say something. More importantly, we can say something and be listened to. So we should speak up. We should demand better – better representation in what we watch, read, and listen to. We should demand that our media makers stop falling back on cliche stereotypes, that they stop using tired old tropes. We should demand that the stories we see reflect the world not only as it is, but as it should be.

It’s time to demand better.

14 thoughts on “Demanding Better Stories: Tropes and Fan Influence

  1. Hi Sharon,

    Thank you for showing me an interesting topic in your blog post. You’ve told me a story I didn’t notice before: The trope called Bury Your Gays. But honestly, I wonder who made calculation on death tool to form this trope?

    I think it is always sensitive to bring out LGBT topic on media products. 2 years ago in Viet Nam my hometown, the movie De Mai Tinh 2 smashed the country’s box office record within days of its release. The unconventional romantic-comedy sequel signed the Vietnamese conservative society’s openness to LGBT; however, it stirred the fury to Vietnamese LGBT groups as it had reflected Hoi, the main character, in the stereotype: flamboyant, oversexed, accident-prone, physically weak and effeminate. (Luckily, I found a link on The Guardian for this Vietnamese movie, click here please:https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2015/jan/30/with-de-mai-tinh-2-has-vietnam-finally-embraced-gay-film-making). Even the movie presented a positive image about Hoi, who is free and happy to be himself and has a happy ending, it still upset a group of audience.

    Coming back to the case you mention, I’ve watched The 100 and Lexa is one of impressive characters, I even like her much more than Clark. It’s pity that I don’t follow the third series, so I don’t know the situation when Lexa was killed, but I was not surprised because The 100 was full of death. In some first episodes, a quickly sudden death of Clark’s close friend, then followed by a death of Clark’s boyfriend, reminded me to stop spending too much emotion. So, why should death of Lexa trigger the anger? This response raised me a question: Do LBGTs set themselves a misanthropy. In other words, do they have too much feelings that people treat them unfair?
    Sorry if I’m wrong because I’m not in the situation to understand the feeling of LBGTs, that it’s hurting. But I sometimes have my own problems and that’s when I tend to choose social withdrawal, refuse believing in goodness, or become world-haters. As a result, I just feel worse and can’t solve the problem. It is the same to LBGT’s issues. If they always feel being attacked, how they feel happy. Regarding Lexa death, we can have a different viewpoint: It’s about another classic trope: Love and Death. Romantic love requires dealth (just symbolically, in movies, poems, fictions, I never want this kind of association in the real life). Some authors have found similarities between love and death and have offered a rare noir magical insight. Lexa’s death may contain that meaning. (And I have a marginal question if you can explain me Sharon, does Clark love Lexa? If yes, why was that love seed in her? If not, why does audience want them to be a couple?)

    I think screenwriter or director can’t and shouldn’t please all audiences, they need to do their creative works. Lexa’s death doesn’t mean that the screenwriter violates any ethics guideline of movie making. Movie makers will confront unsatisfied audiences but it has a certain cost for anyone who want to express on media. Frankly, I don’t like the fact that many screenwriters of TV series have changed their scripts because of fan pressure and profit.

    If I run a campaign to raise the voice supporting LGBT, I would need a more convincing cause and focus on positive values of LGBT community instead of putting pressure on the artistic creation.

    More about Love and Dealth here:
    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/love-and-death/?_r=0
    http://thefiendish.com/2009/03/what-connects-love-and-death/

  2. Great reminder that in the digital era audience is both active and quite powerful. We just need some good will to make the first step.

  3. However, recently there are many tropics – Bury Gays. This trope refers to the fearful death of strangers in stories. In rare cases, LGBT + characters are often featured in the story, and they have no happy ending. He knows about college paper org This is tropical because it does not mean that the people who are indirect are not worthy of ending, and that our stories and extensions do not exist in the world.

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