Doctor Who killed off a gay character in 25 seconds, and I’m fine with it.
*Warning spoilers to Doctor Who, Supernatural, and ffs who else knows*
In a recent episode of Doctor Who a gay security guard was introduced—we barely know anything about this person, other than the brief mentioning of his boyfriend, confirming his sexuality to be on the gayer side of the spectrum. However, this character didn’t last long, being swiftly killed off as most security guards who serve no purpose do on TV, and people aren’t happy about it.
I, however, do not care. Why? Because this character was a classic redshirt. It was a “bit” part to add a little drama, and regardless of whether the writers’ had taken that quip about him having a boyfriend out or not, the end result would’ve been the same.
This man was not killed because he was a gay character. He was a man who was killed—who also happened to be gay.
#BuryYourGays was something that surfaced a few years ago when every TV show from The Walking Dead to The Vampire Diaries decided to massacre fan favorite LGBT characters.
Understandably, people were pissed, especially with the CW shows like Supernatural (killing off fan-favorite “Charlie” in the shoddiest of plot twists), and Arrow (giving Sara Lance a swift arrow to the stomach during the season 3 premiere, despite spending half of season 2 building her character)
The reason these deaths hit so hard is because they were taking characters whose stories were just getting started—characters who fans loved, and who were on their way to becoming series regulars—and snuffing them out in poorly executed ways. These deaths were used so that the straight characters, regardless of how unlikeable they were, could grieve and get another season’s worth of angst. There was no reason these characters had to die, which led a lot of people to believe that they were selected as being the expendable plot-device simply because they were LGBT.
And I agree with that.
However, what I don’t agree with is that a random security guard, or an extra walking down an ally, or the last person to close up shop are off limits because they’re LGBT. How many times have we opened up a TV show with someone getting murdered in a backstreet? How many times have we seen a random cashier, or banker, or the sole cleaner working the night shift get taken by the ax-wielding maniac? Thousands. And we’ve never once questioned who they were, or why they had to die. They were little more than a set-up for the characters we actually care about to do their thing.
And that’s exactly what this security guard was. The key difference is that he happened to have dialogue that mentioned a same-sex relationship. But he wasn’t a “character.” He wasn’t someone we were supposed to get attached to. His sole purpose, regardless of his sexuality, was to die, and as I’ve mentioned, there are thousands of shows and movies that drop nameless bodies without anyone batting an eye.
Or do you believe that the only extras that can get killed have to be straight?
While we’re here, I’d also like to note that Doctor Who has had extremely positive LGBT representation in the form of Captain Jack Harkness, who led his own series “Torchwood” for 4 seasons. And the aforementioned shows “Arrow” and “Supernatural” have both since course corrected, listening to their fanbases and reversing the deaths of their LGBT characters in one way or another (Sara Lance is now the openly bi-sexual leader of her own show: Legends of Tomorrow, where she time travels along with a male bi-sexual demon hunter, John Constantine… it’s a lot of fun)
So, while I do think #BuryYourGays is valid, and that it IS something these showrunners should be thinking about more when they decide to kill off a character for shock value, I do not think it applies to this particular scenario. I also don’t think we should kick up a fuss every time an LGBT character dies, after all, straight characters are killed off on shows for stupid reasons all the time, and sometimes equality means being subjected to the same shoddy writing that straight characters have suffered for generations.