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The following page details common LGBTQIA+ tropes in media throughout history.

All Lesbians Want Kids[]

The all lesbians want kids trope refers to a plot point wherein two women-love-women (WLW) characters in a relationship decide that they want (often biological) children.[1] The trope includes the couple's quest to find a sperm donor and decide who will carry the child, or surrogacy; often, adoption is not considered. The plot line typically triggers a response from the other straight women in the series, prompting them to "realize their biological clock". John Waters used this trope in his 1972 film Pink Flamingos, which tells a satirized story of an evil couple that kidnaps and impregnates women to then sell the babies to lesbian couples. This film kicked off a recurring theme that has lasted in contemporary media.[2]

As the popularity of queer representation in television grew, as did the "all lesbians want kids" trope. Moreover, the trope has shifted to include new twists, such as one of the lesbians not wanting children until an "epiphany" is given that makes her realize what she truly wants. Other "twists" include - one of the women cheating with a man and becoming pregnant, the relationship fails because one of the women does not change her mind, or the women ask a close friend and/or relative to donate his sperm.[3][2]

Examples of usage[]

Television[]

  • Bored to Death - Unnamed couple
  • Chicago Fire - Leslie Shay
  • EastEnders - Fiona and Tina
  • The Fosters - Stef and Lena
  • Grey's Anatomy - Callie and Arizona
  • Hannibal - Margot and Alana
  • The L Word - Bette and Tina
  • New Girl - Sadie and Melissa
  • Queer as Folk - Melanie and Lindsay
  • Station 19 - Maya and Carina
  • Supergirl - Alex Danvers and Maggie Sawyer/Kelly Olson

Film[]

  • The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy - Anne and Leslie
  • Summerland - Vera and Alice

Comic books[]

  • The Sandman - Hazel and Foxglove
  • X-Men - Mystique and Destiny

Bury Your Gays[]

Overview[]

Bury Your Gays, also called Dead Lesbian Syndrome,[4][5] is a trope in media that perpetuates the idea that a gay character always dies, usually after coming out or making a grand romantic gesture.[4][6] The trope was originally used so gay authors could write gay characters without facing the repercussions that came with "endorsing" or "promoting" homosexuality. The persistent usage of the trope to this day is redundant, as it is no longer a necessary element to get queer literature published. The correlation between the death of a queer character and their romantic notions is evident, with the character dying shortly after the audience has confirmation of their sexual orientation, often after the character engages in some physical action.[4]

The concept itself has been present since the 19th century, gained traction in the early 20th century, and persists in modern media. It has a rich context and history due to the laws of the 1800s decreeing that all media must abide by certain rules, with homosexuality and other sexual innuendos being deemed inappropriate. The trope decrees, especially in novels, that one lover in a a same-gender romantic couple must die or otherwise be destroyed by the end of the story.[4] Originally, LGBTQIA+ authors such as Oscar Wilde used this trope, as he and dozens of others were otherwise forced to censor their works or suffer consequences. In his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the character Basil Hallward had an obvious attraction to Dorian, which ultimately led to Wilde's own indecency trial. Wilde intentionally buried the subtext by symbolically having Dorian murder Basil.[6]

In 1920 or 1930, Hollywood adopted the Hays Code, which banned "depictions of sexual pervasion",[7] and queer characters vanished from the industry, except in subtext. Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film Rope is noted as tying murder to a homosexual act. Queer characters were frequently portrayed, and murdered, as villains. The 1961 film The Children's Hour has one of the first examples of a queer character dying at their own hand after being tormented by their sexuality.[6] In 1976 on the soap opera Executive Suite, a lesbian character chased her love interested into the street and was struck by a truck and killed.[5]

The 1980s brought forth a new storyline for queer characters - the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This is prominent in the 1993 film Philadelphia. While the film brought awareness to the crushing nature of the epidemic, it fell into the Bury Your Gays trope, just in a different way.[6]

