Should a writer kill a gay character?

Totally neglected this blog in the past 12 months.  Will do better, honest 😉

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 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.


144 thoughts on “Should a writer kill a gay character?

  1. Like you say, you don’t know what it’s like to be lesbian in this society. Mostly invisible, even with increased legal ‘legitimacy’, gay women are so often appear on tv and film as rough sketches, lacking in detail, unhappy lives, a bit strange, maybe dangerous, possibly a vampire, quite likely mad. It is expected that a lesbian character will meet an untimely, unhappy end. That’s how it’s done. Until that is not how it is done, enough times to balance out the how it is currently done, please expect gay women to feel betrayed and misrepresented. We’re getting there with shaking off the ‘yessss maasser!’ portrayal of black people. Next step, the dykes please… and don’t spare the horses.

    • I don’t feel its about killing off a gay character, I don’t believe that is Sally Wainwright’s style. It seems to me it is the same old fallback position of not allowing a lead character to find lasting happiness -for some reason someone has to die! Where would the angst come from if Caroline and Kate were allowed to be happy and settled? Celia and Alan can’t be despatched, at least not yet anyway, and Gillian doesn’t know how to be happy! So that only leaves the lesser characters to mess around with. Not quite so compelling!

      • It does adhere to the rules of drama, which is kind of what I’ve been trying to clumsily say all along. I’m heartened in some respects that a gay relationship is treated with the same very high stakes as a straight relationship would be in a primetime BBC drama.

        From this discussion here I can understand how this is a two-sided coin, however.

    • Whilst I agree that a writer has the right to draw their characters as they see fit, I believe that any writer has some responsibility, if not to challenge, at least to avoid perpetuating an age old stereotypical cliché. Being gay is still a huge issue in the UK. Young people are bullied, rejected and driven to suicide, despite the legal changes. To never see yourself reflected in dramas, as anything other than tragic, psychotic or desperately unhappy, is unbelievably debilitating for people already marginalised by prejudice and ignorance. SW was very happy to use lesbian characters that seemed to challenge these stereotypes. C and K were modern, successful, confident women, refusing to live in hiding, and apart from Kate’s sleeping with a man in order to get pregnant (which lesbian hasn’t heard of a Turkey baster?) We celebrated this wonderful relationship like starving children falling on a hot dinner. Then with shocking suddenness, it’s taken away. Not only one of the lesbians, but the only non white character in the show. Try to imagine how hard this is for women deprived of positive images of themselves for decades. Maybe then you’ll understand the reaction Kate’s demise has wrought.

      • I *do* understand the reaction. I can see why people are upset. However, I don’t think the death was homophobic or a trope, and I believe those accusations are unfair.

        I’m not saying anyone is wrong to be unhappy about the death of a beloved character.

  2. I don’t think it should be off the cards for a writer to kill off a gay character. I don’t think their sexuality should give them a shield of invincibility. I don’t think such rules would ever serve storytelling any better than a dictat to make sure the deviants end up safely dead did.

    But I do think that a writer is often well-served in understanding where audience responses are coming from. And to be careful to distinguish an instinctive cry of disappointment from an attack.

    I know any writer ideally wants their audience to trust them. Sometimes, however, writers that came before you have poisoned the well and that’s all there is to it. It’s uphill work to win back the trust of an audience that’s learned to be wary. Especially if there’s a bait and switch that looks too like a familiar trap. I’m sorry for writers who have to work against that. I’m sorrier for gay women who’ve been caught by that trap so often they’ve given up expecting decent representation.

    If there were any writer in the world to whom I wish I could trust unreservedly it would be Sally Wainwright. But even for her – even as somebody who has bored my friends to tears at parties talking about her intelligent feminist writing – I can’t turn off a lifetime’s worth of conditioning. There’s not even enough trust left in the pot for Sally Wainwright – that’s how bad the deficit of good experiences with this trope is over here.

      • Thank you for reading through my ramblings. And I would like particularly to say thank you for providing a longer-format space in which to hold the discussion you’ve invited.

        The history of the relationship between gay audiences and mainstream stories about is us a long and storied one that (I’m sure you understand) has an emotional component for a lot of people that we can’t really put aside. That it doesn’t make any sense for us to try to put aside – not while we’re being an engaged audience. But that’s too much ground to cover in 150 characters without becoming deeply tangled in the frustration of how much there is to say.

        (Especially when terms like ‘collateral damage’, ‘dramatic integrity’, ‘subjective experience’, ‘gestalt effect of constant reiteration’, ‘dearth of positive representation’, ‘truncated narratives’ etc have so many letters, while ‘Here we go again. F**k.’ is so pithy and leaves room for extra hashtags.)

        May I ask – do you have a policy on spoilers for this discussion? There’s new information out there today in tv guides and promo pictures that changes what we know about this particular instance of the trope.

      • Not sure why it’s not letting me reply to your comment, odd.

        I’d rather not do spoilers for the next episode on here, because I’m avoiding them at all costs. There are so few shows that I actively avoid spoilers for, and this is one 🙂

        Yeah, I do get that once you’ve seen the same old tired shit happen over and over again it gets tough to see it in one of your favourite shows. I can only speak from a writers standpoint, in that it would limit what I could do with a lesbian character if I felt I couldn’t put her in jeopardy. Drama comes from all of the horrible things, and it’s difficult if you feel straitjacketed (if you’ll mind the pun!)

        It’s an impossible debate to have in 140 characters, which is why I blogged it. I’m still not sure how exactly to get across what I am trying to say. I think in a nutshell, I work on characters, and while sexuality is a piece of that, it’s only one piece. So, I guess, I do what I feel is right for the character without regard for their sexuality, unless it figures in that particular part of their life. If that makes sense? I’d never look at a character and kill them because of their sexuality, unless it was a story about hate crime, or similar.

  3. I don’t think it would hurt quite so much if we had even a handful of evidential relationships that we do not all, in fact, face an untimely death right after our happiest moments.

    Every gay relationship I’ve ever seen in television, the ones that have meant the most to me, where I thought I was seeing myself reflected, have ended this way. With the rug pulled out in order to service a bigger plot. And it makes me feel like I’m disposable.

    But maybe the problem is not that gay people are disposable (I mean, I think many people are quite fond of me). But the roles we are given ARE disposable. Because you very rarely see a gay person as the lead, unless the show is, you know, only for gay people. Because no one else could possibly relate to us? Is that it?

    Caroline and Kate were truly groundbreaking, in my opinion. I saw in Caroline’s journey what felt real and true and reflective of me, of my journey. And I saw in Kate the woman I love. The woman who I loved enough to put everything in my life at risk. And when I saw where Caroline got, I was so proud of her. I was so proud of myself.

    And then… again… the rug was pulled out. All that she worked for, all that she struggled against, was basically for nothing. And I know that’s simplifying, but that’s how it felt.

    I still think the show is remarkable. I think Sally Wainwright is a beautiful writer. But she has always been someone who subverts tropes. Who looks them in the eye and says “Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do? Watch me do the exact opposite and dazzle you with it.”

    It’s going to take me a while to forgive that this didn’t apply to Kate.

    • I agree with everything you’ve written here and I can understand why you’re upset.
      My main problem is with those (not you) crying ‘homophobia’, which I really don’t believe applies in this case. But being disappointed that this storyline has taken place, I totally respect that.

      • You’re absolutely right. It’s a very touchy issue. I understand an outcry, but I think it does NO ONE any good to attack creators who are not coming from a malicious place because all it does is sour people to the issue overall. We cannot have allies if we attack the ones who are attempting to fold us into the greater narrative.

        This is good discussion, we should keep it going.

      • I actually believe, as in all honesty most other gay women who feel saddened by this plot line probably believe, that it isn’t based in homophobia. However, and it is a BIG however, because of the pitiful lack of positive lesbian representation in popular culture a writer has, at this stage, a responsibility to not to follow the norm… that of killing us off, leading us back to men or condemning us to a lonely, loveless existence with only our cats for company. There has been such a massive surge of joy, hope and dare I say it, pride, that a relationship between two women was finally portrayed in a prime time TV programme as equal to that of heterosexual couples. It’s hard to explain the utter sense of betrayal that many gay women may be feeling about this without sounding like a sad old spinster with no life. Perhaps that may be the key to all of this; that we are out there, living our lives in a million multitudes of happy and sad, together and alone, loved and left, successful and wishing. Let’s have the gamut that life is, shown in all its complexity, but go a little easier on the tragedy – more than a day of wedded bliss and for goodness sake, let’s us have a few more moments in the sun. We are no more mortal than anyone else!

      • I’m totally with you about having positive LGBT relationships on TV as per normal. Because it IS normal. What is abnormal is that it’s not happening, or is happening so slowly. That’s where it’s odd.

      • I would not call Sally Wainwright a homophobe or any other name, but I do think it’s important to understand that homophobia is not always as blatant as calling someone a ‘faggot’ or ‘lesbo’ to their face. It is also perpetuating, or simply going along with, myths about gay people. Ms Wainwright is guilty of that. Specifically, the ‘gay people can find no true or lasting happiness’ myth. We are almost always shown as doomed to tragedy and loss of our loved ones in movie or TV drama. Many straight folks go along with that and indeed, they celebrate it. “Got what they deserved!”. She is entitled to write her story the way she wishes, using any plot device she chooses. But killing off this character, in this story, at this stage, is as clear an example of subliminal homophobia as I have seen. It is my hope the negitive criticism she is currently getting will help her see this and apply that knowledge to her future work.

      • I’m really sad you feel that way. I’m not doubting you’ve experienced that, but please know that most straight people don’t think that. If anyone in my acquaintance held views like the ones you’ve experienced, I promise you they would not be in my acquaintance ever again, and they’d probably be hobbling off with my boot firmly where the sun doesn’t shine. The same goes for all my straight friends. But honestly, in the last ten years I can only think of one person I got to know who had those feelings, and they were swiftly ejected from my social group.

        I’m so sad that you have to feel that way. It sucks.

    • Oh, Rebecca, you said it for me, too. Add to that the disposability of a PoC and it raised my hackles. This column is lovely, thank you for it. Please don’t defend a really big gaff, though. It was (is) outrageous to kill a wonderfully happy near term pregnant woman the day after her wedding. True to life? Hardly. Added drama? To me, it was off the rails. Regardless of the character’s sexual orientation, the circumstances alone would forbear the story line. Any writer can step on toes unwillingly. A savvy feminist writer like Sally needs to be forthcoming with a correction if not a public apology. So now we’re glossing it over with a ghost. “It’s going to take me awhile to forgive that this didn’t apply to Kate.” x2

  4. (To be fair, she might still be alive and I’m waiting to find out, though it doesn’t look promising. I think the internet fed off of itself this time around and jumped the gun on a lot of response.)

    • I agree, Rebecca. Kate could be in a coma. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed she is. That said, as the little old lesbian lady spinster with her cat that I am, I love Sally Wainwright, I do not consider her homophobic, nor what she wrote homophobic. I praise and bless her for giving us Caroline and Kate. HOWEVER, I was gutted when the day after the wedding just as life was returning to some semblance of normalcy, the pregnant Kate was struck down. Caroline foreshadowed this as being so unfair when on the floor in her office she cried WITH RELIEF when her mother and Alan were safe and sound and not dead. Kate’s accident seems like such a cruel twist on Sally’s part, but we still have three episodes to go to see what happens. May Sally make us happy again and not filled with grief and sorrow!!!

