LESSON A Guide to Queer Tragedy

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Sir Basil, Feb 4, 2017.

    there are worst things in life than kissing boys -- benjamin alire sáenz


    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Bury your Gays”, also known as “Dead Lesbian Syndrome,” is a term [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]from our friends at TV Tropes. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]They boil it down to its most simplistic with the following definition: [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]“gay characters just aren't allowed happy endings.” [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]“Bury your Gays” is how stories about queer characters end - with either one or both members of a queer couple dying. If a queer character is not in a relationship, it is possible for them to still be a victim of “Bury your Gays”. Often times, this trope is excused as part of gritty, realistic story-telling, or the gay character’s death is dismissed as the gay character being a victim of circumstance. Sometimes, the dead queer character is lamented as being “too good for this world.” [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]However, none of these justifications resolve the painful truth; queer characters are not “allowed” to survive their own stories. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Recently, “Bury your Gays” has come under fire by even mainstream media. The death of Lexa, a queer woman, on the TV show “The 100” alerted the media to the problem; [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]TV can’t stop killing lesbians.[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] A list from the online publication, Autostraddle, was outraged by the death of Lexa, and used this moment to list off of [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]all 162 dead lesbians on television, [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]and the usually violent circumstances of their deaths.[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] The first example, is perhaps the most inflammatory; a character named Julie, from the show Executive Suite (1976) was hit by a car. She was hit because her love interest had just walked into traffic, after realizing her lesbianism - and Julie had chased after her.[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] In this example, Julie’s lebsianism is the direct “cause” of her tragic death. TV tropes notes this correlation as well, in their definition of the term. TV Tropes suggests that the death is “punishment.” The death, they note, usually happens to the character who was more aggressive in pursuing a relationship. Thus, that character is “guilty” of "perverting" the other one, and therefore, must be punished to die at the end of the story. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The Washington Post,[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] when talking about the death of Lexa on “The 100”, provided the following statistics. First, GLAAD’s 2015 “Where We Are on TV” reported that 35 regular characters in the 2015-2016 television season identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. This is just 4 percent of the 881 characters on TV. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Out of that 35 character pool, 10 characters identifying as lesbian or bisexual have been killed. That’s 2 out of 7 characters, or 28.5 %. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]When more than a quarter of queer characters are dying on TV, out of the minimal representation that there is, that’s cause for alarm. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]That’s the world of TV. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]That has nothing to do with roleplaying. Or does it?[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] It is clear that many of Iwaku’s members are interested in roleplaying yaoi, yuri, and LGBT characters, including romance. Infact, according to former member and expert statistician Brovo’s gathered data, [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]every member of Iwaku has [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]some[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] interest in romance, and statistically, some of those are going to be queer romances.[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] Many of the romances that I’ve seen RPed are queer - although wrapped up in the terms “Yaoi” or MxM, and “Yuri” or FxF. This guide is intended to encourage queer roleplay that doesn’t end in “bury your gays” , or use the deaths of queer characters to create tragedy for non-queer characters. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent][/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]Gayngst[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] is another term from [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]TV tropes,[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] and it’s perhaps more common in roleplays than “Bury Your Gays”. This is the idea that being gay inherently means being troubled by mental health issues, self-hatred, substance abuse, and of course, over compensation via outright homophobia. This trope can lead to gay characters having suicidal ideation, or actually committing suicide; which of course, is an example of “Bury Your Gays”, as their orientation was the direct catalyst for their death. This trope seems to be particularly common in yaoi / yuri RPs, but “gayngst” runs rampant in many roleplays where queer characters have a presence. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Despite the fact that many RPs on Iwaku have a dark tone, or are bleak dramas, the amount of gayngst has reached a critical, unrealistic, mass. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]What’s the problem with[/BCOLOR] [BCOLOR=transparent]gayngst? Surely, every queer character needs to struggle with their identity. Although the struggle with sexuality and / gender identity is certainly part of the traditional queer narrative, gayngst takes that narrative to a new extreme. Character’s can certainly grapple with their sexuality, or confront it, for the sake of realism - but gayngst proscribes that queer characters must engage in dangerous behaviours in order to “deal” with their sexuality. When gayngst is roleplayed, it reinforces the idea that queer characters are somehow “broken” by their orientation, and even worse is the answer that the roleplay is proscribes.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent] In many cases of a character with “gayngst” there are two answers; “bury your gays” and the seemingly more uplifting [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]“the character will eventually come to terms with their sexuality, have the obligatory Coming-Out Story, and either live Happily Ever After with their love interest.” [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]The problem is that neither one of these options are particularly pleasant. “Bury Your Gays” results in the death of the character, and suggests that an LGBT orientation leads to unhappiness and death. The “Solve Your Gays” trope - what I call the second option - suggests that their gayngst was ultimately pointless, and that once the character finds a partner, they’ll be happy. Yikes. [/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Bury your gays” is the worst kind of Greek Tragedy. Greek Tragedy, the original form of the “tragedy” genre, is defined as a narrative where the protagonist’s life becomes a disaster, through a combination of circumstances out of their control, and a fatal flaw. The character is punished because of their flaw - which is how we get the term [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]poetic justice. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]However, the [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]poetic justice[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] in the “Bury Your Gays” trope, is that the queer character is “punished” for their “flaw” by death. Obviously, this mode of thought presents a problem: namely that being a member of the LGBT community is not a flaw. Yet, modern stories still rely upon a queer character’s orientation as a dramatic device, a fatal flaw, to bring them to their end. This is very clearly wrong, as modern society has become more and more accepting of the LGBT community, and (for the most part) no longer views queer people as “flawed”. Yet, we still tell stories like this - and we still roleplay it. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]If being queer isn’t a flaw, why do we let this be the undoing of our characters, and how do we create tragedy without it?[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] As I said before, I think that a character grappling with their identity is perfectly fine - good, even. The problem lies in the solutions that gayngst leads to, “Bury Your Gays” and “Solve Your Gays”, and the extremes that gayngst suggests are common. One of the easiest solutions to this problem is simply reducing the gayngst. Not every queer character goes through substance abuse, depression, and general abject misery. Even outside of the context of “Bury Your Gays” - this level of angst produces it’s own problem. For a personal example, I played a character years ago who had a severe level of gayngst; to the point that my RP partner literally refused to roleplay with me, because my character was just too miserable for him. He was right - we kept repeating the same miserable conversations over and over again. Although I doubt that a partner on Iwaku would put their foot down like this; they might share this sentiment. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]An alternative to the idea of using a character’s sexuality or gender identity as a fatal flaw is to consider the[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] following definition from Aristotle’s “Poetics”. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Although this another variation on Greek tragedy, Aristotle’s definition presents quite a different view of the fatal flaw. In Artistotle’s eyes, a tragic hero is a man who becomes misfortunate, "not through vice or depravity but by some error of judgment." [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Basically - the tragic hero isn’t necessarily flawed, or have a secret vice, but honestly, truly, just screws up. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]The example that Wikipedia uses for Aristolte’s vision is Oedipus Rex, who you may recognize as the guy who slept with his mother. This isn’t because he was particularly lusty, or had an unusual fetish. Within the play, Oedipus the King, the titular Oedipus kills a man without knowing that the man in question is his father, then marries his mother out of ignorance. It’s tragic not because of a flaw, because Oedipus made a mistake. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Rather than having a fatal flaw, he has a fatal blunder. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Examples of this can be found readily within [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Game of Thrones[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] or [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]House of Cards, [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]where protagonists of all sexualities are constantly choosing to trust the wrong people. Mistakes, and the agency behind them, make for tragedy rather than an inherent vice. [/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]Tragedy has its place, and queer characters can go through the same tragedies and horrors that all characters might face[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]. However, using their sexuality or gender identity as the reason for their tragedy is a cheap, exploitative trick.[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] Aristotle, however, presents a solution far more nuanced than the idea that a character’s gayngst must result in “Solve Your Gays”. Instead of relying upon a perceived flaw, queerness, tragedy should be based upon the mistakes that your character makes. Not only is this less exploitative, but it is more likely to result in the character’s complexity and emotional depths being explored - rather than just the gayngst excuse; “they’re sad because they’re gay.” [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]A character making mistakes is taking an [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]active[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] role in the roleplay, as opposed to a character who is simply slated for execution because they’re queer. The former character is allowed to engage with others, develop, and even maybe face some poetic justice for their mistakes ; and it doesn’t have to be the poetic justice that gayngst proscribes. Something to consider, no matter what you’re roleplaying, is:[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] how can I facilitate as much development and interaction as possible? [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]A character making mistakes is an excellent way to answer this question - and their orientation doesn’t have to come into play in their tragedy. It should never be that their [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]orientation[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent], or the [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]consequences of that orientation [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]are that character’s fatal blunder. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The difference is; your character is not born with tragedy. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent][/BCOLOR]
    [BCOLOR=transparent]Your character makes tragedy. [/BCOLOR]