The Bury Your Gays trope has faced immense scrutiny in television, as shows have proven especially deadly for female LGBTQ characters. Between 2015 and 2016, 42 lesbian and bisexual women were killed off in US TV shows. In 2016, four of these deaths happened in a single month. The most publicized death was that of Lexa, a female character in the CW's The 100, who was murdered just minutes after having sex with another woman. The death prompted a widespread backlash against the showrunner, network, and Bury Your Gays trope, with the ramifications of the movement shining light on the tragedies.[6]

Fans created the "Lexa Pledge", asking TV writers and producers to commit to giving LGBTQ characters "significant storylines with meaningful arcs, as the deaths of queer characters have deep psychosocial ramifications. To refuse to kill a queer character solely to further the plot of a straight one". Some creators signed the pledge, but others argued the importance of how their LGBTQ characters and portrayed - not just whether or not they die.[6] By March 2016, 146 lesbian or bisexual characters perished on TV shows, with 18 couples on 16 TV shows, found happy endings.[5]At the 2017 Television Critics Association summer tour, GLAAD hosted a panel where they revealed research which showed that there are 278 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on TV, a majority of them (142 to be exact) are on cable, and most of them are gay white men. Of those 278, there have been 62 gay and bi female characters who have fallen to the Bury Your Gays trope over the past two years.[8]

In 2017, the second-to-last episode of Kingdom saw the male lead character, Nate Kulina, finally come out to his homophobic father after struggling with his sexuality for all three seasons of the show. After coming out, he was belittled, and Nate fought with his heavily intoxicated father before running outside. He was brutally murdered in the sidewalk only three minutes later. The series creator claimed the death was a turning point for Nate's father, thus leaning into the trope as the death only propelled the storyline of the straight, alpha father and Nate's straight, alpha family members. Fans were even more outraged when Nate's long-term boyfriend was notably absent from the funeral, memorial service, and series finale as a whole.[8]

Since 2017, an increase in representation that is both rich and complex has emerged.[6] Now, the trope is used by queer and non-queer authors to serve both the narrative and greater context, which is more equal to straight characters deaths. These can be seen in RENT and A Single Man. Despite the progress that has been made, creators are still these harmful tropes to further their story. The history and usage of this trope is proven harmful to the larger context in which they exist.[4]

Examples of usage[]

In 2022, AutoStraddle crafted an ever-growing list of every lesbian and bisexual character on television that have been killed.[9]

Television[]

  • Boardwalk Empire - Angela, Louise
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Tara
  • Chicago Fire - Leslie Shay
  • Degrassi - Adam Torres
  • Game of Thrones - Oberyn Martell
  • House of the Dragon - Ser Joffrey Lonmouth
  • Jane the Virgin - Rose
  • Kingdom - Nathaniel Kulina
  • Killing Eve - Villanelle[10]
  • Northern Exposure - Cicel
  • Orange is the New Black - Poussey Washington
  • Orphan Black - Delphine
  • Pretty Little Liars - Maya St. Germain
  • Supernatural - Charlie, Castiel
  • The 100 - Lexa
  • The Magicians - Kira
  • The Walking Dead - Denise, Alisha
  • The Vampire Diaries - Nora and Mary Louise
  • The L Word - Jenny Schecter and Dana

Film[]

  • Atomic Blonde - Delphine
  • Halloween Kills - Big John and Little John

Closeted Homophobe[]

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Closeted Jock/Armor Closet Gay[]

The armored closet gay is best summarized using Haggard's Law, or the Law of Inverse Homosexuality - “The louder and more frequent one’s objections to homosexuality are, the more likely one is to be a homosexual”.[11] The trope applies when two, typically male, characters develop a love story. The aggressor is closeted themselves, with their crush out of the closet or in an accepting home that rivals that of the armored gay. It is now frequently combined with the closeted jock trope, which has one character stereotyped as a "jock" with internalized homophobia. The jock will sometimes resort to violence towards the queer characters or make lewd remarks about them.[12]

This trope can be seen more prevalently in teen or young adult drama, and often the armored gay is unknowingly the object of the queer affection, later terrorizing them when the "nerd" comes out. This self-hatred and loathing stems from learned behavior from a homophobic family or immediate friend group.[1] Another version of the trope exists wherein the closeted gay experiments in queer acts but refuses to accept or acknowledges his queerness, instead continuing his barrage of homophobic rants or acts.

