BEVERLY HILLS — If you’re writing yet another show that creates a gay female character only to kill her off, GLAAD wants to talk to you.
The LGBTQ media advocacy organization has many TV priorities for the fall, but among the top ones is stopping the flood of shows that added gay women and then killed them off — such as Lexa, the character whose death on CW’s The 100 sparked Internet outrage.
“If you’re a gay woman watching TV,” Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis, told the Television Critics Association Friday, “the message you’re getting is, ‘I can’t have a happy ending. I’m never going to find love, I can’t live a happy life with my partner.'”
Added Wynonna Earp producer Emily Andras: “If you live in a small town where you’re trying to come out and see yourself represented, that can be very damaging. I would challenge writers to write better, more unique stories. I really think we can.”
Among GLAAD’s other priorities for the fall are more stories featuring LGBTQ characters of color, more bisexual characters with more nuanced lives, and more shows where LGBTQ characters are at the center of the story.
The problem, says Master of None writer Lena Waithe — the first African-American woman ever to get an Emmy nomination for comedy writing — is that too many gay characters are treated as props. “Treat us as people, like everybody else.”
Waithe doesn’t want to just write or see “perfect” gay people. “I want the freedom as a writer to let all these characters be interesting and layered and complex…When they can start seeing us literally as equals, that’s when we can move forward.”
The good news from GLAAD is that there are at least two more gay characters coming this fall, and they may count as landmarks. When Star Trek: Discovery debuts on CBS All Access Sept. 24, Wilson Cruz will co-star with Anthony Rapp as the first gay couple ever to appear in the Star Trek universe. “I will never say never again,” says Cruz.
When Cruz came out in 1994, when he was starring in ABC’s My So-Called Life, he was one of TV’s first openly gay actors. He was adamant about coming out then, he says, because he “wanted to send a message to young people that they could be themselves and have a good life.” But that decision, he says, isn’t right for everyone. “People need to be allowed to come out when they’re prepared to do it.”
He certainly had an impact on Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Rosa on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She says she first felt “you’re going to be OK” with all the thoughts and feelings she was having as a young person was when she saw Cruz on My So-Called Life. “Once you see yourself, you begin to realize that’s who I can be.”