All Fictional TV Characters’ Lives Matter

Ouch. But what REALLY hurt was that she was a lesbian...

Ouch. But what REALLY hurt was that she was a lesbian…

Apparently LGBT TV fans are up in arms over characters sharing their sexual orientation getting killed off now and then on various dramas. They are, it seems, keeping score.

 

I knew our culture’s fracturing was tilting us toward this social Armageddon, but I had hoped we would regain sanity before it reached this point.

I first noticed that many LGBT fans embrace the view that Gay Lives Matter (more) on TV dramas when “The Walking Dead”  killed off one of its two lesbian characters, Dr. Denise Cloyd (Merritt Wever) with an arrow through the eye (from behind…TWD doesn’t fool around) and articles about the “problem” started popping up. Protests and fan freak-outs over the demise of fictional characters are nothing new, of course, but I didn’t realize that it wasn’t enough to have diversity in casting and individual characters on TV, and that groups with calculators were measuring happiness, success, heroism, villainy, life, death, good luck, bad luck and skin rashes by EEOC categories as well. This is neither compassionate, democratic, American nor healthy.

One TV show’s LGBT aficionados are in revolt over the death of a gay character. “The 100″  killed off Lexa, an openly gay major character, and her similarly gay fans are enraged and offended. They were unable to sleep, they said.   Some threatened to harm themselves; the writer of the deadly episode published a list of self-help hotlines. During the episode following Lexa’s death, the show’s fans created the topic #LGBT Fans Deserve Better on Twitter, which has since become an international LGBT phenomenon. Later, fans tweeted with Bury Tropes Not Us, opposing the alleged “trend” of TV shows creating gay characters only to kill them off later. Autostraddle, a lesbian and bisexual website,  compiled a list of 150 lesbian and bisexual characters in TV roles who have been killed, going back to 1976.

The ironic aspect of this—I will call it nonsense because it is nonsense, though it is also dangerous nonsense—nonsense is that the shows under fire are the same ones progressives have saluted for having diverse characters to begin with. Then, because those color-blind, gender-blind, age-blind, disability-blind, ethnicity-blind writers treat the diverse characters like they do any other characters—that is, they kill them when it advances the plot, creates buzz, or just because they feel like it, being gods in this make-believe universe, the shows are boycotted and derided for bigotry.You can bet that the much acclaimed and over-rated trans actress on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black has a job for the life of the series, because getting rid of her would be considered proof-positive of anti-trans hatred.

You have to feel sorry for “The Walking Dead,” which ended its latest season by leaving its audience in doubt regarding which character just got his or her brains beat out with a baseball bat, splattering blood on the camera lens. No matter whom the victim turns out to be, it will have offended some “tribe” and opened itself to accusations of bias. The possible victims include a black heterosexual woman, a mixed-race woman, a possibly gay adult white male, an Asian-American adult male, a white pregnant female (and her baby/fetus/ inhuman set of parasitic cells, depending on your point of view), a white juvenile male, and the show’s hero, an idiot. No matter who it is, some group will have evidence of antipathy, hate and bias by the writers, just as Black Lives Matters and its allies like Al Sharpton and the Congressional Black Caucus take the position that any time a black perp or suspect is killed by police, it is per se evidence of racism.

The current culture, poisoned by intentional promotion of group identification and tribalism, now encourages every man, woman and child to pick a team, and furiously assert that any misfortune that befalls another member of that team is presumptively suspicious. It is now retrograde and naive to admire individuals, real or imaginary, because of their character, their deeds, and their admirable talents and qualities. What matters is whether they “look like us,” we are told. People who look like us, talk like us, come from where we did, believe in the same god, have the same maladies, belong to the same party, have sex with the same gender as us, should matter more to us, even when they aren’t real.

Formerly or still mistreated minorities are leading the way in this cultural shift. Tribalism and group identification is a normal phase of any out-group’s legitimate defensive strategy until the group is accepted and trusted by the larger culture. Now, however, led by the permanent minority spoils philosophy that has the United States by the throat, that final acceptance and assimilation that obliterates the need for tribalism no longer is encouraged or even considered desirable. A powerful, and powerfully irresponsible, group of cultural leaders and opinion-makers wants to see the United States population sliced into smaller and smaller fiercely loyal tribal categories, and there will be dire consequences if every company, club, organization, union, government agency, cabinet, university, prison, Broadway cast and film and TV casualty list doesn’t hit the exact percentage of each tribe on the nose—which is an impossible task. It is meant to be, so our tribes will be at perpetual war.

Man oh man, am I out of step!  Back when Jimmy Smits’ character on “NYPD Blue” died of heart failure, I was deeply moved and also felt that the character was ennobled by his courageous handling of inevitable death. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to feel less emotion because he was a Hispanic-American and I wasn’t. I definitely didn’t realize that the writers killing an ethnic minority lead in a hit TV show was really a demonstration of racial animus.

In the case of “The 100,” the show’s creator felt the need to apologize, even though the reason the gay character was killed was that the actress who played her was committed to another project. Of course, that’s not the point to the tribal-minded. The objective is to use the fictional controversy to intimidate all non-tribe members in real life, saying “Don’t mess with us.”

National leaders and groups that are exploiting tribal warfare are risking the integrity connective tissue that holds our nation together. This latest phenomenon shows how quickly these bonds are fraying, and we ignore its implications at our collective peril.

_________________________

Pointer and Facts: Washington Post, Vanity Fair

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts, and seek written permission when appropriate. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work or property was used in any way without proper attribution, credit or permission, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

42 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Romance and Relationships, The Internet

42 responses to “All Fictional TV Characters’ Lives Matter

  1. A.M. Golden

    Same thing just happened on “Sleepy Hollow”. I cried my eyes out over Abbie Mills’ death. She didn’t look like me at all.

