The Return of the L Word
As someone who is a bit of a news junkie, along with a consumer of television and popular culture, this one Showtime announcement, about the return of the TV series The L Word might actually be one of the more urgent and important political headlines to come out of Hollywood for a while.
And yes, I’m thinking it is arguably more important than news of Alec or Stephen Baldwin…or even, gulp, Kate McKinnon.
Now how did I get here, your furrowed brow asks?
More or less I took a hop, skip, and a jump around the old neural parkway, aka hitched a ride on my nervous system.
So my first stop was at the Bury Your Gays trope. This trope has been around for quite a while now. If you are not familiar with this expression, it’s the idiom given to television shows who kill their gay characters off primarily as a means to further the plot of straight characters. Most often it follows a joyous event, such as a declaration of love—or even, yes, a marriage.
So to be clear, this accusation provoked by this trope is not “gay people can’t die in TV land” but rather, “if you must kill gay people, let it be for reasons integral to them and the role they play.” (For those who might wish to delve a bit further, Marie Lyn Bernard aka Reise, compiled a wonderfully comprehensive list—all 182 Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters on TV and How They Died—for the website Autostraddle. Reise will also walk you through 105 Trans Women on TV. Offhand, I do not have the gay male nor male trans equivalent to recommend here.)
One of the more recent occurrences of the Bury Your Gays was so violating in the eyes of LGBTQ people it spawned a whole movement.
The 100, a CW Sci-Fi, teen, dystopian-future series exists in the nether space somewhere between the Bury Your Gays Trope, and the “Anyone Can Die” trope. (This trope allows an overall excuse for us not raising havoc when LGBTQ people are killed off in series such as Game of Thrones or Walking Dead.)
In The 100, the chemistry between Lexa (played by Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Clarke (played by series star, Eliza Taylor) became different. This time, when Lexa was killed by a stray bullet meant for Clarke, the woman she loved, right after they consummated their relationship, fans didn’t simply, cynically tag it with Bury Your Gays. This time, fans got outraged.
And took to social media.
And began tweeting LGBT Fans Deserve Better, which morphed into an international FAN-LED initiative. Which in turn became a cry to Bury Tropes Not Us, and ultimately raised over $113,000 for The Trevor Project.
Which would have made such a fabulous story to share…
…Except it is so last year.
Which for many of us, was a lifetime ago.
So while this incredible energy and important stance was happening, another revolutionary, competing story was evolving.
Which crashed into my neural parkway right as I hit cruising speed.
The United States Justice Department filed an Amicus Brief urging a federal appeals court to rule that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans employment discrimination on the basis of sex, does not bar job discrimination based on SEXUAL ORIENTATION (a stance notably at odds with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission among others).
Now for those of you who might not be familiar with this, an amicus brief is a brief filed as a “friend of the court.” It is filed by a person or entity who is neither a party to a case nor solicited by a party to the case. In other words, it’s a choice.
So the Justice Department—our Justice Department—had to go out of its way to file these papers. They had to make a choice and act on it.\
And on that very same day, while the 84th Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, had his people filing a friendly brief arguing to exclude LGBTQ people from the protection of the Civil Rights Act, the President unleashed his tweet barring transgender people from serving in the military.
And this is why the return of The L Word is more urgent, more important, more necessary, and more political this time around.
Because this time around we must not and will not let others Bury Our Gays.
We will not die because we had a happy moment. And we will not fade into the background. And we will not disappear.
We will have full lives—sometimes funny, sometimes sad; sometimes simple, and sometimes extremely complicated, but they will be ours and they will be a part of the public fabric.
So let’s give a huge shout out to Showtime, a plea to the new Star Trek and a warning to so many others—now is not the time to Bury Your Gays, now is the time to say they are integral to the worlds you build.
And as for our world, let’s continue to build it for truth, liberty, justice, diversity, and inclusion for all.
Stefani Deoul is the author of the YA mystery novel On a LARP from Bywater Books. Contact Stefani.