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  2. This is a cool post, and these are good things to talk about.

    But I kinda wanted to get deeper, as someone who has written gay romance. Here's a list of things that you stated are problematic, as close as I can figure. Please correct me if it's inaccurate:

    * Gay characters dying
    * Gay characters suffering as a result of their sexuality
    * Gay characters having psychological problems, possibly exacerbated by the stress of homophobia
    * Gay characters staying in the closet or overcompensating with hetero traits
    * Gay characters coming out and having this solve some of their problems (isn't this literally why people come out?)
    * Happily ever after with a love interest

    This is quite a lot of stuff to avoid, especially if you're trying to play a modern setting. And if I do avoid all these things, aren't I erasing part of the struggle gay people face?

    Off the top of my head I can only think of Yuri on Ice as a piece of media which avoids all of these... and it avoids them by ending in a cliffhanger and almost failing to mention anyone's sexuality.

    You mention The 100 as failure. Yet this series has a bisexual main character and several secondary gay characters, with and without partners. All are in various realistic states of happiness. There are on-screen gay physical affection scenes. There are gay people in positions of power. Even the setting is post-homophobia, and shows a world where no harm has come from the 'gay agenda' winning.

    If this show is considered anti-queer I'm honestly at a loss as to how to write anything without offending.
    #2 Behelit, Feb 5, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  3. Ultimately, this guide basically advocates for "not killing queer characters", especially in popular media. That's why I bring in the 100 - I personally haven't watched the show, but the public outcry was impossible to avoid and ties into the bigger issue at hand: queer characters on TV die a LOT.

