Should a writer kill a gay character?

Totally neglected this blog in the past 12 months. ¬†Will do better, honest ūüėČ

Warning – spoilery for Last Tango In Halifax.

Rightio, so, as the title says, can you?  Last night, in Last Tango in Halifax, which is a popular BBC1 series (details here, if you have never heard of it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Tango_in_Halifax) the female spouse of one of the lead female characters met with a nasty accident and may or may not have died.

I watched the show and was very affected by what I saw.  I love the characters of Kate and Caroline, and certainly wanted them to have a happy ever after.  So I had a bit of a cry, and marveled at how wonderful the writing was that it could move me to genuine tears.

Then I read Twitter.

Now, I can totally understand people being upset, even angry, if something happens to a character they love. ¬†What I simply couldn’t fathom was that some were taking to Twitter to call the writer a homophobe for killing off a lesbian and accusing her of using a lazy trope in doing so.

I get that there’s a tendency in some series, especially in a lot of sci-fi/fantasy shows and often in US shows, to kill the gay guy or gal. And that’s wrong. It’s often used when a writer doesn’t know what to do with a gay character or because the broadcaster wants a quick nod at diversity. ¬†There’s a good rundown here,¬†and After Ellen lists¬†some of the worst deaths¬†here.¬†¬†It’s wrong that gay people are regularly depicted in this manner. However, to tar all writers who include a nuanced, rounded, dramatic, life or death gay story line into their work with that brush, seems, to me, to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

If I am writing a gay character, to think that I must take their sexuality into account when deciding their fate seems like a million steps backwards, equality-wise. ¬†If I wouldn’t kill a character for being gay, why would I save one for the same reason? If we start to put those restrictions on diverse characters, for fear of upsetting some of our audience, then we will see even less diversity than we already do, as writers will be so limited as to what we can do with those characters, and scared of the audience reaction if they push the envelope. ¬†And that’s not something I want to entertain for a second.

Of course, I don’t have first hand experience of being gay. Of course I can’t possibly know, first hand, what it’s like to live in a world where you are seen as different for your sexuality. I have ‘straight-privilege’, I get that. But I am never going to agree¬†that a writer shouldn’t do something for fear of upsetting the audience.

So, while I am absolutely sympathetic to anybody who found last night’s Last Tango upsetting, to expect a writer to only write stories that suit their own views or, worse, go on the attack when they are unhappy with a storyline, is¬†not the answer.

Edit –¬†

Owing to the huge traffic on this I’m unable to keep responding to every comment, but I will moderate/approve every single post, positive and negative. ¬†The only exception to this rule is abusive and/or aggressive comments either directed towards me, towards the LTiH cast or crew, or towards the gay community. Bang out of order.