The mistreatment of queer characters is more than fiction

The mistreatment of queer characters in TV shows is nothing new: the ‘burying your gays’ trope has been evident in popular media for far too long. This is the idea that queer people are stripped of a happy ending or healthy relationship, likely including a fatality. Often, the queer character was only a display of tokenism in the first place, not contributing to the wider plot or instead working to improve the character development of the cishet main characters. Some of your favourite TV shows likely include this trope, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Larry, the only ‘out and proud’ gay character and only named fatality of the season three finale, and Hollyoaks which, though it has made waves for LGBT representation in soaps, plays heavily into the psycho lesbian trope.

On that note, Killing Eve’s recent finale similarly betrayed its queer audience by falling victim to many of these restrictive tropes. The ending of season three gave fans hope their favourite duo would finally find peace together, away from the wider corrupt systems that have confined them to a cycle of emotional turmoil. However, Laurie Nunn – of Sex Education fame- had other ideas. For reasons not clearly explained, Eve and Villanelle seem to have forgotten about their entire reunition on the bridge scene: Eve is on a murderous mission of her own whilst Villanelle seeks divine intervention. As sapphic audience members, the Christian rebirth journey to abolish sin is something many of us are exhausted from and reflects a wider lesbophobic discourse- that a woman-love-woman relationship is sinful, and that religious and queer identities cannot coexist. Throughout the series, Villanelle’s bisexuality is casually a part of her identity, not dismissed yet not elevated. This type of representation is itself a rarity, and can be life-saving to those who see themselves reflected on screen (though, hopefully, without the affinity for assassination). It is therefore beyond disappointing, and often actively harmful when, after several seasons of fan dedication and character growth. We see Villanelle embrace a softer side to life throughout the final season, that audience is rewarded with a character they align with facing the happiness they have worked for suddenly revoked. The outcry we see from queer fanbases in such cases is because the hope that a queer person could be deserving of love and peace is something many of us have felt is beyond our reach, and even fiction won’t allow us to believe it. The reason this time feels different from similar examples such as in Supernatural or The 100– for which writers merely released a statement conveying their intent to do better- is because the actors are so clearly discontent with the series finale and even Luke Jennings, the author of Codename: Villanelle which Killing Eve is based upon, was “taken aback” by the ending. Producers should be taking note that we will no longer accept the mistreatment of queer identities. Queer TV fans deserve to be able to escape the realities of a heteronormative society through the world of fiction.

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Libby Hargreaves

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May 2022
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