    From the RP standpoint, my arguement is basically that while the narrative of characters suffering because of their sexuality has its place, I suggest that being LGBT shouldn't be the direct -cause- of trauma in a queer character's life.

    Obviously, modern RP will be forced to navigate some of these elements. But I think that where these tropes really start becoming obnoxious in fantasy settings, where the culture may be entirely removed from our modern world.

    Hope that helps clarify, and thanks for reading ! This is all opinion, and is very much rooted in problems I see in RPs I've taken part in, which are mostly fantasy, and in contemporary media in general.
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  4. Your lessons always great and leave an impact, Sir Basil! While I mostly just play straight or non-descript (they probably straight but their romance or sexual interests are not part of the story) characters, this gives me an insight of the sad, if not cheap tragedy being repeated -- I assume mostly not by intentions. Also, like the idea of a blunder than a flaw, that is something to think...
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  5. Hey, thanks for answering. Excuse me if this turns into a rant about Lexa.

    "Ultimately, this guide basically advocates for "not killing queer characters [...] I personally haven't watched the show, but the public outcry was impossible to avoid"

    It's a good show, imo >.< It's also a perfect example of how this issue can get blown out of proportion.

    The good parts of the show re. representation I've already mentioned, and I would call it a very positive show for gay representation. Yet, it's popularity has suffered mightily for killing a single gay character. Never mind that the show kills straight characters all the time. Never mind that it has several surviving gay characters.

    In actuality Lexa's death had several reasons, none of which had anything to do with her sexuality.

    In character, she was a strong leader who was starting to make unpopular decisions. By a convoluted series of events this
    lead to her accidental death at the hands of her advisor, who shot her while aiming for someone else.
    Before her death she was a confident badass that everyone respected, who just so happened to be a lesbian.

    Out of character, the actress had already overstayed her contract and had other commitments. She could not physically be there to shoot the show, and her character was central to the story. Lexa couldn't just fade into the background. So, they wrote the best death they could.

    In my opinion we should reward shows (and other media) like The 100, that do positive representation. Instead we ignore any good they do, in favour of crucifying them for homophobia at the drop of a hat.

    This effectively sends the message to producers that it's not safe to include LGBT characters in their media. Lexa's death nearly killed the show! The 100 team wrote a beloved gay character, and look what reward it got them - they're held up as a prime example of homophobia. Better just to have straight people, right? Then you can't accidentally offend anyone.

    "From the RP standpoint, my arguement is basically that while the narrative of characters suffering because of their sexuality has its place, I suggest that being LGBT shouldn't be the direct -cause- of trauma in a queer character's life."

    In the case of many actual LGBT people, being queer is a direct cause of trauma. If it's written respectfully I don't really see why it should be a problem, the same as racial minority characters experiencing racism etc.

    "Obviously, modern RP will be forced to navigate some of these elements. But I think that where these tropes really start becoming obnoxious in fantasy settings, where the culture may be entirely removed from our modern world."

    I kinda agree and disagree on this point. Of course, it can be written really badly. But fantasy does have a history of examining contemporary issues through the lens of another world. See Tolkien for the horrors or war, or ASoIaF for women's issues and racism. If it's badly done then it's annoying, but it can be something beautiful.

    Again, I don't see any benefit to stopping people from trying. Some may botch it and write something genuinely offensive, but if the alternative is removing real issues from genre fiction then I know which side I'm on.
    #5 Behelit, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  6. The point of it isn't to avoid it entirely, but to ascertain that it has a place in the narrative, and that it isn't cheapening—or, as stated, exploiting—the sexuality, setting, traumas, etc. in the pursuit of drama.

    The items you listed are, by themselves, not necessarily bad, although they can all contribute in one way or another to the problems within media and portrayals in general, and roleplaying if one isn't careful.

    Like, I can take the list directly:

    * Gay characters dying

    Why are they dying? For what purpose? What is the context? If it's just because of their sexuality and because they're angsting about it (or, even worse, they're being fridged to make someone—especially someone not gay—mad, or to compound or extend a love interest's suffering. . .which then means that one gay character died and another one is suffering for it), then what is the motivation of the writers here? The problem with these things is not so much that they exist but that they become the sole focal point of a story.

    I'd much rather see something about them trying and getting support than have to see yet another representation where they're killed off.

    Heterosexual characters aren't killed off in media because of their sexuality.

    * Gay characters suffering as a result of their sexuality

    Sure, they're going to suffer, but from what (whether others and themselves), for what reasons, and what they do about it is just as important. The longer a character is left in this state without any significant progress made in development of them or the setting, the more likely it is to be "exploitative" as mentioned, because it starts giving off this vibe that the only thing that LGBT+ people can experience is sorrow. That's all they're destined for, it's inevitable at some point in their lives, and they're powerless to stop or do anything about it.

    * Gay characters having psychological problems, possibly exacerbated by the stress of homophobia

    Are they having them because they're gay, or because they're human beings that have these things because of something completely unrelated to their sexuality? They can be gay and have psychological problems, but is the writer giving them them because they're gay, to add onto the angst-o-meter, or what? I won't say that having both isn't a huge shitstorm, but the line between them is important and why and how the writer(s) is using these things as a theme is, too. That's whether or not it's exacerbated by phobia.