    It didn’t matter.

    But, reading the internet that night, apparently it was supposed to.

  2. Steve-O-in-NJ

    Actually Jimmy Smits’ Bobby Simone was French-Portuguese, and his parents met in Belize, but he wasn’t Hispanic. His dad DID get grief from fellow blue-collar workers for being dark-skinned. I wasn’t too pleased with Chicago Fire’s killing off of lesbian paramedic Leslie Shay or shipping mulatto Peter Mills off to North Carolina, but not because of race or orientation, but because both represented lazy storytelling and left a hole that no character has been able to properly fill. Dick Wolf, like it or not, is good at plot-driven stuff, but very lazy at character-driven stuff.

    • Wait—NYPD Blue didn’t cast a French-Portuguese actor to play Bobby? Now I am outraged.
      I’m sorry, but after Jimmy was the token Hispanic firm member on LA Law, how was I supposed to guess that Bobby wasn’t playing a Hispanic on his next show? Next you’ll tell me that Andre Braugher’s last role was a Scotch-Italian transexual born on Croatan.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        Ahaha, no. But, in Homicide: Life on the Street, Yaphet Kotto’s Lt. Giardello was supposedly half black, half Italian. Like yourself, I am big into popular culture.

  3. “a black heterosexual woman, a mixed-race woman, a possibly gay adult white male, an Asian-American adult male, a white pregnant female (and her baby/fetus/ inhuman set of parasitic cells, depending on your point of view), a white juvenile male, and the show’s hero, an idiot. ”

    The white juvenile male and the white pregnant female are expendable.

    • I’ve long been an advocate for the #shutupcarl movement. I’ve even espoused the need for Carl’s imminent doom at the hands of zombies, but alas, annoying teenage angst apparently is a topic the storytellers want to continue exploring.

      I’d put money on Daryl or Glen getting the bat.

  4. THE Bill

    Yeah , the whole fan base for TWD is a nuts, all of them.

    The show is badly written, the lead actor Andrew Lincoln has the range of A-B, which is going to become even more apparent when he has to share screen time with Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The show runner Scott M. Gimple is a condescending ass who has no idea how to tell a story with out either projecting what he is going to do ruining the suspense or being so slow placed and plodding that the story goes now where.

    My money is on them killing Abraham, in the comic Negan bases Glenn’s head in but they wont do that, I would , Id do it just to piss everyone off. In the comic its Abraham that gets shot through the eye not the Doctor. So I think they save him to get his head bashed in.

    • Jeez, do you follow the comic? I boycotted the show after the Glenn fake-out, and just go back to check episodes when I’m tipped off to an issue.

      I also appreciate your beef about all the British actors on the show, including Lincoln. There’s really no excuse for it, not with all the great US actors out of work. Good issue for Donald Trump…

      • THE Bill

        I’ve read some of them and find them badly written also.

        I only watch so I can give people shit about it when they start to gush about how brilliant it is. I tell them that its just Dallas but with zombies except JR would have chewed Rick up and spit him out and made The Governor his bitch.

      • It’s pretty racist to cast non-American actors into American roles.

    • joed68

      Is Abraham the ginger? Yeah, that makes sense. As far as I know, they’re not under the wing of some SJW group yet.

      I’d kill the idiot. He has FAR outlived his usefulness.

    • My order of probability of who gets the bat:

      1) Daryl (real world, he’s getting his own show soon)
      2) Glen (real world, he may be getting his own show soon, comics he’s the one actually Lucille’d to the death)
      3) Abraham (he’s been killed by now also, and, true to story-telling tropes, he’s gaining hope in his life. The best way to know a character in a dark story is about to die is when they get hope and no longer resign themselves to misery)

  5. Other Bill

    I would never consider watching a TV show called “The Walking Dead.”

  6. deery

    Which person is supposed to the mixed race woman? And is Darryl the possibly gay guy? If so, then you left off the openly gay white male, Aaron. And also Eugene, who is also an idiot, even if he is good at biting dicks.

    I think if they kill anyone other than Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, or Darryl, it would be a cop-out. No one else’s death would have as much impact. I think if they aren’t going to take down one of the big names, they should just pick a random, like Aaron or Rosita. Which probably means that Abraham will bite it, so no one is satisfied.

    • Darryl is the possibly gay guy. Personally, I think he’s asexual, like Montgomery Clift. I would have called the Eugene “the guy with the mullett,” and he deserves to die just for that. I was not trying to do a full inventory though.

      The term you are looking for is “red shirt.” Obviously Glenn is the one who has already used up one life—killing him would nearly make up for last season’s unconscionable fake-out. But not quite.

  7. Patrice

    I find it an interesting coincidence that you had a comment on another post that referenced the killing off of a beloved, although tribally neutral, character from a long departed short lived TV show’s spinoff movie. (“I am a leaf on the wind, etc.”) You have to admire Joss Whedon, as he just kills off people regardless.

  8. bexhrob

    I often wonder why they kill off certain characters, esp. when it screws with plots. Didn’t realize this actor had another contract… That’s Hollywood!

    • pennagain

      That’s usually the reason, especially in series with well-known or fairly well-known actors who already had other commitments or who get better offers when the show takes off into high ratings and, like most American television, will run on and on and on until the viewership aka advertising falls off and the actor is no longer as bankable.

  9. Paul Compton

    Don’t complain until it gets to the stage of being completly predictible that a certain type of character will die; as in:

    http://sevspace.com/stupidarchive/archivepage.asp-cartoonid=s85.htm

  10. The first and last character that was killed in fictional entertainment that I cared about was OLDYELLER.

  11. Meanwhile outside of the 1st World, Yezidi’s are still being beheaded and gays are still being thrown off towers in Raqqa…

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