      • Now, having watched it, I’m actually significantly more disappointed as a fellow storyteller than a gay woman. Sally’s explanation for the narrative necessity is thin, frankly. I would have loved to get the story of a TRUE falling out between Caroline and Celia – how that would affect the family dynamic overall, who would be dragged into it, what would change in everyone’s lives. How would Celia feel about being kept out of Flora’s life? Would she feel anything really? Where’s that story?

        Or, another option, what if William were the one to die? How does Caroline deal with having lost her dear child while she is supposed to be celebrating the addition of a new life to her family? How does Caroline’s response to it all affect Kate? John? Would John FINALLY have something to do other than follow Gillian around? Celia would also certainly be more rocked by the loss of her grandson. And maybe even Lawrence would have something to do other than be awful.

        The loss of Kate affects Caroline significantly more than everyone else and while it’s a deep story for her, I figure you’ll get a couple episodes out of it and that’s not nearly as deep as what they could have done.

        More than anything, the fact that the character was dictated by the narrative and the narrative was not dictated by character was supremely disappointing.

      • “More than anything, the fact that the character was dictated by the narrative and the narrative was not dictated by character was supremely disappointing.”

        Brill, simply brill. Enough from me.

  5. I haven’t actually read anyone calling Sally a homophobe, or even a racist whilst we’re at it. But when it happens over, and over, and over again to characters that we’re supposed to relate to it really hurts. The fact of the matter is, whether it has anything to do with her race or her sexuality or not, they chose to have this happen to Kate. The ONLY WOC on the show and one half of the most well loved queer couple on tv that I know of.

    The writers know how much this representation means to the fans. How many people it’s helped, how many viewers see themselves (and their other halves too) in the characters and completely relate to them and have fallen in love with these characters. To then decide to kill one of them, when there is a whole stack of characters to pick from, to further the development of other non minority characters is going to upset the fans. And rightly so. When you suffer through watching shows (yes, usually american but it has been shown in UK shows many, many times) use the same tropes and ideas for so long, with no genuine progression, just to create drama and further the storyline of, usually, the white cishet male lead (although I know that is the not the case here, I am simply explaining) you do start to lose a lot of respect and trust in writers who follow in the same footsteps.

    Of story lines I know of, where the characters have either been canonically queer or the actors have said that they are but the networks don’t want that on the show, the queer couple have ended very quickly. For a few reasons.

    Shaw and Root, Person of Interest: Shaw kisses Root and then gets killed. (this happened 1 week ago)
    Callie and Arizona, Greys Anatomy: they’re together. Then Arizona picks her job over Callie. Then Callie is pregnant when Arizona returns to her best friend who she had sex with (which is another thing not too many people were happy about with Kate but I admit, imo, Sally did this well. till now.) then she almost dies in a car accident. Then Arizona almost dies in a plane crash. And then Arizona cheated and they are no longer together. Such a nice story right?
    Myka and HG, Warehouse 13: Never canon, but both actresses openly expressed that their characters were IN LOVE. The series ended with Myka in a relationship with basically her brother and HG with a woman (after Jaime Murray asked for her to leave the dude they put her with to try and push the fans out)
    Sian and Sophie, Coronation Street: They were together. Married I think? But then Sophie cheated and it was over. Fun.
    Cat and Frankie, Lip Service: Now I know, this was a show for lesbians so it was going to happen to one of them. BUt just as they’re happy, getting back together after a LONG time apart (even though Cat did have a girlfriend at the time) Cat steps into the street and gets killed. Sounds very familiar.
    Sarah Barnes & Girlfriend, Hollyoaks: I admit, I don’t remember her gf’s name. But she died after jumping out of a plane because her girlfriend was jealous and tried to kill her best friend/sometimes lover.
    Pepa and Silvia, Los Hombres de Paco: It’s a cop show, so yeah, you expect characters to die. But these two went through a lot. Together. Not together. Sleeping with other people. Together. Getting married. Dead. Literally, at their wedding party a group of gunmen shoot at the place. Silvia was the only fatality.

    And that isn’t even going into the number of POC who are killed to help character progression. Kate and Shaw from POI apply to this too. (although I am white so I won’t go into this one myself)

    There are many more but those are my examples of what I’ve seen. And many of these occurred whilst I was still finding myself, discovering my sexuality, looking for acceptance and representation to know this was normal.

    And you know, I love Last Tango, so much because it’s everything I would’ve wanted when I was going through that. And what I hope young people going through that now can watch. Besides it’s just so beautifully written. It’s not sexualised, it’s not forced to give a “nod at diversity”, it just is. Because it’s natural, it’s love. Plain and simple. But after everything, when you see women being killed to further a male’s storyline, or a gay background character being killed off (of just having anything happen) to further a straight characters storyline it gets to be too much sometimes. It makes us think we’re disposable. That we only matter to make other people “see the light” or whatnot.

    We’re not calling Sally a homophobe, or a racist. We’re simply saying that this has been done over and over again and it hurts when it comes from someone that we trusted and respected to treat this amazing couple the way they deserved.

    There were many ways to use an accident to progress storylines without killing the character. Post-Natal depression for one (as I only ever recall seeing this on TV in Eastenders I think a few years back) because of the accident meaning Caroline is trying to look after the baby and help Kate at the same time.And have Celia see herself in Caroline at the hospital after Alan was there, helping her see that it’s simply LOVE. Or just not have the accident and have Celia recognise that a same sex couple can bring up a baby perfectly fine. I don’t know. I’m not the writer on this show, so I have no right to suggest storylines but I’m just saying there were options! Obvious options that everyone can see (including my straight mother and grandmother who are both as upset as I am about this storyline).

    I’ve ranted her quite a bit, so I’m sorry. But to see someone like Sally do something so…hurtful?…is really upsetting. I always trusted her to avoid tropes, to do the opposite in fact, but now I’m not sure. And at the moment, I do not feel like I can continue to watch for the time being. I will always love this show, from the bottom of my heart, and I will never forget how it impacted me, how it saved me. But if I continue I feel as though it’s going to do the opposite.

    Thank you for sharing your opinion though and I apologise if this sounded rude or like I was blaming. I don’t want to do that. I just want to show why we’re upset and disappointed in Sally (and the writers team as I’m assuming she doesn’t do it alone) for going down this path (although I’ve probably explained rather badly). Especially in the same episode as they get married.

    I will continue to watch other projects, as I simply adore the cast, especially Sarah and Nina. But right now, I just feel very let down but LTIH.

    Again sorry for this rant, and I’m sorry it was so long. I’m just so very very upset by this.

    • You’re definitely not being rude – I think you’ve explained yourself well and that really is a proper list of shame you’ve given. It does put the situation into context.

      There are definitely accusations of homophobia out there – I read quite a few on Twitter. They might have been deleted or removed since, but they were there on Sunday night, along with posts calling Sally ‘lazy’, and I think the past episodes prove she is anything but.

      I totally understand being upset. I cried my eyes out, and I don’t want her to die. I am nowhere near as invested in it as many of the women I have spoken to online this week, and I totally get why. I accept that disappointment and why it may feel very personal and that is an absolutely valid reaction. However, the people who tore into Sally and the team, I felt, took it too far and said things that are completely untrue.

      I don’t understand why diversity is still so ill-served on our screens. There’s no excuse whatsoever except for poor writing/commissioning. It’s utterly ludicrous.

      • I’m not sure that I have anything new to add to the debate at this point, as so many have expressed themselves to eloquently here. Thank you so much, Lisa, for opening up this discussion.

        I’ve read things here that really sum up my many and contradictory feelings about Last Tango at this point. It’s wonderful to have such eloquent and considered responses here, as in most other places (twitter, facebook, various forums) it has all gone a bit depressing and aggressive.

        What I will say is that a response of this magnitude deserves some thought and attention. I’m pretty confident that Sally is in no way homophobic – after all, she’s just given us two years of Kate and Caroline – the ONLY lesbian couple I’ve ever seen portrayed in a realistic, sexy, sensitive, domestic and committed way on british TV. Like, ever. I think that’s why everyone’s so upset at this plot twist. I also think that no matter what you think about the plot itself (and I do see your point that we should’t shy away from drama and death when it comes to the gays, in the same way that we don’t shy away from it with straight characters) we do all need to pay attention to how much upset, uproar, anger, sadness and frustration that this plotline has brought up. Hundreds, if not thousands, of fans have been moved to post publicly about how upset they are over this plotline, and have called it out as a narrative that plays into homophobic tropes. If so many are calling it out, it’s clearly a problem, no matter what the intentions of the author are (and I do believe that Sally’s intentions were good).

        However, I also think we should see how it plays out. I really really really wish that Sally had let Kate and Caroline have a little bit of post-marital life together, and think it would have been really cool to see a gay, married, mixed race couple raise a child together, with all the difficulties and joys and contradictions that might arise from that situation. However, I also hope that Sally’s exploration of what it means to be gay will not stop with Kate’s death. Lesbian widowhood and lesbian parenting are interesting things to explore, and I really hope that in spite of Kate’s death, Caroline’s sexuality is still acknowledged and dealt with. My only worry is the involvement of John and Greg. I can accept that Sally has killed Kate, but if Caroline ends up getting remotely romantically involved with either John or Greg, I will take it very badly, and it really will descend into a (yes) homophobic and, to be frank, archaic narrative that would undo all of the great work Sally has done over the past couple of years.

        Having said that, I’d like to end on a positive note – Sally’s dialogue, combined with Sarah Lancashire and Nina Sosanya’s amazing acting skills, have been gamechanging over the last couple of years. I’m 30 now, and came out at 17. As a tortured, shamed, closeted teenager, I could never have imagined a time in which two hot, feminine women were allowed to have a big old snog and just be really happy together on a primetime, mainstream, BBC1 tv programme. And I’m pretty young – that was only 13 years ago! So god knows how much more this show has affected older generations. I just hope the rest of the series does all that hard work justice.

      • But I do think there is an element of laziness here. I mean what else is it when you are writing minority characters and don’t educate yourself on what types of stories have gone on before? I get the feeling that some of the production team was shocked that almost every response from the lesbian community was a variation of “not again” with different degrees of anger/disappointment. Its not like this was a secret, there have been documentaries made about it. Spend anytime on any lesbian media fan site and you’ll quickly realize that half of us watch TV waiting for the axe to fall. i

        And while I don’t think that Sally is a homophobe or anything, the dead lesbian storyline is a product of homophobia in our culture: It was used to teach us that homosexuality is bad. That storyline has obviously morphed into something different in 2015 but that’s where it started. Now we get killed off because writers don’t know what to do with our characters anymore (RIP Shay, Chicago Fire) or to add more drama for the more important straight characters. Whatever the intent of the writer, the end result is the same: one less lesbian on TV, more “drama” for a section of your audience who would probably pay good money to watch a decent lesbian RomCom and a reminder that we still can’t quite break free from the homophobia of the past. Because every time it happens, you can’t help but be reminded where this tired storyline all started. You know what would be ground breaking, a storyline that actually celebrates our lives, our struggles and doesn’t end in misery. There are a few of those but this storyline wasn’t it.

        Sorry for the rant, but I literally got into the show two weeks ago and bought season 1 on Amazon. I’m just angry at myself for paying 13 dollars without knowing how it ended. I’m sure Sally will write something exquisite out of all this and the acting will be phenomenal but I literally can’t watch it without being angry.