    What comes first, the fact that they have psychological problems, or the fact that they're gay? Is the psychological issue just a cherry on top of a poo-flavored cake?

    * Gay characters staying in the closet or overcompensating with hetero traits

    This happens in real life and happens a lot in media as well, but yet again, the point is, what are the motivations for this? Realism, or something else?

    It's another thing that is used as a method of easy, canned drama and angst, because marginalized orientations are such a sensational grimdark topic and the first sexualities used if writers want drama based around sexuality—point is, the drama comes first for them, and the actual representation for that sexuality second. LGBT+ characters become the vehicle for whatever Dark™ storyline they want to write. It isn't just dark, it has to be pitch black because a gay person is suffering in it, if you feel me.

    * Gay characters coming out and having this solve some of their problems (isn't this literally why people come out?)

    "isn't this literally why people come out?" yes and no? on paper, that's what we hope for, and depending on environment, support systems, and so on, it's a spin of the Wheel of Mythicality to see if it turns out that way. It might've solved some of my problems if it worked out. It didn't, so for me, things got worse, but the point is that coming out isn't a cure.

    If coming out for an LGBT+ character is boiled down to "well, now they've come out so they don't have any other problems anymore (because their entire character was based around their sexuality—which is based on this weird stereotype that our sexualities are our entire identity)", then it becomes a problem.

    As it stands, gay characters coming out is heralded by media (and thus by extension, society) as being a panacea for being gay and having problems with being gay, and that they can just be cured by coming out and having their One True Love. This isn't unreasonable, but it happens so automatically in media that it makes it seem like coming out is the magic wand that stitches together the broken parts of your life and makes it so that nothing ever happened at all.

    * Happily ever after with a love interest

    This is also fine but the journey that it took to get there is another thing. Whatever came before that and worked up to that point is important. If it's just used as a "we're bored with these characters now, so let's give them a magical happy ending so we don't have to write them (or their angst that we give them 24/7 because we don't believe they have any other identities or attributes) anymore", then it's an issue. (That isn't toward you or anyone in particular. It is a jab toward media.) The aforementioned is also a fun (/s) reason why LGBT+ characters are killed off so much.

    and the rest is. . .what is the motivation? Is this proposed as another panacea for queerness and the trials and tribulations that come with it?

    If the bit before was drama, the character was based around drama (with their sexuality at the epicenter), if their world is based around drama and their sexuality, if everything is for the pursuit of "gays can only experience sorrow and darkness", and a 'happy ending' is used to just suddenly and completely stop that like it's a utopian cure, then there's a problem. If an entire story or character premise is based around a character's sexuality, then the "happy ending" is an effective way to just end their arc, and that's how it's commonly used. "Welp, they're happy now, so we have no more reason to write them. They stopped being relevant now that their sexuality isn't causing deadly problems anymore."

    Bear in mind that with the above, I'm being redundant as hell and meandering a bit, but the point is that people OFTEN come into LGBT+ portrayals with a number of stereotypes, biases, and expectations, especially if they're not that sexuality. This is where the problems arise, because of this dissonance and the fact that large-scale media is still heavily favorable toward cisgender and heterosexual people, if sexuality is mentioned at all (and if it isn't, it's safe to assume what the 'default' is whether the fanbases headcanon them as LGBT+ or not).

    When LGBT+ characters arrive in media, if it's not a deconstruction or written by LGBT+ people, their identities are going to be everything about them, and writers are going to take advantage of it for whatever gets them ratings, viewers, or money.

    What it all comes down to is that it is far too common for marginalized orientations to be used as a vehicle for drama and that's about as much of a problem as using stereotypes are. People snidely complain about "our sexuality" being "the only thing about us that matters" (which is trash, imo), and that's what these problematic portrayals do: boil down (a) character(s) to their sexuality, and that's it.

    That's when being LGBT+/queer becomes a tool more than it does a part of the character's identity.

    edit since I just saw your second post:

    I love when these sorts of themes are handled properly, but when it comes to media, other than those select few shows that have rave reviews for how they handle it, it doesn't like doing this tastefully. If it's written respectfully and through a realistic lens, it wouldn't be a problem.

    It's the fact that being queer and having trauma ends up being all that character and their arc is about, when it's badly done.

    I'd think that people don't need to be stopped so much as be aware of what they're getting into and have a critical knowledge of the how and why they're using whatever themes they are, for any minority.

    I'm not an advocate for preventing people from writing it at all (and I doubt @Sir Basil is either), but everyone should have a clear view of what they're getting into and doing.

    Because it's all too common for non-LGBT+ people (in general, not specific) to discard important aspects of the sexualities they might be portraying because it's too much, or it's too hard to write, or whatever (here's to you, sexual fetishes)—or blowing it out of proportion because they want to really highlight in GIGANTIC BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS about how ABSOLUTELY GAY AND SUFFERING this character is and LOOK AT ALL THIS ANGST AND SUFFERING BECAUSE THEY'RE GAY etc.

    edit 2, electric boogaloo: when I say "gay" I don't just mean gay. I mean the entire spectrum of LGBT+. the entire rainbow.
    #6 castigat, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  7. I don't want this to be a double post and it isn't meant to be, but.