Examples of usage[]

Television[]

  • 13 Reasons Why - Monty de la Cruz
  • The Boys - Ezekiel
  • Degrassi - Riley
  • Euphoria - Cal Jacobs
  • Glee - Dave Karofsky
  • Pretty Little Liars - Paige McCullers
  • Queer as Folk - Drew Boyd
  • Riverdale - Moose
  • Sex Education - Adam
  • Shameless - Mickey Milkovich

Film[]

  • The Thing About Harry - Harry

Gay Best Friend (GBF)[]

The GBF was always a bit of a eunuch: sexually harmless, more a court jester than anything else. Commercial platforms felt they were doing their bit for ‘inclusion’ without potentially upsetting advertisers. It’s an unthreatening gay representation that was intrinsically tied to commerciality. I think it was quite harmful for younger queer audiences to only see themselves in this way, as Shakespearean fools; not intrinsic to the story, but more there to offer the straights some comic relief.

Screenwriter Amrou Al-Kadhi on the GBF trope

The gay best friend (GBF) is a recurrent trope that is the most common of LGBTQIA+ tropes. It typically involves a white, gay, male best friend whose entire plot revolves around being the best friend to the heterosexual female lead. They exist in the background and are only used to be sounding boards for the leads problems, a sarcastic or humorous quip, and the much-needed fashion advice - all without revealing too much about the GBF's life.[13] The trope is so common that in 2015, Decider crafted a list of the top-10 gay best friends with the introductory hook, "Every girl needs a gay best friend — or at least that’s what the movies tell us." The list only included GBF's in film, not in television.[14]

The majority of GBFs were involved in fashion or creative jobs, armed with one-liners and flat characters. The GBF began to evolve in television in the mid-2000s and early 2010s, with shows such as Ugly Betty and Glee opening the door for well-rounded gay male characters. In the UK, queer voices and roles became more more popular and held a variety of queer storylines.[15] The 2013 film G.B.F. poked fun at the trope and made a point of the gay male lead coming to realize he's worth more than just being the designer G.B.F. to the popular female lead. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt also had a self-aware plotline regarding the GBF trope.[16] The trope has become less common in recent media years, but still persists in popular media, including Riverdale, To All The Boys I've Loved Before, Never Have I Ever, and Motherland: Fort Salem.

Queerbaiting[]

Overview[]

Queerbaiting is a term used to describe a manipulative marketing practice of using perceived or potential queerness for publicity.[17][18] It has allegedly been used since the 1950s[19] and has been used online,[17] such as by users on the blogging platform Tumblr expressing anger over the treatment of LGBT+ individuals in media,[20][21] and has since been expanded to include businesses and celebrities using queer imagery to appeal to the LGBT+ community for the sake of publicity, promotion, or capitalistic gain.[17] Deliberate queerbaiting has a malicious element, often most-clearly seen through television media as writers and creators hint at queerness before "emphatically denying and laughing off the possibility".[22]

Creators or writers will create an illusion of queerness around one or more characters to lure in audiences or appease a queer demographic. The creator or writers manipulatively use subtext to imply a romantic attraction but have no intention to ever make it canon. This includes the posture of characters, interactions, conversations, and even blatantly making one of the characters queer while refusing to acknowledge the other. It is a recurrent and still popular trope in media.[23]

Queerbaiting is not the same as queercoding,[24] and Joseph Brennan noted in his book that there is a distinction between "unintentional, or genuine, homoeroticism and queerbaiting" (emphasis original).[25]