      • I don’t really have the energy anymore to discuss this (not in an argumentative way but I’m just so upset that if I start I may just become rude and such) but I will direct you to this interview that Sally has done. (I’m assuming links work here so if there is nothing I will try to repost it better afterwards)

        It really has shown that she doesn’t really understand why we’re all upset. Especially as she calls the tropes “myths” that people have made and her reasoning is not very good at all. If she really needed to kill someone to fix Caroline and Celia’s relationship then why not William imo? The actor had already left and, as much as love him, with William off at university it wouldn’t have caused that much disruption to fans either? But even saying that, it’s not like we even saw them reconciling, or Caroline being conflicted over needing her mum and still being angry at how bigoted she is? Plus, the use of ghost!Kate wasn’t nearly as well executed as it could’ve been.

        I’m very disappointed and I wanted to wait till this week to decide whether to continue for sure but I really do not feel like I can. Her reasoning for this “plot device” does not give me any hope for the future of the show. And then as she says that Caroline doesn’t meet a new Woman (or man?) gives me two thoughts. A) Caroline’s sexuality will no longer matter, therefore wiping away any diversity this show has. Much like JK Rowling and Dumbledore, just because you say they are doesn’t make it better when we can’t see them live that life happily, rather than lonely (I don’t know if I explained that how I mean but hopefully you understand) and B) if she doesn’t “meet” someone new, does that leave space for her being with someone she’s already met?

        I’m not explaining this half as well as I wish I could be, I’m just rather overwhelmed by my feelings on this. I know it’s just a show but when you see these characters and love them and relate to them, to have the stability that the show has given us pulled out from under us (and I understand there has to be drama, but this is over done cruel melodrama) it’s going to affect us.

        I’ve seen posts by people who’s depression has flared because of this, people who’ve had to take days off work because they were affected by it so negatively. I just really do not think that Sally truly understood, as she always said, how much this couple meant to the fans. I do not wish to “hate” on her and I know there are many aspects involved but, especially after seeing that Kate leaving wasn’t even a decision of Nina’s, I’m just too upset and disappointed in the show to continue watching it (at least as passionately as I did before).

        I’m deeply saddened that I’m feeling this way but the show is just not what it was anymore, and I fear will never be again.

        I just hope that one day, when I hopefully fulfill my dreams of writing for shows like this, other writers out there and I do not make the same misguided decisions that Sally has with this.

        (Again, I’m sorry if this comes across in any way hurtful or rude. I just have too many thoughts and feelings swirling round at the moment that putting it into words is rather hard)

  6. This is the most interesting and intelligent discussion of the response to Last Tango that I’ve seen – through the comments. You’re all right that it’s not really possible to have the discussion via tweets (although I engaged the Director of LT in a bit of a conversation about it via Twitter which was interesting). I’m in total agreement about how quietly radical Caroline and Kate have been as a national TV representation of a lesbian couple, and this is part of the devastation from some lesbian viewers. The issue to me is also completely about the long history of killing off lesbian characters that you’re also noting. It goes back through literature as well. I get the concern that a writer — in theory — should be able to have a character of any sexuality, colour, gender, whatever, experience anything. But this doesn’t acknowledge the wider picture of the symbolism that killing a key lesbian character still has, because it’s happened so many many many times before. When so much has changed re. LGBT rights and equality it can feel even more of a shock that a representation that has seemed so positive suddenly, out of the blue, walks right back in to the ‘tired trope’ that Kate’s seeming death has been referred to as (on Twitter). It’s interesting that comments are also made here about trust — as though it’s now harder to trust (a) Last Tango in general and (b) Sally Wainwright’s writing. This shows how much impact the Caroline/Kate relationship has had and how much it’s mattered. Even if — *if* — Kate is still alive, then there’s been a huge emotional manipulation of viewers through last week’s cliffhanger ending, and if all that’s ultimately about is ensuring huge ratings for Episode 4 I’m not sure what I think about that.

    Thanks for the discussion. I’m very interested in the whole public response to LT.

    • I started crying after reading this… You’ve said everything that I couldn’t put into words. I am so very upset by this storyline for all the reasons everyone else has said: Kate and Caroline has felt like “finally I am being truthfully represented and accepted” on mainstream tv… My mum has been struggling with my sexuality and tango has been a source of communication for us. What a ground-breaking pieces Sally has written? I was convince being the feminist, open minded writer that she is; Kate and Caroline’s relationship was her way of normalizing same sex relationship. I am utterly gutted by Kate’s death, and i am also feeling frustrated by the restrictions shown on tv for LGBT people.

  7. Neither I have seen anyone call SW a homophobe, but there are some aggressiv comments that I think are inexcusible. But perhaps they can to some extent be explained as lashing out in reflexive response to the hurt they are feeling. Maybe they are young and have an other tone of communication than grownups :-).

    We are many who over two seasons learned to trust LTiH to give a realistic, warm and empathic view of lesbians. We longed for it to come back for over a year, supporting eachother over the Net in different fora. Our anticipations were high. The betrayal we feel when Kate gets disposed off in such a callus way is heartwrenching.

    Of course lesbian can die in shows, but this did hurt, big time. Had it happen in an ordinairy soap I don’t think I would have reacted at all. I am used to be handled dismissivly. But with LTiH I had put my guard down and were totally defenceless and vulnerable when the rejection came.

    • I think it’s such a shame that you feel this way, and that the way the LGBTQ community is depicted on TV and film is so poor. I hope in years to come we can have a balanced reflection of society, so that issues like this no longer need to arise.

  8. This has been a three year odyssey and so the investment in the characters is reasonable. Killing Kate one day after she is married not only has the audience weeping over the death of one, but the pain and anguish of the other. If the death adds something then it makes sense, but if it doesn’t then the resentment is the investment in a show that has become lazy in its execution. The writer has a right to determine the storyline. If the audience must go through Caroline’s anguish at the death of Kate just to see Caroline (SL) respond is not drama, it is sad. If this is the last season then killing Kate in my opinion serves no purpose. If the series is to continue maybe the writer has a destiny. Soon enough all will be revealed. Sarah Lancashire is fabulous, in this SW has archived success.

    • Yes, I guess we don’t know where this might end. I totally understand the investment in this couple and why one partner dying is very upsetting. I just find it very hard to agree with not applying the usual rules of drama to such a well written relationship, regardless of the sexual orientation.

      • I am not suggesting that the rules should be negated because the character is lesbian. If killing Kate serves a purpose so be it. I just don’t see how another death and another funeral adds dimension. I am waiting for a reason to mourn along with Caroline.

      • This applies to me too. I’m defending the writer but, of course, if this all goes south in the upcoming episodes and turns into melodrama, then I will have a huge amount of humble pie to eat.

        I have enough faith in SW that it won’t happen, but there’s always the possibility… 🙂

      • I watched this episode and found the ghostly manifestation of Kate just wrong. If she was killed to advance the story line, why bring her back as a ghost? I get it, only Caroline can see her, so in reality she doesn’t exist. Killing Kate as far as I can determine was a way to do away with the physical manifestation of Kate as the metaphysical is apparently more desirable?

  9. As a straight person, you don’t get to decide what is homophobic. Listen to the people without feeling offended and try to understand why this is not acceptable anymore. Close your mouth and listen.

    • I am commenting on this as a screenwriter, with knowledge and experience of writing drama. That doesn’t make me right, but it does mean at least my opinion is informed, even if it’s not to your agreement, or if I am completely off the mark.

      Opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one. As long as we live in a society where there is freedom of speech (thank God), everyone has the right to say how they feel. And everyone has the right to disagree. I’ve posted here under my real name, using my public profile. Coming on to my blog anonymously to tell me to ‘shut your mouth’ is neither constructive, nor helpful.

      I’ve invited discussion on here, and I’m happy to engage with an open-mind, and happy to talk about the matter at hand. But, I’m not interested in the whole ‘you’re not gay so you don’t get to speak up’ argument. Straight writers NEED to be writing about gay characters. Gay characters MUST be part of mainstream dramas, like Last Tango, otherwise we’re just segregating each other – and bloody hell, I don’t want to live in a society like that at all.

      So there has to be debate between straight and gay, and we both need to talk and to listen. Hopefully the people commenting on here can see that I am listening to their comments and taking it all on board. I’m grateful to everyone who has posted constructively on this debate.

      • Thanks, that’s really kind.

        I don’t mind being disagreed with – vehemently if necessary. I just don’t like the argument of ‘you’re not gay, so shut up’. Of course straight people cannot know what it is like to be in a world when you’re seen as ‘not normal’ by some complete idiots. I cannot imagine how it feels to have the most fundamental things about identity questioned on a daily basis. It sucks, it’s wrong and I’m constantly trying to find ways that I can challenge it through my work and personal life. It would be both ignorant and arrogant of any straight person to think they can put themselves in those shoes in the first person. But, to close down straight people when they are trying to get their heads around the issues, question what’s happening, give opinions and move things forward doesn’t help either.

        I have a disability and I read stuff about disabilities all the time. I want able-bodied people to be thinking and writing about the issues, because it’s the only way to get stuff changed. I’d rather engage in debate than chuck the ‘ableist’ term around (which rankles me hugely as it’s so over-used). To me, ableism and homophobia (along with racism, sexism and so on) are SO serious, and SO important, I don’t want them used lightly.

      • Interesting response because my interpretation of your initial post is to police the comments and anger of a minority group. How dare they be angry and express this feeling to the writer? How dare they call her homophobic? (racist)

        They dare because this is their lived experience and while you have the right to your own opinion, your status as a writer doesn’t make it more valid than their lived experiences dealing with homophobia in media and life.

        Literary critique has been around since people began crafting stories and fans have been vehemently expressing their responses ever since. If Sally didn’t anticipate this reaction she’s not as smart as everyone seems to think. Personally, I am viewing her as just another privileged white chick who is too egotistical to grasp the world outside of her own.

        As a professional writer, particularly one with inate privilege, I think it is critical to ask yourself, why am I killing off this particular character? Because sometimes you are choosing this person because you, in your whiteness and privilege, are struggling to craft stories for this individual so different than you. Killing this individual off gives you the comfort to craft stories for the characters with whom you better identify.

        I also believe in this particular situation, where a writer has created a passionate and loyal audience of under-represented individuals, it behooves the writer to take stock, listen and understand the basis of this passion as it extends far beyond her creation. Does that mean she’s not allowed to write what she wants? Clearly not. But it damn well does mean that I get to sit in judgment of her choice.

        Because at the moment, for better or worse, it appears that the best story she could come up with required her to kill the POC Lesbian. As a writer, I judge her for this and find her lacking. It is a tired trope, so her best is not good enough for me. I am uninterested in following this story further because there is no place of interest to me for it to go. I have already seen this story in every permutation as it’s the only one allowed in media.

        So yes, as a professional writer feel free to write whatever you want to write and can sell. Feel free to kill off all of the gay and POC characters your heart desires. But as soon as your product makes it to print and/or on screen, recognize that you will be judged for every single decision by your audience.
        The writer is not a victim here. She is the ultimate God of her universe. But us mere mortals are allowed to express our opinions of her creation.