    If anyone reads this OP and gets a kneejerk reaction, but think in general that they don't apply to this:

    a) maybe think on why there was a kneejerk reaction to it to begin with
    b) acknowledge that if you aren't doing these things, or are and are doing so tastefully (whatever that means), you might not be the target demographic.
    c) the 100 getting lambasted for killing someone off is probably a reflection of people going "wow this is a great series I want to see more of it, look how much representation there is" and then getting slapped in the face with yet another LGBT+ death in media. That "I love this" turns into
    c.1) Using the lady overstaying her contract doesn't really cut it as a justification, imo. Might for The 100 or whatever, but not in general—and while the media could be 'rewarded', they also deserve to be held accountable for their actions (this isn't in direct reference to The 100).

    I personally don't give a flying fart in space about The 100 itself, whether it's used as an example here or not; the themes in the media DO exist and while there is positive representation, focusing solely on it at the expense of any other negative portrayals would be negligent. Anyone deserves to have constructive criticism about the positives and the negatives of their works.

    With how many LGBT+ people are killed off in general, we get more attached to the representations that are positive and really count, and then some of these creators kill them off anyway. It's disheartening. We finally get to see something nice and it's blown up in our face.

    Focusing on the good ones is great in the case where they exist, but to discard the negative portrayals is to give them permission to keep doing it (and this is barring contracts running out or whatever the stock industry reason is).
    #7 castigat, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  8. @castigat Wow, lots of stuff in here, lots of which I agree with but I don't have that much time to reply at the moment, sorry, so I'll just do what I can.

    Your main point from the list seems to be that it's the exaggerated, badly written and shitty versions of these things that are annoying and crap, and that the bad shitty versions happen too often. I can only agree - bad stupid tropes are bad. Where we disagree is on how easy it is to avoid all these things while also leaving room for real representation.

    "Anyone deserves to have constructive criticism about the positives and the negatives of their works."

    This was why I wrote the huge The 100 thing - while the Lexa rage was going on everyone latched onto the negative and completely forgot anything good that had ever happened with the show. Case in point: Sir Basil had never seen the show, but still used it as their first example of Bury Your Gays.

    I'd say it's debatable whether it's an example at all, but I definitely think it's not the best one.

    Basically I think this kind of reaction against 'harmful tropes' can be very knee-jerky and over-the-top, to the point of doing more harm than good. It's understandable, sure, when gay people feel like they're under constant attack.

    But, whether or not you think it's a good show, the 100 has positive gay representation. There's not that much of that going around. If we punish people for trying, if we turn gay representation into a minefield we're going to see even less.

    What it seems like to me with the 100 example was that the show-writers were well meaning straight people who genuinely did not realise that anyone would be offended. The outcry caught them completely off-guard. To them Lexa was one of their favourite characters and they were killing her out of necessity, yet they were made out to be these bigots trying to squash all gay happiness. Everyone on the show spent the next three weeks frantically apologising to social media, but you can't stop the hate train once it starts.

    "Well," you might be thinking "now they learned their lesson. Should have done their research."

    But did they learn their lesson? I mean, before that outcry how many of us had heard of this trope?

    What I would take away from the 100 experience, as an oblivious straight writer is basically: "HOLY FUCK I have no idea how to avoid offending these people, better wrap my remaining gays in cotton wool and sideline them so they can't get hurt. Shit, should I just write straights? Maybe I can never understand?"

    "I'm not an advocate for preventing people from writing it at all (and I doubt @Sir Basil is either), but everyone should have a clear view of what they're getting into and doing."

    I'm sure @Sir Basil can clarify, but a couple of things made me think their stance is actually that these things should not be written at all in RP.

    It was these parts of their posts, and other, similar use of absolute language:

    "Ultimately, this guide basically advocates for "not killing queer characters", especially in popular media."

    "[...] being LGBT shouldn't be the direct -cause- of trauma in a queer character's life."

    If their stance is actually that these things are okay to write (carefully) then we're in agreement?

    Except I'd take it a little further, and say that we should also try to forgive RPers who are writing badly about the pain of marginalised groups. Even if it's failed empathy and crappy writing, even if you feel that this person just doesn't get it.

    These RPers are often young, and often just trying really hard to understand other humans. Sometimes we're all a little crap at that.


    edit sorry cos I can't resist talking about this fucking show:

    "and this is barring contracts running out or whatever the stock industry reason is"

    You can assume it was an excuse... but it really wasn't. It's been said by everyone involved that they would have kept her if they could, including the actress who has begged the fans multiple times not to blame the show.

    The thing is, they intended it to be a minor role, which was why she was on a short contract. Too bad for them, I guess - they accidentally wrote a lesbian character so awesome they had to beg the actress to stick around. Too bad they hired an excellent actress to play a lesbian in the first place, one who already had another far bigger contract to get to afterwards.

    #8 Behelit, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  9. @Behelit
    @Sir Basil

    I want to premise that I don't want to turn this into some soapbox pontification rather than a lesson or reference thread as it's supposed to be, so whenever I step out of line or something, tell me, Sir Basil. I might just check out myself.