Historically, there has been limited representation of queer people in mainstream media; the representation that did exist often painted male characters as villains or people with mental disorders,[26] while women demonstrating lesbian traits were frequently killed off to suit a white heteronormative narrative - the 'tragic lesbian' theme.[27]

While the practice of queerbaiting is often seen as a negative, some members of the LGBT+ community view it as an improvement in the representation of queer people and queer relationships.[28] In addition, some believe that queercoded characters who do not end up cementing that queerness (often by entering a canon relationship) amount to queerbaiting, regardless of extenuating contexts or circumstances, including the "queerness" of the creators themselves or the LGBT+ representation and diversity already contained within such media.[29]

Etymology[]

The term comes from the noun "queer" (not-heterosexual, not-cisgender) combined with the verb "to bait" (the act of luring, as if into a trap). It harkens from the political portmanteau of "race-baiting",[19][21] which was used to bring up perceived negative details of an opponent to undermine them.

Examples of usage[]

Word of Gay[]

"Word of Gay" refers to when a character's LGBT status is confirmed by Word of God (AKA statements made by the creator(s) of the work in question about things that were not shown or said in the original work).

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Resources[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "12 LGBTQIA+ tropes we don’t want to see in pop culture anymore" by Jackson, Chelsea on <culturess.com>. Published 2019-02-09 by Fansided. (no backup information provided)
  2. 2.0 2.1 "17 LGBTQ Tropes Hollywood Needs to Retire" by Gilchrist, Tracy E., & Reynolds, Daniel on <advocate.com>. Published 2017-08-29 by Advocate. (no backup information provided)
  3. "All Lesbians Want Kids" by TV Tropes on <tvtropes.org>(no backup information provided)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Bury Your Gays: History, Usage, and Context" by Haley Hulan on <scholarworks.gvsu.edu>. Published 2017 by McNair Scholars Journal, Volume 21, Issue 1. (no backup information provided)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Bury Your Gays: Why ‘The 100,’ ‘Walking Dead’ Deaths Are Problematic (Guest Column)" by Dorothy Snarker on <hollywoodreporter.com>. Published March 21, 2016 by The Hollywood Reporter. (no backup information provided)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 "The "Bury Your Gays" Trope, Explained" on <the-take.com>. Published 2020-09-12 by The Take. (no backup information provided)
  7. "THE "BURY YOUR GAYS" TROPE EXPLAINED" by Hurwitz, Amanda on <womensrepublic.net>. Published 2021-03-22 by Women's Republic. (no backup information provided)
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Another Gay Buried… Will It Get Better?" by Traci on <cookiesandsangria.com>. Published August 17, 2017 by Cookies and Sangria. (no backup information provided)
  9. "All 225 Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters On TV, And How They Died" by Riese on <autostraddle.com>. Published 2022-03-31. (no backup information provided)
  10. "The "Killing Eve" Finale Left Queer Viewers Heartbroken" by Clements, Sara on <them.us>. Published 2022-04-11. (no backup information provided)
  11. "Gay History: Haggard’s Law" by Tim Alderman on <timalderman.com>. Published December 16, 2019. (no backup information provided)
  12. "CLOSETED AND CRUEL: THE PROBLEMATIC LEGACY OF THE “HOMOPHOBIC HOMOSEXUAL” TROPE" by Kelsi Karpinski on <hercampus.com>. Published January 21, 2021. (no backup information provided)
  13. "A Look at the Trope of the Gay Best Friend" by Ana Hallman on <34st.com>. Published May 26, 2019 by 34th Street. (no backup information provided)
  14. "The 10 Best Gay Best Friends" by Tyler Coates on <decider.com>. Published May 28, 2015 by Decider. (no backup information provided)
  15. "The ‘gay best friend’: has TV’s laziest cliche finally fallen out of fashion?" by Louis Staples on <theguardian.com>. Published August 7, 2021 by The Guardian. (no backup information provided)