  10. Not to be a little bitch or anything, but as a fellow lesbian i would not expect immortality, nor would want it. Television series’ like LTIH need to give a realistic approach to pull their audience in. Whilst i’m totally wrecked by the fact that Kate could have passed away, and have spent a week trying to prepare myself for tomorrows episode, i think that Sally Wainwright has done such a beautiful job in portraying the LGBT community through Kate and Caroline. I can only hope that Kate survives, but i don’t hold too much hope. Great blog though ♥

    • Thanks, very kind 🙂

      I wonder if the problem is that there just aren’t enough portrayals of LGBTQ people on TV. Let’s be honest – if you’re a TV character, invariably something bad is going to happen to you. The problem is, because there are so few portrayals of diverse characters, the ratio of LGBTQ characters having dreadful things befall them is ridiculously high and skewed. Same for POC, disabled people and so on.

      I want to see this change so much.

      • So if you recognize that is the case, why are you fighting against us. Let us fight the fight so that there can be actual positive portrayals.

      • I’m definitely not fighting against you, far from it. What I am saying is that I want to see more equality. I don’t want writers to have to sit and second guess what they do with a character because of the character’s sexuality – unless the plot point is something very specifically to do with that sexuality. I don’t want gay relationships treated as anything different to straight ones, in regards to their validity and importance.

        However – all that said – this dialogue about LTiH is making me see how, because there is such a dearth of positive LGBTQ portrayals on TV/film in the first place, when normal drama storylines are applied (where bad things happen to good people) it’s harder to take, because it’s snuffing out the one chink of light in an otherwise pretty dark landscape.

        The only way forward from this is not to stop writing high quality drama where characters of all diversities face trials and tribulations, but to ensure that there are more positive representations of diverse people in the first place. That way, it wouldn’t always be a case of the gay characters dying horribly, or leading horrible lives, because all sides of the spectrum, positive and negative, would be there

  11. I think the issue many LTiH lesbian fans are grappling with now is the realization that the show’s attitude toward its lesbian characters has been on the decline since the second season. The first season’s Caroline/Kate arc was great — from Caroline’s vacillations in and out of the closet to Celia’s grudging acceptance of the relationship in the season finale (“Don’t leave my daughter.”)

    But in the second season, the usual cliches and stereotypes of lesbian relationships cropped up from immediate cohabitation to exboyfriend sperm donors to Caroline inexplicably scurrying back into the closet while making a hotel reservation for that romantic weekend. Their sex life was turned into a visual gag ala Caroline’s ministrations to the ailing Kate; and other characters routinely used ‘lesbian’ and ‘dyke’ as slurs about and to the couple. Caroline and Kate reunited on the dance floor in the final scene of that season but more eyes rolled in exasperation or disgust than smiled with happiness.

    And while last week’s episode was excellent television, the death of Kate was designed to be as cruel as possible for Caroline. No other character on this show has been treated to as much emotional suffering at the hands of others than Caroline. And the basis of all that enmity is because she come out of the closet.

    For a lauded television writer to craft this type of narrative in 2015 is head scratching. Because you can’t tell me there isn’t enough drama in the human condition to carry a lesbian couple through three seasons of a charming English Cozy like LTiH without resorting to the tropes and subtext that you’re seeing here.

    • Really, really interesting viewpoint and you have given me loads to ponder.

      I will agree with you about that hotel scene in series two. I did not understand how Caroline, who had been on such a journey to that point, would behave in that manner. It was so out of the blue, and it left me scratching my head.

      I think possibly the immediate living together etc can be passed off as regular drama fodder – writers are guilty of compressing time in order to make a point. In one of my dramas the lead (straight) couple move in together the day after sleeping together – it’s done for dramatic purpose.

      But I don’t want to dismiss your valid points, you’ve definitely given me food for thought. Thank you 🙂

      • One other thing to keep in mind is that emotions run high among oppressed minorities. Ask anyone who’s served on the board of a nonprofit organization devoted to fill-in-the-blank minority group seeking redress of some kind. You want drama with a capital D? It’s there! The Twitter fingers may be a little twitchy but I urge a wee bit of compassion when wading through what they are saying with how it’s being said.

        I’m sure Sally Wainwright and crew have been blind-sided by the blizzard of negative commentary, first ever for this show probably. I’ve done a bit of dramatic writing myself and I can only imagine that sinking feeling in the gut as negative feedback burbles up for an episode for which they were expecting only laurels. But as others have said here it ultimately speaks to the affection that viewers have for the show and those characters and specifically the talent of the writer. Hopefully, after the emotions settle down, what people are saying will give writers another way to think about treating gay characters. That’s all we really are asking or hoping for. Well, I’m actually hoping for a lesbian ship captain in a space opera. Or a lesbian couple ala the Mr. and Mrs. Coach on a show like Friday Night Lights, but that’s just me. Thanks for the dialogue and best of luck with your projects!

  12. That is certainly one valid way to look at the first two seasons, Louise. On the other hand, Anne Reid has stated repeatedly she hopes the homohobic emphasis is not over the top in their effort to get homophobic people to stop and think about their narrowmindedness.

    • It’s a baffling dramatic decision to me. The constant micro-aggressions and humming low-level homophobia from multiple characters come to a head when Celia fails to attend her own daughter’s wedding.

      And the fallout is… the lesbian relationship disappears and Caroline and Celia reunite without having to confront it? I don’t understand that choice.

      • It is rather bizarre. It’s been a while since Celia has had to actually deal with the consequences of her actions and I for one would have been sincerely fascinated with watching her try. I think it would have given Anne Reid more to play with as well. At this point, everyone other than Sarah Lancashire is basically going through the motions. And I’ll never say no to Sarah Lancashire getting to emotionally destroy material…. I just wonder when something will break with the others.

  13. There is such a deep emotional investment in this show, and with these characters, and in the end, when a character like Kate, dies, we feel the anger and the grief associated with such a death. We rail against the need for the death, the why of the death, and question the fairness of death. It is clear that Kate is like a family member, a friend who dies and it is just simply inexplicable—just as death is, unless it comes with old age. We learned to love our Kate and we learned to love our Kate and Caroline–and their magic together. It is a tribute to Sally Wainwright–that HER characters are so rich and dimensional and that we, as the audience feel such loss over Kate’s death. It’s is not about kate or Caroline being lesbians in the vast world of TV drama, or about their lesbian relationship. This is about the loss of love–and who among us does not mourn the loss of love in any world. It is tragic.

  14. But if you look at this at another angle..look how much respect and a loyal following SW and her team would have got if they had kept Kate in the show and wrote about topics relevant to them…they could have had the same impact but also kept half of their audience which I predict they will lose after this Sunday’s episode…and I also feel sorry for any adolescent lesbians who have no role models of significance to watch on the tv…C&K were loved by all kinds of people…Middle aged people, old people etc..they won their love because it wasn’t thrown in their faces and was subtly and believably written…so that in turn helps any younger lesbians be able to sit comfortably watching with their parents etc as they are seen as acceptable and very good people who are genuinely in love..we all know there are still people out there who believe it is a choice to be gay…ridiculous belief as its not always an easy life…these two with their on screen magic won the love of a massive audience that spanned worldwide…if Kate dies this Sunday as is written then I believe it will be the biggest mistake they could have made and it will make a lot of people very very unhappy plus…as we all is very powerful..and yet again the lesbian has been ridiculed by being not only killed but ran over yet again. I know I won’t be watching after this episode if Kate dies…a ghost or figment of an imagination is a cop out and I still think Nina is actually one of the best actresses I have seen in the past few years…her subtle mannerisms and facial expressions were very powerful and she made Sarah shine …very sad time for this otherwise wonderful show

    • Powerful words. I’m surprised to read you refer to ‘ridiculing the lesbian’. Do you really think the show, the writer, producers, director and actors, intended to do that?

      It feels like you’re taking a dramatic decision on a TV show very personally. I agree with everything you’re saying about teenage lesbians watching with their families, and how important that is, but all of that is the hell of a lot of responsibility to put on one TV series, which, after all, is a fictional series on BBC1.

      The thing is, if you put a couple as leads in a TV show, bad things will happen. Alan’s heart attack, for instance. The fact is, here, a gay relationship has been given as much importance, weight and integrity as a straight one, and absolutely rightly so, which means that the jeopardy to the characters and the relationship is of the very highest stakes. That is drama.

      As much as I am understanding all of the hurt and upset, and I am beginning to see the big picture behind the controversy, it’s still hard for me, as a writer, to criticise what’s been done thus far which, to me, is enshrining this relationship as absolutely key to the series and the audience.

      • ok hopefully after watching and reading these links Lisa you might start to appreciate our feelings of dejection re C&K…it would have just been such an inspiration for the writers and everyone involved to have made a difference and been brave enough to carry on a beautifully created lesbian relationship and explore all of its depth and nuances to the end of the series at least…ok if you watch this clip from a programme called “Lip Service” you will see near same scenario…girl called funnily enough Cate McKenzie (gee now thats such a coincidence!!) gets run over just after getting back with the “love of her life”..aka C&W finally made it official and got married…then there is a list of from AfterEllen of 35 killings of lesbian and bi characters..hey its long reading but we are just fed up with this kind of stereotypical killing off of the lesbian or gay…i hope one day there will be a tv drama that is brave enough to portray lesbian gay relationships to be just as normal as heterosexual and therefore hopefully make it more acceptable to be homosexual.

      • I’ve seen Lip Service, and I linked to that After Ellen article in my original blog above. There’s also another link up there about the gay death trope in general 🙂 I was aware of the imbalance in deaths of gay characters previously, but this is, of course, opening my eyes to the depth of feeling over it. And that’s completely understandable in the context.

        Yes, it would have been brilliant to have seen C&K’s relationship grow and deepen, and maybe it still will – I don’t know if she’s actually dead until I watch the next episode. I agree 100% that there should be more rounded, positive gay relationships on TV.

        The only thing I can’t agree with is that SW was wrong to take this direction. As the writer, she’s chosen a path that means drama and character change and growth. I don’t for a second think that her decision had anything to do with the sexuality of C&K – if I did, I’d be the first one outside the BBC with a flaming torch and pitchfork! They just happen to be characters in a TV drama where, structurally, this storyline makes sense. Yes, there are other pathways she could have taken, but would it have been at such high stakes?

        To me, this wasn’t a disposable, lazy decision, but one taken with great care for the importance of the characters to the series.

        All that said, if there was more and better representation of LGBTQ characters in the first place, none of this would be an issue. That’s where we can all agree and hope to change.

      • Lisa, I was born lesbian 75 years ago and as much as I love Kate and Caroline and will be devastated if Kate dies at this point, I agree with you that the writer SW has done a magnificent job in making a lesbian relationship front and center and real. I don’t think it is about old tropes, but simply about life. C’est la vie!

      • I can’t imagine any writer intending to ‘ridicule the lesbian.’ The issue here is the tactics the writer employed to engage, entertain, inspire, etc. As pointed out in other posts, those tactics have fallen into the ‘trope’ category. Ignorance and ingrained straight privilege is the culprit here, not intention.

        As for the notion that the best way to create emotional stakes is to kill characters via spectacular means, I respectfully disagree. This show’s strength was in creating stakes that were enormous within the trials and tribulations of every day life. Celia’s homophobia was a major stake for Alan in S1. Not being included in her father’s marriage ceremony was a profound emotional stake for Gillian in S2. It’s notable that the first character who suffered from the extreme stakes of which you speak is the sweet lesbian of color. Why not put Gillian in jail? Why not kill Raff? Or Calamity Jane?

        Finally, for you to say that ‘it’s only a show so don’t take it so personally’ is stunning. Don’t you want viewers to take your work seriously and personally? This kind of audience pushback comes with the territory in today’s media big leagues. If writers, directors, actors and producers are on social media pimping their products, they better have a thick skin and an open mind because sometimes fans of their work DO take that work personally and will object in ways that might offend some delicate sensibilities. And given the virtual absence of gay characters in mainstream entertainment, intense reactions are to be expected.