    I don't know or care enough about The 100 to get into it about it, so whether or not it's a good example isn't my argument so much as the fact that these themes exist whether people want to acknowledge them or not. Otherwise, they would not be acknowledged as problems or even have trope pages, as trite as that example is—and with anything that has enough recognition, whether it's about minorities or not—especially because it is in this case, it's going to have a magnifying glass on it. This may be seen as disproportionate, and maybe it is to the people that it doesn't matter as much to. Biases are like that. I'm not going to say that my own lean or focus isn't a certain way, because I am a few of the identities this falls under.

    So a big ol' TL;DR is that I'm intentionally going around references to The 100 because I don't know about it, but I do know that this phenomenon exists outside it. So I'm not going to validate anyone about whether or not the actions by the writers or the reactions of the fans were reasonable, either.

    As it's often seen. I'm not going to sit here and wax poetic about whether or not a person's perceptions in any direction are right or wrong, but I will point out that the perception that this is a 'knee-jerk', 'over-the top' reaction, and that we 'feel like we're under constant attack' is a common one.

    It's almost like people think we have a victim complex.

    I really don't know how to get into this without getting severely political on the thread, and I don't think I want to derail it enough to do that. Or if I feel like expending the effort into what I'm already seeing as something lacking a point.

    What I can say is that I don't care about whether these straight writers are sorry about whatever they "did", whether that's The 100 or not; if the immediate thought is "welp better wrap them up and sideline them", that sure isn't the solution, and neither is any instinctive "better write only straights then, guess it wasn't worth the effort trying out the gays".

    If writers are ever that scared of a setback or criticism in general, whether that's acerbic or well-meaning, and their instinct is to just forget the characters, concept, or idea entirely rather than keep trying, I'd question why exactly they tried in the first place. I am not here to hold their hand and pat their head and give them a gold star for trying if they just throw up their hands and decide it wasn't worth it after all. That means their effort wasn't actually in furthering themselves as a creative, it was more about getting notable recognition for it, which shouldn't be something that deserves an award. (I'll take this in a case by case basis, but in general. . .)

    Cool, good job, you gave us more representation but. . .now keep doing it. And keep doing it and learning even if you get negative feedback for whatever reason from it. The answer to any feedback is to either keep doing your thing, or take it into consideration and modify whatever is seen as a genuine dilemma in order to improve whatever the subject matter is.

    The defeatist "maybe I shouldn't write them; I'll never understand them with these reactions" is not a sign that LGBT+ people as a whole need to tone police themselves, it means something might have been wrong and that defeatist person needs to look at it. I'm not asking for the Quintessential Gay, and I'm pretty sure most people aren't, either, despite how the vocal people might sound.

    Sorry, I can't feel sorry for anyone that sees a form of criticism (this one or not) and goes "welp I guess I better give up". It comes off as a diversionary tactic at worst, because it takes focus away from the criticism and points it at how bad the other person feels about it (and how that bad feeling needs to be rectified, stat) instead. It deflects responsibility. And it happens way too often as a way to go "wow, you made this person feel bad! How dare!" and change the topic from the criticism or deconstruction to "you better make nice with this person, you made them sad."

    That is exactly what is happening when there's some fire regarding minorities and someone goes "well if you would just be nicer about it" or whatever. Fear, anger, and whatever other emotion that is read into these people's reactions are valid and aren't obligated to be discarded just for these people to be heard or taken seriously (despite the fact that they are often told to lol).

    How you can avoid offending LGBT+ people is by continuing to study and write it and not worrying about whether or not someone judged The 100 as a bad work. The 100 or other works getting shit from people for whatever reason isn't a sign to throw in the towel. Not if you care about your writing.

    It's also good to bear in mind that no matter what you write or what your topic is, there will always be someone to judge it. A l w a y s. If you get any negative criticism, provided it isn't just inflammatory bait, it's probably good to take it in mind anyway, because despite however the comment might be worded, that person might have a point. High emotions don't necessarily beget diplomacy, but that isn't a reason to just tell the party in question, in essence, "calm down, it isn't that bad." That's all invalidation btw

    This is fine. They don't know any better, yet. That doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't in the future, of course.

    This thread is a lesson in a subforum for refining writing; if they didn't just click the ad banner (and even then), they would reasonably be looking for ways to better their writing anyway. So no, I'll let the kids have their Sasuke x Naruto fanfics because every 14-year-old had that at some point, but then when they get serious and start having more introspection about their writing and characters, that's when they'll inevitably be in/referred to in threads like this—and by that point, they're not naive little kids anymore.

    The media, though, isn't a group of ignorant/young roleplayers. They are people that make and live off of money for (screen)writing and by and large shouldn't be held under the banner of "but they didn't know any better" for any longer than the first few strikes, if that. I should probably expand that to the production groups for these works in general, because not all the weight is on the screenwriter when they often lose full control of their script after it's bought.

    Point stands, though. Young roleplayers =/= media mavens that make money off of this as a career, BUT using the latter as an example is useful because it's a view of the media and how it works in ways that may be to a "layman" writer's detriment. Writers in general can and should know about these trends in media (even books) if they care about them at all, because like it or not, it does affect what and how they write.

