There is a trope in all works of fiction called "Bury Your Gays," and it's been going on for a long, long time. The moniker is pretty self-explanatory, and the issue is pervasive, but it's only very recently — thanks to the death of Alycia Debnam-Carey's lesbian warrior queen Lexa, on "The 100" — come under major media scrutiny.
I want to start this off by disclosing that I'm a cis straight women, and that the deaths of these characters didn't cause the devastation in me that it's caused in the several LGBTQ teens I've spoken with (mostly on Tumblr) after Lexa's demise. But I do know a little bit about what it's like to experience the pain of underrepresentation onscreen, and sites like AfterEllen and AutoStraddle (as well as fans on Twitter and Tumblr) have helped me learn just how shitty and all-encompassing Bury Your Gays is, particularly when it comes to the absurdly frequent killings of lesbians on television.
So, on that note — with the terrible, unnecessary, very poorly timed death of Merritt Wever's Denise on "The Walking Dead" (more on that in a second) — here are 5 queer woman deaths that sucked hard. Because TV needs to do better:
Lexa, "The 100"
Lexa's death on "The 100" ignited a firestorm, thanks almost entirely to a social media and LGBTQ-friendly fandom. Many fans guessed that Lexa might die thanks to her portrayer Alycia Debnam-Carey booking a series regular role on "Fear the Walking Dead" — which moved production from Vancouver, where "The 100" films, to Mexico for its second season — but we all thought that the show, which has received widespread praise for its LGBTQ and racial inclusion in the past, would handle her exit better.
Lexa was a warrior queen, but instead of dying in battle or being banned from her tribe thanks to one of her many controversial political moves, she was killed minutes after consummating her lesbian relationship by a stray bullet meant for her lover. This directly mirrored multiple queer female deaths in other shows (most notably, in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), and to many, seemed to serve no other real purpose but to punish Lexa for her queerness and make Clarke — who is bisexual, not lesbian — available for a relationship with the show's heterosexual male protagonist.
As a result, many fans are actively boycotting the show, and have made hashtags like "LGBTFansDeserveBetter" trend nationally.
Denise, "The Walking Dead"
In a case of "worst timing ever," "The Walking Dead" killed off Denise, the girlfriend of the long-running (for them, anyway) Grimes Gang member Tara, two weeks after Lexa's death on "The 100." (ASIDE: I write this before the episode's airdate, but I feel pretty strongly that LGBTQ "Walking Dead" fans — and critics who are also following this "The 100" mess, probably — will respond to this poorly.)
Denise's death had disturbing similarities to Lexa's. She was killed by a stray arrow meant for someone else (Daryl), her gay relationship was built up then destroyed to emotionally affect an audience, and she was punished for being in love — much like Lexa took a bullet for Clarke, Denise was professing her love to Tara to other cast members when she was shot in the head mid-sentence.
Also, it's important to note that A) multiple other characters could have been killed by The Saviors and had a similar affect on the story (Eugene and Rosita, who were both there, come to mind) and B) this is the second female love interest of Tara's who has been killed on the show. So of three "Walking Dead" lesbians, two have died horribly.
Tara, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Tara's death is the first queer lady demise I remember watching. It sucked then, and it sucks now. Creator Joss Whedon famously added actress Amber Benson to the "Buffy" credits as a series regular for the first time in the episode "Seeing Red," then had her shot through the heart by one of the series' lamest villains at the end of the episode — right after she and Willow were shown in bed, which lends itself to the "100"-approved trope that lesbian sex should be punished.
If "Buffy" fans had had access to the same social media platforms "The 100" does, boy would this have caused a stir. And to be fair, it totally did back in 2002, but there's a difference between producers receiving angry fan letters that only they will see, and thousands upon thousands of fans writing tweets and blogs that everyone will see.
Tara, "True Blood"
Want to create the perfect doomed character on a supernatural television show? Easy! Just name her Tara, and make her gay.
The third gay Tara on this list and second dead one, Tara Thornton was killed in the opening seconds of the final season of "True Blood" for pure shock value. The show already had a shoddy track record with gay women (Nan, Sophie) before her, but Tara's death sucked in particular because she was a series lead who essentially exploded in .5 seconds with little fanfare, and also, because her new relationship with the bisexual Pam was only just starting to blossom. (It was also one of the most interesting things going on on the show, because "True Blood" was terrible by then, and Pam one of its top two characters.)
I must admit, I stopped watching "Supernatural" by the time Felicia Day's (who was also on "Buffy!") Charlie was brutally murdered, mostly because the show had killed off such an inexcusable number of women by that point that I couldn't stand it anymore. But I loved Charlie, a lesbian hunter of all things supernatural, throughout seasons seven, eight, and nine, so when I heard of her Season 10 demise — and mind you, this is after the show received public backlash for its many "fridgings" of female characters — I was convinced to never pick up "Supernatural" again.
Basically, all women — gay or straight — die on that show, but Charlie's death was particularly upsetting because of the lack of queer female visibility on television, Day's inherent likability, and the fact that "Supernatural" seemed to be laughing in the face of the years of criticism it received for its abysmal treatment of women.