        If I can circle back to your original question: Can you kill a gay character? Sure. But I’d suggest running through a little mental checklist first:
        Why do I want to kill my gay? They’re such nice people and there are so few on TV and film
        Is my gay free of stereotypes, cliches and story tropes
        Do other characters love or loathe my gay and why
        Is my gay the first and/or only gay character in the world I’ve created
        Is my gay the first major death in the world I’ve created
        How much does my audience love my gay and am I prepared to take the heat for that
        If I can’t handle intense reaction, are my social media accounts disabled and do I have a ticket to Bali for a couple of weeks

      • All fair points. I think writers have to have thick skins – it has to go with the territory.

        I agree with you – straight writers need to look at a lot of aspects before they write a gay character. I, personally, have several script readers who are close friends, work in the industry, and who happen to be LGBTQ. They are brutally honest, and will tell me if what I am doing is authentic, or not. I can go to them with any question, however awkward or difficult, and get a brutally honest answer. I also research, extensively. That includes reading everything from LGBTQ magazines and press, to speaking to people and reading academic studies and journals. I do that level of research on anything I write that is outside my realm of personal experience. I’d hope other straight writers working on LGBTQ stories and characters do the same, but I cannot speak for them.

        As much as I understand an audience becoming emotionally engaged with a TV show, it is, ultimately, a show. It’s somebody’s work and somebody’s job. As much as I understand an audience wanting to take ownership of characters they love, it cannot be that way.

  15. Lisa,

    thanks for engaging with this dialogue. A couple of other things to note in relation to storylining:

    Three lesbian weddings on UK tv have ended in less than a day: in Emmerdale, that of Zoe and Emma (back in 1996) ended pretty much immediately when one of them cheated; in Coronation Street, that of Sophie and Sian (in 2011) ended pretty much immediately when one of them cheated; and now this. (At least this time noone’s cheated, hey! what progress.)

    In 2012, in Lip Service, a lesbian named Cat MacKenzie dies after being hit by a car. In 2015, in LTiH, a woman in a lesbian relationship named Kate McKenzie dies after being hit by a car.

  16. You said above here, “But I am never going to agree that a writer shouldn’t do something for fear of upsetting the audience.” If it were me, I would not put it in terms of fear but in terms of respect for the audience and of caring what the audience thinks & feels. If a writer stops caring what their fan base thinks, to me, that is when it is time for them to shop their resume around & find another project where they can care, can respect, etc. In some kinds of art, there is not the same kind of connection as there is in television. With serialized shows on TV, there is a contract between the writer (and maybe others on the production team) and the fans. A painter paints a painting & tries to get it in a gallery & hopes to sell it & to get commissions for more paintings indirectly from it. But, the painting is put out there into the universe a finished product, from beginning to end the vision of the artist. A movie is also offered to the world a finished product. But not so with serials on TV, where the fans initially tune in for some reason & may stay for what they like in the style they observe it in & where fans may grow via various means of promotion as well as, in the case of LTiH, huge word-of-mouth from an underserved lesbian fan base. If the writer changes something, pulls the rug out, seems to break the contract with the fans, etc. it is natural for their to be hue & cry. After all, they’ve been dealt the blow US daytime soap opera fans would call Shock & Awe, how great was the unexpected! Shock & Awe is most often from a stunt, to garner ratings, a trope, cheap lazy writing even though the writing before hasn’t been either cheap or lazy! And, in the case of this trope it is a sign of laziness even if the laziness was a lack of research to understand how seriously this trope would be taken – and why. And, in this case some might call homophobia or bigotry even if it was unintentional because the trope itself – Hey, let’s run the lesbian down with a lorry truck & kill her (not that I know what happens because I don’t, this is a what if) causes death to the one & loss & grief to the other partner in the couple.

    Should you consider these respectful thoughts I would be most pleased, I have tried not to repeat what I’ve seen from anyone else here so far. I still think Lancs, as is SL’s nickname, and Nina & Nicola & Annie & Sir Derek et al hung the moon. And, I thought that about Sally until she made what I consider to be a grave blunder because she is so good at character & dialogue that those strengths got into a disconnect with her (according to her) relative weakness with story. Thank you. Donna L. Bridges aka shallotpeel

    • Thank you for sharing your opinion.

      I don’t feel that what SW has done was a deliberate use of a trope, or has anything to do with the character’s sexuality. Even after everything I have read here, as much as I understand how upset some fans are, I do not feel that, from a writing and dramatic standpoint, that she made the wrong decision. She has treated the relationship between C & K in the same way a straight relationship would be treated in a drama such as this. That shows respect and equality.

      You describe a series as a contract between a writer and the fans. I think you will genuinely struggle to find any professional writer that will agree with that. When a writer creates a series, they will often have the story arc planned out years/series ahead. Everything they craft in series one is leading towards that. It would be disingenuous to then begin to make alterations owing to popular opinion, as the audience began watching the show for the writer’s vision – not to see a story via committee.

      • “I don’t feel that what SW has done was a deliberate use of a trope, or has anything to do with the character’s sexuality.”

        I don’t think it was done deliberately in that sense either. I wish that had been clearer, apparently, from what I said. Nonetheless I think it is a trope even if unintentional, out of ignorance or lack of research, or whatever, etc., etc. I admit that I have put SW on a pedestal & I am now struggling with that. But, personally I think they are likely gobsmacked at this point at the negative reaction. If I thought they were prepared for it, and had factored it somehow into their plans, I would have to rethink and rethink and rethink! It would defy all logical conclusions.

        “She has treated the relationship between C & K in the same way a straight relationship would be treated in a drama such as this. That shows respect and equality.”

        Maybe that is so from some theoretical standpoint but can we think of examples or reasons why a writer would marry a couple off very fast – possibly even ‘plot device’ fast – only to kill off one member of the couple within 48 hours of the marriage? Conflict, sure, crisis, sure, but immediate death? It’s just not within my lexicon, unless, as I say, one is speaking entirely theoretically. And, if so, what would be the point in doing so? What even *might* be the point?

        I know that there are professional writers, and have been professional writers, in the field of US daytime drama, who not only can make alterations to long-term story arc but do & have & do so to take advantage of the unforeseen bonus they themselves have created when magic happens onscreen and a very popular couple is created. I could list many ways conflict could have been created between C&K that could have kept them together for a longer period of time, staring with not marrying them off so fast & having them have the proposal & wedding plans as part of the big deal of 3×06, but to be interested in those ideas, it’s necessary to be interested in other ideas first. They are only supposition, no matter how possible or logical they may be.

        Thank you for the space for dialogue. If I could offer one suggestion, the readability here is low because the typeface is light, etc. & I might not be the only one having trouble with it. Offered FYI for the future …

        Respectfully submitted, Donna L. Bridges

      • Thanks Donna, it’s good to hear all sides.

        I’ll look into the typeface etc. I struggle with WP admin, but will see if there’s a way to adjust it. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  17. We have such a caricatured idea of racism, homophobia and sexism. It is something that mustache twirling villians engage in, it is the gravitational pull of the status quo. Other have eloquently shone the spotlight on the tired tropes that appear to be showing up like clockwork. For me what is most disappointing is that the things shall remain unaddressed. The demeaning racial slur John used to describe Kate in his manuscript, Celia’s dig at the baby learning my colors, the homophobic slurs tossed off without challenge, John’s disrespect for Kate, Gillian’s weird betrayal of them both in refusing to attend and drunk texting the woman who has kept her murderous secret. None of that will be settled. I trusted that Sally wouldn’t rack up that kind of bill without a plan to put paid to some of it. Killing Kate in such a cruel, brutal fashion, depriving her of giving birth, holding her child even once is so out of sync with the vibe of the show that it serves to dehumanize Kate further. And now some kind of beyond the grave apparitions seems downright sadistic. What little agency her supporting role had has now been utterly stripped away in this beyond the grave conceit. We really would not have given a pass to a similar raft of racist slurs only to have the issue resolve by eliminating te target of them. I appreciate the incredible acting. Sarah and Nina and Nicola, hell all of them are masters of the craft. This reeks of the privilege not to have to consider the cultural context of the narrative.

  18. As writers we must ask ourselves questions sometimes about why we write what we do. Is our job simply to entertain and to cater to the dramatic? Must we always elevate story above other considerations? Yes, we have to be true to what we want to write – but is that ALL we are doing, all of the time? If we are lucky enough to write for top primetime TV drama (with public money, no less, in the case of BBC dramas), do we need to give some thought to our audience’s needs and our duty to show life as it is, as well as what we are driven to write? Perhaps we can show a life that isn’t always represented on television, and in doing so, be a little bit different, break some rules, challenge some conventions. How about the lesbian couple in domesticity with their child, for example, one of whom is black and one of whom is white? Without the child (as yet!), this would be my life. I haven’t tended to see it on UK television (The Fosters is a US example, but quite a new one), and tend not to turn on the television expecting to see anything close to my life being represented, because it just won’t be there. The lesbians will be having sex with men (including to have kids rather than the much more common for lesbian couples in real life of IVF / donation), killing people, being killed off, being generally weird or abused by others. Surely, we can do better.

    This death looks as if Sally Wainwright simply doesn’t know how to write the lesbian couple now that they have been through the coming out and getting together and the marriage. I assume she has no clue how to show them growing in their relationship and just getting on with life. I find that a real shame.

    I do think, without throwing any accusations of any kind of prejudice around, that if a white, straight writer decides to kill off a black, gay character – the ONLY non-white character on a TV show that has just added another white, straight male it doesn’t seem to need – and to do so when that character is pregnant and has just been married – not long after gay marriages have become fully legal in the UK – I would suggest that writer needs to pause for some thought and ask herself a hard question: why do I feel the pregnant black lesbian needs to die, and to die right now? What is making me want to write that story? It is important to be very honest with oneself about where that is coming from and whether it is coming from the right place and whether you can “do better.”

    When you write minority characters for national television and millions of viewers, it is incumbent on you to realise that you are not just writing for yourself anymore or even for BBC producers. You have to pause for thought and consider that a minority audience is watching who deserve to see themselves represented fairly and honestly, particularly on the BBC with its public remit, and who, as you can see from the comments above, don’t feel that this is happening. Last Tango in Halifax isn’t (or shouldn’t be) written or shown in a vacuum without the context of representations of gay lives that have gone before it.

    • I will follow up and say though: of course you can kill the gay character. Absolutely. Of course you can. But as I say, ask yourself the “why” question first as well as “what am I saying with this?”

      If you’re saying, “story demands the recently married black gay person dies” and you can really, really justify that (and yes, it might be that it needs more thought than for a straight white character – because tropes are powerful and sometimes have to be actively challenged even in our own stories), that’s fine insofar as it goes, but know that every gay viewer was probably expecting it to go that way and writing a happy gay couple would be a much rarer and braver thing.

      And watch that what you’re not actually saying: “I don’t know how to write a married gay couple, panic, car crash, death, custody battle with dead lesbian’s family, bosh, done.”

    • I’m sorry, but I 100% disagree that there are any racist, homophobic undertones to this situation, for every single reason I have stated over and again above. I won’t go over old ground again, but thank you for your comment. It is good to hear all sides of the debate.

      • Then with respect, you’re not listening to what people (including me) are really saying – but it’s your blog and you have clearly, already made up your mind that this storyline was fine in a scriptwriting and plotting context.

