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.

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