    As much as The 100 was a big feature in the OP, it's not the brunt of what I'm referring to in my posts, so in your spoiler, I'll still blithely make my point that a actor's end of contract, no matter the character's sexuality, is a reason/excuse/what have you for killing off the character. "Stock industry excuse" was my jaded reference to the industry. That's redundant though lol
    #9 castigat, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  10. If you'd ask me, I think you should write people as people. Nothing more. Nothing less. It shouldn't really matter what kinds of genitals you're into when you chase your love interest into traffic. It doesn't mean if it's a woman chasing a woman or a woman chasing a man. It doesn't matter if they're trans or cis. It's a tragedy all the same.

    Gender identity as tragedy is an interaction between the internal self and external expectations. Or at least the perception of those expectations. You could write the exact same story about the princess who wants to become a warrior in the dark ages, or a man in WW2 who cheats his draft and instead goes to support his country as a nurse. The way people deal with this (perceived) conflict is what defines them as characters and makes their story. That doesn't mean I'm saying that can and should be the only theme ever, it simply means it's valid as a theme. And if it's valid as a theme, the entire guide basically boils down to "I see more of this than I'd like to." Because gaynst as you describe it, in numerous environments past and present, exists. It is fucked up, certainly, but also a valid theme to write about.

    Which I guess I didn't really like about your gender guide either. I read more about what you dislike or consider unacceptable, versus actually writing different genders or queer tragedy, as I would personally expect from a guide or lesson. The lesson, literally, can be summed up as;

    Which does not cover the advertised topic at all. I didn't learn about factors specific for queer characters to face. I didn't learn about gender dysphoria. I didn't learn about gender roles and their effect on the ego. I didn't learn about cultural differences and developments that influence these kinds of factors. I learned you dislike gaynst.
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  11. There's a lot going on in these posts, so I will endeavor to reply to people as best I can ! I'm really glad that this is sparking conversation, and I would ask that you continue to keep things as civil and polite as you have been. I'll continue to peek my head in when school no longer claims my soul when I can.
    The horrors of war is a much more general concept than the highly individualized experiences of a minority. As for ASoIaF, while I love it dearly, I don't think it handles women or racism particularly well, especially in later books. The show is remarkably worse about this, and it is also a guilty party in killing off its queer characters.
    @castigat essentially covers everything that I would have said in my replies to @Behelit. I agree with basically everything that they have said, and I think this point is absolutely the most important. I'm not suggesting anyone not write queer characters, and I'm not suggesting that writing queer characters in tragedy is a bad thing. What I'm suggesting is that I don't think that queerness should be an inherent vice that leads to their death -- as it so often does in contemporary media. The 100 may have been a bad example of this, but the wider response to it frames the problem at hand. The problem being, we have too many characters on TV and in RP who are milked for sympathy as a result of their queerness. Their identity and their tragedy is exploited. Which is why, in my opinion, I am not interested in queerness being the root cause of the "tragedy". Instead....
    The point of this guide was partially to utilize Aristotle's theory of the Tragic Hero in context with contemporary queer characters. Screw-up leads to tragedy, not an inherent "fault" -- like queerness is so often understood to be. As far as I know, I have not advertised this guide as explaining the factors specific to queer people, or as a "how-to" for gender dysphoria (something I genuinely don't think I could boil down into a helpful guide.) please let me know if I have suggested anywhere that this guide was supposed to be more of a general overview of the systematic oppression and violence against queer folks, because that's not the kind of guide that this is.

    Ultimately, this guide is more of a 'suggestion' than anything else. As I state in the thesis of this article,

    That's all that I ever intended with this guide. To encourage RPers to utilize the "bury your gays" and "gayngst" tropes less. Not too eradicate them entirely, but to use them less, because I know that there is a large portion of the LGBT community that is tired of seeing these tropes in the media or means we use for escapism. This guide is just a suggestion to consider alternative means of introducing tragedy into your story. Maybe sometime in the future I'll be putting together a guide to tragedy in general! :D
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  12. Since TV Tropes has been included a lot in this, here are a few more that apply to this thread:

    Sorting Algorithm of Mortality—includes a number of parameters but also includes sexuality and gender. I'll say I'm biased again, because I don't think the article is too far off from what I've seen, in creations in general that feature death.

    Queer as Tropes, which includes the myriad ways (not all tragic, although I'd call them that in the "not great" way, not the Greek way) in which LGBT+ people are stereotyped or thrown under the bus in media, including sub-indexes and articles to illustrate the points further, such as:

    etc lmao. not all of these are, again, specifically tragic, but they can (and do) influence LGBT+ tragedy and drama and can be hackneyed if they're not utilized carefully.

    Like, take Mafia 3. I'm biased, but they took that setting and made it as realistic as possible, drama and all. It wasn't necessarily a ploy to represent minorities and get a gold star for it, it was to illustrate the story of an African American vet on his missions in late 60s fictional New Orleans—which has, inevitably, egregious racism. He wasn't infantilized for it, and he didn't dwell on it, because it was part of his life in that era—it was there, though, and that's the point. It contributed heavily to his traumas and experiences, but it wasn't used as a vehicle to make him look like a victim (or to overcompensate and do the reverse—make him a flawless hero), or to act like he needed outside (especially white) help to motivate him to take action or change things.