        It is quite clear that killing off a black or gay character can come across as racist or homophobic, even if at heart it isn’t, and the writer did not intend this at all, because of the context in which stories are made. If we can’t recognise this, then we are going wrong somewhere. If you can’t recognise this either, then it’s entirely your prerogative.

      • Of course killing a character can be racist/homophobic. There’s some dreadful examples of this out there. However, in my opinion, this is not one of them.

        With respect, I made precisely this point in my original blog and feel that, at this point, this is becoming a circular argument.

  19. The “lesbian dying” trope is so pervasive that I had given up on watching shows with lesbian characters. My heart has been broken too many times. It’s not like it happens sometimes, rather it happens almost all of the time. The list that the previous responder made is only the tip of the iceberg. Over and over again I used to have hope that this one time the lesbian would actually have a happy ending, only to have the the proverbial rug pulled out from under our feet. I do understand that not all couples will end up together, that’s just not realistic, but man, do we lesbians get hammered.

    But….when I heard of LTIH, I had hope again. There were the usual realistic people that said, “oh, one of them will die” but many others said to have to give it a shot. That Sally Wainwright is not the typical writer. That she often has happy endings and she doesn’t fall prey to the usual tropes, so against my better judgement i decided to give the show a try. And I LOVED IT. And guess what? My heart is broken again, but it’s much worse. There is crap TV and then there is a Sally Wainwright show and it’s the same old story.

    This is why this hurts so much. It could have been so good. It could have given lesbians good representation for once but we are back to almost every lesbian story told. I should have known better than to care.

  20. I think the real question is this (and this has been stated many times before, but is worth restating here): if you are a straight, white writer, and you feel moved to kill off the only person of colour in the programme, who also happens to be a lesbian, you need to ask yourself why you feel moved to take your writing in that direction, and whether you have a responsibility towards both that character and your audience that might extend beyond entertainment and drama.

  21. Lisa, first of all thanks for taking on this topic from a writer’s point-of-view.

    I could write paragraphs about how deeply I feel about Kate’s death and how personally touched I’ve been by Caroline/Kate’s relationship. A lot of those thoughts have already been expressed here, so I want to get back to your point about the writer.

    As a viewer, I don’t necessarily agree “They just happen to be characters in a TV drama where, structurally, this storyline makes sense.” How is having one of your beloved characters run over on the way home from buying milk, in the same episode she gets married — sensible? Even if Kate were a partner in a straight relationship who experienced this scenario, I would feel cheated (and a little bit betrayed) as a viewer. I’ve invested a lot of emotions in Kate/Caroline getting together and it’s devastating to see it handle this way. I don’t think it’s unfair to question if Sally took the easy way out here to move the story along. That doesn’t take away from her brilliant writing up until this point but the fact that this series has been so brilliant, this choice seem more glaringly “off”.

    I would be interested to hear a writer’s opinion about why she made this specific choice. Why not kill William (instead of recasting the actor) for example. Surely that would be enough of a “shock” to get Caroline and Celia back together?

    As a seasoned TV viewer, it seems to me there are a lot of other choices that could have “structurally” made sense here that don’t involve killing Kate. I was so looking forward to seeing how a mature, married lesbian relationship would play out on TV. I didn’t even need them to be “happy”, just alive and exploring the drama of a new marriage with all the baggage around them.

    True, we don’t know what will happen in the next three episodes, but if it doesn’t involve a “living” Kate, I will be disappointed no matter how brilliantly written the scenes with her ghost might be. I just don’t see the antics of Gillian and the gang at the farm making up for Kate’s death (or holding my interest.)

    I hope at some point in the future, BAFTA or some other writers group will convene a panel discussion on this topic and invite Sally W. to participate. I’d love to hear from her about why she made this particular decision. I don’t think it has anything to do with sexuality either but I want to know why did Kate have to die instead of making another shocking choice.

    I also hope this discussion has enlightened you as a writer and I hope that you or someone else will write something starring Nina Sosanya in the future. I don’t need her to be a lesbian, just a three-dimensional human being who is allowed to flash *that* smile every once and a while.

    • I LOVE Nina. If she would agree to be in one of my scripts I would snap her up so fast she wouldn’t know what day it was!

      I wouldn’t want to speculate on specific storyline details about another writer’s work while it is incomplete. I would love to read what SW has to say 🙂

  22. As a straight woman, I love LTiH for all its plot lines and characters, but was finding the amount of time given to the lesbian relationship and on screen snogging all a bit much. After all, we don’t see loads of airtime of Gillian’s romantic fondles, nor anyone else’s for that matter. Caroline’s relationships matter but they are not the core ingredient of this programme, so I think killing off Kate, whilst sad, is not as significant as many people here seem to think.

    • I actually quite liked the intimate portrayal of K & C’s relationship. I don’t think we see enough of it on TV, so if this show focuses on that more than the straight relationships, it’s fine by me 🙂

      • Helen, we do in fact see LOADS of airtime of Gillian’s “romantic” whatever. Paul, John, Robbie, back to John, back to Robbie, where are we now? Perhaps there’s been more physical intimacy this season with Caroline and Kate, but it’s odd that you should have to clarify that you’re straight and find it to be “a bit much.” I don’t know, I certainly see, throughout every form of narrative, oodles and oodles of male/female intimacy, physically and emotionally, and don’t then have the audacity to say “Well, your favorite character died the day after he/she reached his/her happiest moment? It’s not as significant as you think it is. Because they were straight and I was finding their expression of that a bit much.”

        Quite courageous of you. Also an indication of why these things hurt some of us very, very deeply.

  23. Thank you for such an interesting discussion, Lisa.

    I think it is important to distinguish between drama and tragedy. Sally could have chosen drama, exploring the very real challenges lesbian couples face raising children, but instead she chose tragedy. The slit wrists, the overdose, the brain tumour, the fatal car accident. Unfortunately, all this cliché does is perpetuate the stereotype that lesbians can never truly find fulfilment. That they don’t deserve their happy ending. And, although I personally don’t think this was malicious on the writer’s part, I think it was careless and deeply hurtful to a marginalised community that had grown to trust the show to portray them in an authentic manner. The fact that Kate was also the show’s only woman of colour antagonises feelings of frustration and powerlessness. I believe in time, Red and the BBC will recognise this storyline was a miscalculation, in the drive to achieve higher ratings, publicity and more BAFTAS.

    And while I am most certainly not a separatist, I think it also highlights the continued need for lesbians to develop their own mechanisms for story-telling. We need to be nurturing lesbian writers, directors and producers of our own. Donna Deitch gave us the iconic ‘Desert Hearts’ – still arguably the most authentic portrayal of a lesbian love story – 30 years ago. Until the mainstream can integrate our lives in a more truthful and three-dimensional way, we should take control of our stories, our plots and our characters. Because, with the best will in the world, unless you have been kicked to the ground and spat at for being a ‘dyke’, as I have, then it is difficult to fully appreciate what a cop-out the Kate and Caroline storyline is. And why it matters so very, very much.

    • Thank you for your input. I’d definitely agree that no straight person can ever know what it is like to be gay, and to have those experiences. We should all strive to, though, while acknowledging that fact. That way, hopefully, prejudices can be laid to rest.

  24. I think it’s disappointing, Lisa, that despite giving space to this debate and clearly reading all comments and points of view, you still don’t agree that the way in which SW has gone about constructing her plot is either lazy or homophobic / racist.

    I understand that all good drama requires conflict and that characters need to be shown to develop and react within that conflict. However the way that SW has gone about this is the worrying thing.

    There is of course such a thing as unconscious bias and maybe we’d do well to remember that. We all have certain ‘benchmark positions’ in terms of our core beliefs and views and SW had an opportunity here to continue the good work she started in showing K&C in a normal, loving relationship, overcoming the hurdles put in their way by a generally hetero-normative society.

  25. I found this on

    In the brief time in which it has been my privilege to write about Last Tango in Halifax, I have been struck by the people who have come forward to say how much this show has helped them talk about being gay with their parents. In showing a gay couple fight and kiss and fall out and make up and do all the things that constitute love, this relationship has normalized lesbians for a whole demographic of people who were sure as hell never going to watch The L Word. We don’t need Kate to die in order to be invested in the drama of these people’s lives. We don’t need soap opera level theatrics; the beauty of Last Tango is the quiet beauty of the mundane, and if Sally Wainwright doesn’t know that, she isn’t half the writer she thinks she is. Kate and Caroline, as a couple, have so much more to give and to teach us. Kate means so much more than another body to add to the mass grave television digs for its lesbians (and especially its lesbians of color.) I hope that she gets the chance to prove it.

    ***Why was the only character of color killed off? Why not a white character if they were so desperate for a cliffhanger for ratings and shock value?

  26. It’s unbelieveble how something so beautiful and groundbreaking can change into such a sordid mess so quickly.
    I now think it never was Sallys intention to make the lovely C/K story last or develope. It was more likely the excellent acting, catching the audiences attention, that made her continue the saga.
    What I see happening now is all of Celias “traditional values” being reinforced.
    We have been sold down the river.

  27. Look, you’re a writer. If you absolutely decide to kill off a lesbian character on whatever it is you’re writing, when you give an interview about it, please make sure you have some semblance of a creative reason. Please do not imply that the pile of dead lesbians that I have in my own personal DVD collection is a “myth.” Or that all those afterellen characters you linked to is a myth. Thanks.

  28. I give her credit for even speaking with the lesbian publication and putting her creative process out for public consumption. I can’t say that I find her reasoning sound that the only way she could think of to reunite Celia and Caroline was to kill Caroline’s wife. But that’s her story and she’s stuck with it now.

    Sadly, it appears that she doesn’t take as much effort as you when writing lesbian characters. To say that it’s a myth that lesbians die in dramas means that she hasn’t bothered to find the sites you linked to earlier.

    I truly feel for her. This interview reads like she’s shell-shocked by the reaction and worried that her decision has harmed her show and her reputation. Based on what she says she has planned for Caroline, I’m not sure the show will recover the lost goodwill of many gay and straight-allied fans. But hopefully she’ll rebound with a renewed insight that will benefit future projects.

    Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this on your blog.

    • I’d like to think she’d reflect on what seems like a very rushed storyline and learn some lessons from it. After all she’s always been fabulous at writing dialogue and getting the most out of her actors because of it. Maybe she should’ve got some help with the direction of her narrative and concentrate on what she’s clearly good at. I mean, she even screwed up the validity of C&K’s (“proper”) marriage. People of the same sex were able to get married from 29th March in the UK, not – according to Gillian’s text on Caroline’s ipad – 7th March.

      • Penny – just to point out, that would be the fault of the script supervisor for not checking on continuity. A writer wouldn’t be responsible for the date on a device on screen unless it was specifically written into plot – which is very unlikely in this case.

      • Thanks for that Lisa, that’s a helpful thing to know. However, the script narrative was always wrong. Caroline proposed on Valentine’s Day and they they set a date for ‘a fortnight on Saturday’, which was never going to be March 29th or later in any event. Ah well, we all make mistakes.

  29. Sally Wainwright wants to sell us the idea that Kate had to die in order to bring mother and daughter back together again. “It was a narrative decision.” But is this really believable? The fall out between Celia and Caroline was not convincing at all. Alan was unfaithful to his first wife, 40 odd years ago, and Celia was upset about that. OK, I get that, but given that she had prepared to attend, new hat and all, and upon hearing Caroline so eloquently and heart wrenchingly begging her to come, it would have made more sense to the viewer if Celia had made an effort. As it were she just sat there saying nothing, doing nothing. Just a lame “you will have a nice day with your friends”. It wasn’t convincing to my ears.

