Warning: this blog post contains discussion of homophobic acts of violence perpetuated both on-screen and in real life. It also uses the word "queer" as an umbrella term for members of the LGBTQA+ community. Please keep both of these things in mind while reading.
After the tragic shooting in Orlando on June 12, many LGBT and queer youth were left shattered, wondering what their next step should be. Some turned to media, to the TV shows and movies that allow us to escape from our everyday lives and into a fictional world. What they saw there was not exactly the comforting departure from reality they hoped for: instead, mere days after the Pulse nightclub shooting, fan-favorite (and out lesbian) character Poussey Washington was killed off of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, a show that had long been celebrated for its representations of women, people of color, and LGBTQA+ individuals.
Unfortunately, Poussey's death is not the only lesbian death to grace our TV screens in recent memory; in fact she is not the only out lesbian to have been killed off this season cycle. Lexa, a popular lesbian character on The CW's The 100, was killed taking a bullet meant for her bisexual lover, Clarke, back in early March. Both of these deaths fall into a common trope known as "Bury Your Gays," referring to the high numbers of dead queer characters on television, especially female queer characters.
The online fandom's reaction to Lexa's death (led mostly by the LGBTQA+ identifying individuals within it) launched a widespread negative campaign against the show and the network for this death. Their message was clear: enough is enough.
"...TV shows and movies seem to find joy in killing LGBTQA+ characters for sport..."
Back in March, following the wide backlash against the death of Lexa, the website Autostraddle found that of 383 lesbian or bisexual characters on American television from 1976 to the present, 95 were dead, 76 were still on air, and only 30 had happy endings. After the latest season of OITNB, however, those statistics rose once again. And queer fans are done.
As TV shows and movies seem to find joy in killing LGBTQA+ characters for sport, queer youth and young adults have turned to their keyboards in order to find some media that can accurately represent themselves. What follows is the inception a large, diverse community of creative works (fanfiction, fanart, even videos or music occasionally) that presents queer characters in the way they deserve to be treated on our television screens: as three-dimensional beings who can live happily ever after.
The the beginning of fanfiction as it is now known can be traced back to the '60s, when young fans (mainly women) were writing love stories about Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock and spreading them in fan zines across the country. The history of fanworks is deeply entrenched in the history of telling queer stories. After the creation of the internet, websites dedicated to fanfiction were quickly established and filled with more and more works. Two of the most popular sites today, fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org, house millions of works each, a large number of which tell queer love stories.
"...They continue episodes, show a relationship in between the scene cuts, and bring characters back to life in order to give them the happy ending they deserve."
There is no shortage of heterosexual fanfiction written (Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, was originally a fanfiction of Twilight), but the fact that so many stories are being written and posted every day about love and relationships between two men or two women (or perhaps two nonbinary people) demonstrates an interesting trend in what passionate fans would really like to see on our screens.
Many of these works serve as direct responses to what occurs within the canon of the show or the movie: they continue episodes, show a relationship in between the scene cuts, and bring characters back to life in order to give them the happy ending they deserve. And while fanfiction certainly makes up a majority of these fanworks, artwork of queer couples also dominates websites popular with fans like Tumblr.
In a climate where young queer fans are struggling to find safe spaces both on screen and in real life, many are building their own community and creating their own media that can make up for the lack of diverse queer characters on TV and in film. And maybe next time before killing another queer character, a showrunner might think about a happy ending. If they need any inspiration, millions of stories are a click away.