    I cannot understate or iterate any more than the TV Tropes website itself that tropes are tools (it has its own article). So you can't avoid tropes, and you shouldn't waste a lot of time trying to, but knowing what they are, where they arrive, and which ones can be problematic makes you not only more critical of media consumption, but more critical of your own writing, whether you have these specific issues or not.
    #12 castigat, Feb 6, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
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  13. The title and about how it is in refining writing, is it's own advertisement in that sense. What I read is more a piece on your ideological perspective than it is a guide to writing queer tragedy or will help me refine my writing in any way. Which may have well been your intention, but I hope you understand that it is not useful for the purposes of anyone wanting to learn about writing tragedy specific to queer tragedy as there are no clear instructions or guidelines or even suggestions how to.

    Does that make sense?
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  14. Although not what you may have anticipated, this guide does have some elements of "how to" within it , by suggesting different narrative threads to examine beyond the ones I criticize here.

    All of my guides - and I believe, anyone's guides - are fundamentally ideological. Writing strictly fact based guides would result in maybe 2 guides on grammar every once ina. Grand while. While I understand that this guide does not fulfill your expectations (and I'm sorry for that) fulfilling those expectations was not really the point of the guide. It was, as my topic sentence said, only to suggest alternate means of storytelling.

    While I apologize that you feel misled, I will have to heartily disagree with the assertation that this guide is "useless" for anyone writing queer tragedy. Maybe in the future, I will write more of a "how to" ; but it's my opinion that the refining writing section can also be a place to generate new ideas and thoughts --- although I'm sorry this guide doesn't provoke that in you. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose !
  15. I think you misunderstand. An opinion piece or article can make for a reference. However it's purpose is fundamentally different from a guide. A method and an idea aren't the same thing. That doesn't mean the method is grounded solely in fact, it does however, aim to hand a comprehensive set of tool to tackle a specific goal or task.

    If I were to look for ways in which to appeal to an audience sharing your views, this article could have merit as a reference, matching your intention. If I am looking for anything more concrete, specific to writing queer tragedy... Well, you know the rest.
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  16. Basil,

    I think you've written yet another great guide, pointing out specific issues and giving valid suggestions for alternatives in one's storytelling. The story of Achilles and Patroclus or Alexander and Hephaestion come to my mind as examples that drama and tragedy can be portrayed without the tropes you listed in your guide.
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  17. "[BCOLOR=transparent]every member of Iwaku has [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]some[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] interest in romance"[/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]Okay, but memes aside, this is a pretty interesting post for me, because I never realized it was so common for gay people to die on TV. Like, I genuinely didn't really notice it, probably because it never happened in shows I watched. It does open the eye to these things though, for sure. That being said, this problem never occured for me, personally, in roleplays. The last LGBTQ character I played was depressed, but her sexuality didn't really had any part in it, and overall she got a decent ending. The one before that was a transwoman who literally was just... "there". Admittedly, I did a bad job at putting myself in the roleplay, so I kinda just swam along, but I'd say she was very normal and average. I definitely agree with the angsty shit though. That's one of the premier reasons I cut back on RP'ing so much. Everything feels like it's oversaturated with teenage angst; Not just about sexuality (though it's common), but in general. But, especially the whole struggle of sexuality, to me, just seems like people doing self inserts and wanting some sort of satisfaction from a fictional scene that they didn't get IRL. I dunno, it never even occured to me to have an IRL coming out "replacement" in my roleplays, but oh well.[/BCOLOR]
  18. Basil, I think this is a great guide.

    But every time this banner pops up on Iwaku in my peripheral vision, I swear to god my brain thinks it's so lewd. I see a hand grabbing a fleshy thing with a slightly darker-colored fleshy thing at the end of it and my brain immediately goes "BOOBS!"

    ...I just needed to tell you.
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  19. I might regret posting in here, but I did want to put my input on this…

    … And I simply think this isn’t a lesson. I read through a few times, to see where the lesson truly was, but I could read was this:

    • The way Queer characters are being portrayed is ‘damaging’.
    • The way Queer characters are RPed is ‘damaging’.

    And so… Well, this lesson just feels like “Don’t do this, be different.” Or “Don’t use this, it’s an overused tropes.”, to which I say… Why not use them? It’s the right to be creative. People should be allows to use these tropes because, hey, it’s tropes. They are there for a reason.

    So, I personally do not think it is a helpful lesson/guide.

    Simply my opinion here.
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  20. I think a lot of people have trouble with this guide because it isn't a particularly proscriptive or "how to" guide, as I was mentioning to other folks in this thread. And, as I will continue to reiterate, the point of this guide for me, can be summarized within my thesis statement:

    "This guide is intended to encourage queer roleplay that doesn’t end in “bury your gays” , or use the deaths of queer characters to create tragedy for non-queer characters."

    This guide is not intended to be overarccingly preventative, but rather, identify a problem and suggest that alternative explorations can be just as effective. And, I would additionally argue, as I believe @castigat has done effectively, that while tropes are a writers tool box, rehashing overutilized tropes is not creative at all.

    I appreciate your feedback - and that of many others - and will likely make a more proscriptive and less speculative guide for next month. However, what I was intending to accomplish in this guide was to simply address a problem and suggest alternate means of exploration -- rather than flat out define or give a checklist.
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