    But think further. The big fall out is instigated by the Allan and Gary plot. This is a sub story that came out of the blue, but with a big name actor to dazzle us with. Strangely it seems he is already on his way out again. Was the main point with this plot to make a smoke screen in front of the real purpose? That of creating the fall out and subsequently the death of Kate? Was the high profile casting of Kate’s mother also a decoy, so we wouldn’t tune in to the fact that all of series three has been arranged to kill off Kate?

    The paramount objective, I believe, was to wash Caroline clean from the lesbian “dusky negro” and her offspring. The Caroline and Kate story had become way too much for the mainstream audience to muster, a liability even. But Caroline (read Sarah L), as one of the lead characters with great popularity, was too important to the show and needed a clean slate. So out with Kate and I am also anticipating the departure of Flora Grace into the arms of biodad Greg.

    Do you think this is an overly thought-out conspiracy theory? Well I don’t say it all has to have been so deliberately or consciously planned, but in retrospect the patterns are there. As Caroline would have put it “you’re transparent”.

    Sarah and Nina gave us a brilliant lesbian representation, it has been said again and again and it’s true every time. It is, in my opinion, the best visibility act and familiarity bridging there has ever been and it was up there on prime time telly. That is something to be thankful for and cherish. It’s a shame though that it wasn’t allowed to be magnificent.

  30. I will be very, very disappointed if we never revisit the problem of Celia’s entrenched homophobia. The reason she didn’t attend Caroline’s wedding was because she didn’t really see Caroline and Kate’s wedding as legitimate. It was okay to sit it out while she sulked. It wasn’t like missing a *real* wedding, was it?

    THAT was the cause of the rift between Caroline and Celia in the first place. That was the rift that Kate had to be sacrificed to mend. But it seems like the rift is being mended entirely on Celia’s terms. She doesn’t have to deal with the fallout of her homophobia. She’s never now going to have to change her perspective and recognise the validity of Kate and Caroline’s marriage. Because when her discomfort with her daughter’s same-sex marriage came to a crux, the narrative took the marriage away to solve it.

    I don’t know at this point how we can spin that as Kate’s death having nothing to do with her sexuality. If the emotional heart of this whole storyline was about Celia and Caroline’s relationship (and Sally Wainwright has said that that was her intention at least) then the fact that Kate was bi woman rather than a straight man is pretty much the linchpin of the story.

    I’m not sure what the next few episodes would have to do to make it not seem that Celia’s been vindicated. Especially since with the introduction of Greg it looks like baby Flora will have one mum and one dad, too. Just like Celia wanted. Will the cutting things she said and her betrayal of her daughter ever be addressed? Is Celia ever going to get that Caroline’s marriage to Kate was every bit as legitimate and important as her own marriage to Alan? And even if she does, is it going to come too late to be worth anything much from a dramatic perspective, given that the gay marriage has already been permanently booted off air?

    • That was my fondest wish, that they would actually deal with their own problems in front of us, showing us their reason for reconciliation if it were possible. In real life often times it is not possible for such to happen after the kind of row that Caroline had with her mum! That would have been elucidating. And, in fact, I wanted to *see* Caroline & Kate show us how they reconciled besides the dreamy kiss on the dance floor. They had to have discussed the 2 room/Greg encounter & the months in between! Why weren’t we privy to that great drama?

  31. First I want to thank you for allowing such an in depth, thoughtful discussion to take place and to be responding so respectfully to all.
    Like so many here i was blown away, and astonished to discover Last Tango and Sally Wainwright. It hooked me in immediately with it’s interesting characters and complicated, original and believable plots. As a lesbian, a feminist, to come across the marvelous Caroline with initial intimations of a lesbian subplot was thrilling. And to discover a feminist writer at the top of her game in Sally Wainwright was exciting and a rarity in television. Series one and two were utterly brilliant, the focus for me being the complicated, beautifully written and acted relationship between Caroline and Kate. I was drawn in to all the stories, cared about the characters. Sally drew us in, we began to trust her. This was groundbreaking television, a work of art. How many shows have any of us seen where two gorgeous lesbian women walk the school grounds discussing how to have a child? Lesbians around the world were intrigued, hooked, thrilled and utterly in love with Sally, with C/K and the actresses themselves. We became the most passionate of the LTIH viewers, creating blogs and pages and videos. An iconic lesbian couple was created. And Sally and Karen Lewis knew it, knew that this part of their audience so desperately wanted, in series 3, to have this couple become the calm, mature, loving center around which circled more troubled characters. It could have worked beautifully, look to Mike Leigh’s great Another Year for how a story can have happiness at its center and still be dramatic. Sally has the great talent to have done it with originality and insight. I say all this to then come to the great betrayal, not only of the lesbian viewers, but to her own characters and show. To have known the impact this relationship was having and to have seemingly ignored that for what I believe has shut the show down, turned it into a melodramatic, poorly conceived third series, which was struggling from the beginning, is so unworthy of Sally’s talent and so miscalculated. Probably the greatest mistake she has ever made in her writing career. What could have been revolutionary has become an ordinary soap. I hate to say this because LTIH has been almost my most favorite t.v show ever, likewise Happy Valley, but the religious right will be very happy with the brutal, final, killing off of a black lesbian and a loving lesbian relationship. One last thing. IN the Diva interview where Sally tries to explain why she did it, she does say she thinks of an audience’s needs when writing a script. Well, sadly, that audience this time did not include lesbians.

    • Thank you Jinny. That was so beautiful, raw and honest and for me accurate.
      Our thirst for water in the desert covered a multitude of narrative sins.
      Someone called it Last Tango in Fertile Valley as every one night stand produces a baby.
      While the blossoming of a more balanced relationship felt like a revelation in the wasteland that is television representation, Nina and Sarah did more with a look than the dialogue gave them to work with. Their story was as much about our collective imagination of the interludes we never saw. The slow building of a relationship we mostly had to guess at.
      So it isn’t just that Kate died. It is that she was slaughtered in such a brutal and cruel fashion so at odds with the tenor of the show.
      A gratuitous death in a manner that was so dehumanizing, as if to put an exclamation point on the idea that she was a disposable prop. And in the wake of her death,the selfish, self-centered cruelty of the remaining players comes through in such stark contrast.
      I was content to move on, remind myself never again to trust again, but I returned to this board because I felt I had left my tribe in the midst of a devastating battle. I even gave episode 4 a look despite my horror at the premise of Ghost Kate.
      Even those exchanges otherworldly were salt in the wound. For all the lauding of her skill with dialogue she seems to be tone deaf when it comes to Kate and Caroline. I felt that way ever since Kate responded to Caroline whispering in her ear “Wouldn’t that be technically difficult?” Please fill in the blanks and see if you can find an answer that isn’t weirdly alienating of lesbian sexuality.

      So I’m here as one more voice saying yes it had such promise, no you weren’t a fool to hope and yes you were absolutely betrayed.

      • “Wouldn’t that be technically difficult?”
        Yes, I also found that line a bit off kilter. It is in fact the fundamental question all straight people have regarding lesbian sex. And the point being that without penis it isn’t true sex or true love or true anything.

      • PLEASE don’t tar all straight people with the same brush. I won’t tolerate anyone doing that about the LGBTQ community, but I won’t tolerate sweeping generalisations about straight people either. We’re not all ignorant, and we definitely don’t all believe that a penis is necessary, or even desirable, either.

        When I see posts that say ‘all straight people’, ‘all gays’, ‘all lesbians’ etc, I feel as though anything the poster has to say is immediately negated.

  32. By the way I have read elsewhere the suggestion to – I guess *some* – that if we have not already, that we should read something called “The Invisible Knapsack”. I’m 63, nearly 64, white Southern (US) and now proudly out lesbian & queer but I nearly died being half in the closet & hurting from what society heaped upon me most of my life. I haven’t read it. I plan to. Offered for what it is worth.

  33. If I watch this with “fresh eyes” I find all of Series 3 very unbelievable and it pains me to say that. From the long-lost love child to Gillian/Robbie and now Kate’s death. If it weren’t for the amazing performances, it would be easier to see how all this doesn’t ring true anymore. I had been happy to suspend my disbelief because I was enjoying the story so much. That’s not possible anymore. I see the gimmicks and they make me crazy. (How does a 42-year-old woman who has had four miscarriages suddenly get pregnant after a one-night stand? I was willing to “go with that” for the sake of the story but now all of that irks me.)

    Kate/Caroline was a lovely storyline with so much potential for showing us something we hadn’t seen before on television. But even that was troubling if you look closer. Why did they “have to get married”? It was another rushed “device” to move the plot along.

    The rest of the show is no better and suffers more now that Kate is dead. Why is John still around? He does nothing for the story and that scene with him and Caroline in the kitchen was ridiculous. Caroline would never have said those things. Why is John reminding her that Kate wouldn’t want him helping with the baby? Surely Caroline knows that.

    Rupert Graves’ presence seems to be wasted up until this point, Maybe there’s some big twist coming for him in the last two episodes but I’m really not all that interested. The Gary storyline is also a device that’s become annoying.

    The Celia/Caroline arc has been wrapped up too easily (as others have said here). They both would have benefited from being estranged a little bit longer (like what happens in life). Kate’s death is too, too convenient and the only character who suffers is Caroline.

    I will watch the next two episodes if for nothing else than morbid curiosity to to see how it’s handled. But the sweet. lovely show I discovered by accident, has been ruined.

    Their marketing campaign and the spoilers got them the ratings they were after but I would have hoped they’d have also been interested in maintaining the quality of the story too. I guess I’m just more disappointed because I think British TV is above chasing ratings and clearly it is not.

  34. I’m not crying for Kate. The writer may have a narrative reason or not, I don’t care. I’m crying and screaming for the loss of Magnificent Caroline as a strong, successful, lesbian rolemodel.

    Even if she will recover to former glory she will no longer be looked upon as lesbian. And that will please all the Celias of this world. “Go ahead and be a lesbian if you must but don’t make us see it. Hide in your closet, that’s how far we’ll go. Do not expect the same respect and considerations as us normal people.”

    In effect that is the story we are told here and maybe Sally, unconsciously or not, puts the spotlight on this unfairness. But sadly I think it’s only lesbians who recognise this. Maybe others who suffers from social oppression and people with great sense of empathy can pick up on it, but it’s doubtful since it isn’t explicit. There is just silence and unseeing eyes around Caroline now. It’s so very distressing and hurtful because this is how many lesbians live their lifes.

    Thank you Lisa for this blogg.

    • Well said. Caroline’s transformation in becoming her true self, through her relationship with Kate, was magnificent to watch. Seeing her as a grieving, single mum is just not as interesting.

  35. Lisa: I was wondering if you could send this all to Sally W. and Karen Lewis at Red Production Company because I think they should read these comments which are so thoughtful. But perhaps you can’t.