  16. "Let's Talk About the GBF Stereotype" by Taylor Henderson on <pride.com>. Published April 1, 2022. (no backup information provided)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Why Queerbaiting Matters More Than Ever" by Mendes II, Moises on <rollingstone.com>. Published 2021-07-23 by Rolling Stone. (no backup information provided)
  18. "Queerbaiting: What it Looks Like and Why It's Harmful" by Murphy, Colleen on <health.com>. Published by Health.com. (no backup information provided)
  19. 19.0 19.1 "What Is Queerbaiting? - Meaning & Explanation" on <dictionary.com>. Published 2022 by Dictionary.com. (no backup information provided)
  20. "An Explanation of Queer Baiting and Why It's a Problem" by Lan on <atlanxic.tumblr.com>. Published 2012-11-28 by Tumblr. (no backup information provided)
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Queer Baiting - 21st-Century Interdisciplinary Dictionary" on <neologisms.blogs.wm.edu>. Published 2016-03-29 by Neologisms. (no backup information provided)
  22. Moritary's Ghost: Or the Queer Disruption of BBC's Sherlock by Fathallah, Judith. Published 2015 by Television News & Media.
  23. "Queerbaiting vs. Representation: Media Today" by Leah Ronski on <pantherbanter.com>. Published October 14, 2020. (no backup information provided)
  24. "What is Queerbaiting vs Queercoding?" by Jaigirdar, Adiba on <bookriot.com>. Published 2021-07-09 by Book Riot. (no backup information provided)
  25. Queerbaiting and fandom : teasing fans through homoerotic possibilities (in English), with Brennan, Joseph. Published 2019 by University of Iowa Press.
  26. "Queer Coding and Queer Baiting" by Shannon, Rogan on <roganshannon.com>. Published 2018-05-15. (no backup information provided)
  27. "Queer women have been killed on television for decades. Now The 100's fans are fighting back" by Framke, Caroline on <vox.com>. Published 2016-03-25 by Vox. (no backup information provided)
  28. "Queerbaiting - exploitation or a sign of progress?" by Honderich, Holly on <bbc.com>. Published 2019-04-08 by BBC News. (no backup information provided)
  29. "Steven Universe Artist Quits Twitter Over Fan Harassment" by Elderkin, Beth on <gizmodo.com>. Published 2016-08-13 by Gizmodo. (no backup information provided)
  30. The Freeform series has been accused on social media for queerbaiting with their former female protagonist Callie. They used Callie kissing Alice, an out lesbian, for promotion. They dedicated an entire episode to Alice's crush on Callie, only for the "kiss" to have occurred in Alice's mind. The crush was never spoken about again. The queerbaiting with Callie's character continues from the parent show The Fosters, in which Callie kissed a female character, only for the show to never address it again.
  31. "'Riverdale' needs to stop queerbaiting its LGBTQ+ audience" by Prance, Sam on <popbuzz.com>. Published 2018-11-18. (no backup information provided)
  32. "Riverdale, Queer-Baiting, And How One Tweet Exposed the Fan Conversation We Need To Pay Attention" by Mary Kate McGrath on <bustle.com>. Published April 20, 2017. (no backup information provided)
  33. "'Riverdale's' Asexual Erasure Can Be Harmful" by Jonno Revanche on <teenvogue.com>. Published APRIL 14, 2017. (no backup information provided)
  34. "‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’: Finn and Poe Aren’t Boyfriends, but J.J. Abrams Hints at LGBTQ Representation" by Vary, Adam on <variety.com>. Published 2019-12-09. (no backup information provided)
  35. "‘Supergirl’ Is Back, And It Looks Like the Queerbaiting is Too" by Rherman, Maddie on <medium.com>. Published 2021-04-02. (no backup information provided)
  36. "Queerbaiting in ‘Supergirl’: More than just missed chances" by Kayla Laguerre-Lewis on <rhodycigar.com>. Published 2021-11-12. (no backup information provided)
  37. "What TV Can Learn From 'The 100' Mess" by Ryan, Maureen on <variety.com>. Published 2016-03-04 by Variety. (no backup information provided)
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