    Also, do women here feel lesbians were exploited? Used to further the story, to draw in a large passionate audience, and then disposed of when more contrived “drama” was needed to save a third series which was floundering? It also raises the question of how long a show should go on. In hindsight, Sally should have stopped at the first two brilliant series. Often shows get weaker and weaker the longer they exist. The pleasure in re-watching series one and two has now been tainted by Kate’s death. Also, episode four, aside from the stunning acting of Sarah Lancashire, was of course sad, but ultimately boring, the life has gone out of the show. And how maddening to see that aside from Caroline and Kate’s mother, perhaps Greg and her son, no one really cares about Kate. They are all still engrossed in their own petty problems. And though this may be intentional on Sally’s part, it is more salt poured in the wounds we lesbians are suffering, as is the “ghost” of Kate, which feels like Sally trying to make amends to us. Oh dear, such a waste of brilliant talent.

  36. Well Lisa and Sally, I hope you have your answer. Yes, you can kill a lesbian, if it’s not a lesbian you’re killing. I hope by these wonderfully written responses you can see that it would behoove you both (presumably straight) to see that you are killing us.

    • I’d like to be a bit more specific about my own comment; “you can kill a lesbian if it’s not a lesbian you’re killing.” Kate was a one dimensional character in seasons one and two. She was meant to bring Caroline to her sexual orientation. As in other contemporary stories,the lesbian character has a single, somewhat shocking focus. It’s very clear what her persona is. If Caroline were to die, for instance, she has already been developed to have multiple facets…her mother’s and Gillian’s confidant, the bold and brassy head teacher, the absent minded mother, the one who keeps others on course. If she were to die (no! please don’t) it would not seem so deliberate. Nonetheless, given the common direction at this time, even Caroline’s death would seem contrived.

  37. I am astonished at the overall consistency of these comments—finding the death of Kate and the end of Caroline and Kate as a couple to be a huge script misstep. Have we ever seen such uniformity of thoughts like this? I don’t think so. SW created such an unusual and atypical script–authentic, and with deeply felt emotional risk–where it felt like Caroline was willing to simply step off a ledge, just to be with Kate, and how extraordinary her journey was to watch. (Sarah L. is so amazing to watch.) With these extraordinary actresses playing these parts, I felt that there was so much more emotional investment than say, with any other typical story arc. Let’s just say that SW and these two actors created a connection with us that is rarely felt in today’s TV-land, and it felt like death—a real death. Only great writing and great acting can lead us to this level of dismay about the narrative and it’s outcome. I did not feel it was manipulative, but yes, it was unexpected and unwanted, as most deaths are and I do feel very sad about it because like death, it was too sudden and there could have been so much more. Thank you for this blog. It has been great to read!

    • I’m not so sure that this is a testament to astonishing writing as it is to the dearth of lesbian characters and the fertile ability to fill in the blanks that so many lesbians have become adept at from years of wringing text from subtext. I think the strong reaction comes from the WTF? feeling about the manner of Kate’s death. Had she been devoured by a giant squid we might also be reacting with stunned disbelief but I wouldn’t call that a testament to great writing.

  38. Your initial question, Lisa, may still not have been answered. Yes, of course, a writer can kill off a lesbian or gay character and do with that character anything they feel is true to their story. But they should be prepared for a response from our community if we feel that there is a falsity, an untruth, a perhaps underlying misunderstanding, fear, or denial of what being a lesbian means. As women, regardless of our sexuality, we are often portrayed in film and television as disposable, our dead bodies are strewn across screens 24/7.
    What saddens me is that Sally Wainwright has given us such important women characters. As a feminist she has put women front and center in her scripts, she herself has said that women interest her more. In Caroline and Catherine in Happy Valley she has created towering forces of nature, strong, complicated women, mistresses of their own fate, dependent on no man. Wow. how unusual and empowering that is. No screen writer has pleased me more. And then she created an iconic interracial lesbian couple, Caroline and Kate, who would have taken their place in the herstory books and college classes on women and lesbians on screen, as outstanding, positive role models, wonderful, interesting, complicated characters and partners, building a life for themselves, two women determining their own lives, in a still bigoted world. Should Sally have considered all these things when writing her third series script? Should she have realized that she is depriving Caroline of a lesbian partner and mother to be and replacing her with two heterosexual men, John and the biological father, Greg, who will more than likely come into the picture? That Celia’s bigoted, conservative views, her selfishness, egotism, her unpleasantness will be seemingly vindicated? Yes, I think you can kill off a lesbian when it is good story telling, when it is not manipulative or homophobic etc. IN this case, i think we are all saying, it was a grave mistake. I am so sorry because we had a gem in Sally Wainwright. I don’t know what she can do, or if she cares, to win our trust back. Kate will always remain dead. Catherine Cawood becoming a lesbian? She already wears flannel shirts.

  39. One last thing: in deciding whether or not to kill off a lesbian character, should a writer consider the meaning that death will have? Will the message sent to viewers or readers be what the writer wanted to convey? As the comments here and elsewhere are indicating, Sally seems to have miscalculated what her script would convey, because I can’t believe that she would have gone with this version if she had understood. An aside: And how about the disappearance of the only out feminist, Judith, and the loss of her baby? She was an interesting, sympathetic character.

  40. In a drama you expect consistency in characters and form. You can kill a lesbian in drama, like any other figure, if it’s logical within the narrative and has a meaning to the plot. In the Killing of Kate, as many above have argued, this logic and purpose was lacking.

    Can you kill a lesbian in a soap? Yes, absolutly, you are almost even expected to. It’s an easy way to clean the slate for other, more important characters, so they can dive in to completly new storylines. Consistency and character development in a realistic, logical way is not awaited in soaps.

    The brilliant acting, partly excellent dialog and, in the beginning, a decent plot fooled myself and many others to think of LTiH as good drama. In my opinion it isn’t and really never was. It’s soap and in part sitcom.

    So that’s how I’m handling my disappointment and feeling of betrayal 🙂

  41. Hi Lisa
    Now that LTiH3 has come to an end it would be interesting to read your thoughts on the whole and specipically on the Killing off of Kate.

  42. I have been overwhelmingly taken over in heart and mind by the death of Kate. I am a trained and experienced counselor and I have been unable to process why and how this relationship has devoured me so much. It is something I am working on. Right now LTIH stops for me the moment Kate leaves the house the take the boys to the station. After that I have to look elsewhere for the continuing story. There are a couple of FanFics that are beautiful and healing and it is to them that I retreat for solace.

    After discussing my pain and confusion with a friend who is a psychologist, I began to imagine a viable and dynamic storyline that Sally Wainwright could use to bring Kate back in series 4. NOT a return from a nightmare! but a on-going look at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which causes many of the behaviors and reactions we saw Caroline have in the last 3 episodes when a loved one has been in a near death situation. I shared this idea with my friend and she encouraged me to write to Sally which I have done. It was a cathartic exercise for me but I did tell Sally that even if there was only a 1% chance she would ever consider writing series 4 with Kate back, I would not forgive myself for not trying.

    • I’m a counselor, too, Pat. I have much the same response. I also find a great deal of anger, which confounds me, as I should know better. I think that the relationship of C&K was delightfully drawn at first, and very believable, with its ups and downs and communication errors.To those who say Kate’s death could have happened in real life, I feel a visceral response, “put all the factors together…lesbian, pregnant, day after marriage, supremely happy couple, I’d say the statistical probability of that end result would be nearly zero.” When I get frustrated I write so I wrote a song to/about Sally. I’ll join your campaign and send it to her.

      • Wow, thanks Opel – so good to know it’s not just me. Thanks to for sending your song to Sally you never know it might just give her the impetus to re-look at her decision. Annie Reid has indicated in an interview that series 4 may well be the last and so it would be lovely to see the story end with a good outcome for this on-screen relationship. It would mean a lot to so may loyal fans.

  43. Worth a try isn’t it? I have just ‘wasted’ nearly a day reading some of the ‘Kate lives’ fanfic and unfortunately it has taken me back to the grief that I had when the event first occurred.

    It was just one of those (rare) sublime on screen relationships made even more exquisite for me by the two women who played the roles and the chemistry that they conveyed.

    I still think the so called reasons for taking this path don’t add up.

    • I agree, Elizabeth. Perhaps that’s where my anger comes from. As emotionally invested as many of us were, it feels disingenuous and condescending to be given such a feeble excuse.The story is reeling now, contrived and like a pinball bouncing from personality to problems. But the ratings are great, so I guess it’s just me….or is it?

      • I just wonder if the ratings were great right up until the end because so many people were hoping that Caroline would wake from at nightmare at the end of Episode 6. I know I still held on to a scrap of hope. I still question why the storyline had Caroline going back to sleep on her wedding morning, maybe Sally left that tiny window of opportunity to change her mind if she needed to.

      • In response to both Opel and Pat

        I posted some of this elsewhere and it might be more food for thought (thanks to Lisa for making this space available to us and to others for your views. It is crazy that fiction of this sort can cause pain to someone who is as others have said, well and truly old enough to know better.):

        My theory, at the time of Kate’s demise, was that by the end of series 2 the chemistry between the two actresses had blown the relationship out of intended proportion, in relation to the four main characters. So the death was to rein in its run away appeal.
        However I now feel more likely that SW felt she was writing for at least an additional series and possibly more, even while she was still on series 2.
        While the series initially replicated Wainwright’s mother’s story, the pleasure that a broad audience gained in seeing the lives’ of a set of middle aged and older people prospectively suggested to her and the production company (and the BBC) that they had the bedrock of a longer running opportunity.
        So by series 3 they needed to broaden the appeal to pitch to a younger demographic so Gary (as well as being pretty to look at) builds the dynamic not only back to Alan but to Raff as well.

        So for example the ‘zaniness’ (or otherwise) of Greg is introduced. I see series 4 becoming more diverse as it portrays the ‘antics’ of the third generation and their dilemmas. But had Kate survived there wasn’t any need for Greg who presumably fits better to this broader, (younger and straight) target market.

        So what I am trying to say is that what I saw as an at times delightful interpretation of four people truly working through what could be anyone’s issues in the first two series, has started being broadened out and dumbed down to make it ‘fun’ and faster to a broader viewing demographic. As part of that it does also concern me that a ‘normal’ (and highly admirable) same sex relationship between two higher achieving professional women was the aspect that had to be sacrificed.

        The series has certainly migrated to ‘soap’. The antics of episode 6 indicate that the depth which was part of the appeal of the first two series is prospectively a thing of the past.

        I hope this ‘rant’ makes sense but I so loved the first two series and to see it descend to what it has become was for me a terrible disappointment.

  44. Thank you Elisabeth. I so totally agree with this. I’m still confused and somewhat ashamed over my deep emotional reaction to this TVshow.

  45. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is still processing the emotions from this TV show (and yes, I know it’s just a TV show.)

    I saw that Sally Wainwright will be speaking at this BAFTA event and hope she might be asked more probing questions about her decisions in series 3.

    As others have expressed here, I find the choice to kill Kate, instead of finding other means to create drama, to be disturbing not just because of the loss of Kate but because it doesn’t seem a very “clever” way to move the story forward. Surely someone with the skills of SW could have thought of something we haven’t seen before? It felt like the remainder of series 3 suffered and became tedious, tiresome and every repetitive with the complaining of Gary and antics of Gillian.

    On another slightly tangential note, Glee has a similar story line this season where Brittany and Santana are about to married. Santana’s grandmother is angry and won’t come to the wedding (sound familiar?). Yet, instead of having Brittany hit by a car to reunite the two, Brittany tells off the grandmother and asserts she and Santana are the real family and then the rest of the cast comes to their support. It’s up to the grandmother to decide if she wants to be part of Santana’s life. It would have been nice if Kate was given the opportunity to do the same.

    If anyone in London goes to this BAFTA event, I’d love to hear about it.

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