Not even six years of active reporting on social networks have managed to find a cure for the dead lesbian syndrome. The pattern repeats over and over again. Women who love other women break into any audiovisual fiction, whatever the genre, from family melodrama to Nordic black series, through postmodern high school comedies, to end a couple of chapters later by committing suicide, being murdered, suffering a fatal hit or, in the best of cases, exiting the forum without a partner and with a broken heart. It is the old narrative trope
Bury Your Gays
at its most extreme, the one that preys on lesbians. American journalist Kaitlin Havens has a theory about it and has just exposed it in a magazine article
: film and television scriptwriters continue to be fierce about homosexual characters, especially female characters, because "they don't really know what to do with them." They introduce them into their fictions "to capture a sexually diverse segment of the public or feed one of the most recurrent male erotic fantasies", but at a certain point, when they have already fulfilled their function, they are liquidated without the slightest consideration because "the they consider accessories and totally expendable ”.
The story comes from afar. The first great lesbian fiction on record,
Girls in Uniform
, a German film directed by Leontine Sagan in 1931, was shown in its day with two different endings, neither of them happy. In the version released in the United States, Manuela, the boarding school student in love with her teacher, ended up committing suicide. In the European, not so merciless, but just as prejudiced, she was rescued by her companions and subjected to a reeducation process.
Beginning in 1934, Hollywood cinema systematized the pursuit of the different by adopting the Hays Code. In these corporate self-censorship guidelines, homosexuality was treated as a sexual perversion. It was recommended to show it with a high degree of ambiguity and caution, and whenever it was punished. This was the case even in progressive-oriented films like
(William Wyler, 1961), with Shirley MacLaine transformed into one of the most famous dead lesbians in film history. For old Hollywood, a happy ending was not one that did justice to the characters who deserved it, but one that restored conventional morality.
Something similar happened in the CBS
Executive Suite series
, released in 1973, one of the first productions of American
television with a homosexual woman on board. In a clear example of the application of this narrow-minded and moralizing logic, Julie (played by Geraldine Brooks) suffered a fatal run-over moments after assuming once and for all that she was in love with her close friend Leona. In her case, as would happen in many later fictions, death surprised her with barely one foot out of the closet, just embarking on a process of personal acceptance that those responsible for the series chose to nip in the bud, before it took them too far .
The year 2016 was when the most committed sector of the fans decided to take action on the matter. The LGTBIQ + Fans Deserve Better collective took to the networks in response to a particularly painful affront: the death of Lexa, the character of Australian actress Alycia Debnam-Carey in the science fiction series
. As Havens explains, “the romance between Lexa and Clarke was one of the few examples of a non-dysfunctional relationship between powerful women that television offered at the time, and it is very significant that the scriptwriters, instead of exploiting that very promising vein , chose to kill Lexa and thus bring Clarke back to normal heterosexual relationships. " After starring in an intense campaign on networks in which they incited the producers of the series to “do justice to Lexa”, the members of the group launched a study on the systematic mistreatment to which American television fiction subjected, in their opinion, to lesbians Analyzing the plots of the series released between 1976 and 2016,reached such significant conclusions as that only 16% of the homosexual or bisexual women represented in them had enjoyed a happy ending for their relationships, while more than double (that 34% that allows us to speak of a full-blown syndrome ) had ended up dying in a more or less gruesome way.
The analysis has continued to be updated since then in an attempt to identify whether the dead lesbian syndrome is worsening or decreasing. And everything seems to indicate that it remains stable, with remission phases followed by inexplicable rebounds. Not even the emergence of cable television and the success of queer fictions with contemporary sensibilities such as
The L World
(2004-2009) have managed to significantly increase the life expectancy of cathodic lesbians. Furthermore, although non-heteronormative characters have increasingly been present in fiction since the 1990s, the study authors suggest that an unexpected regression is taking place right now, the start of which may be dated around 2014. They associate it not only because 86% of the writers of
remain men, but also to the rise in the western world of the populist right. It may be that it is a somewhat forced correlation, the umpteenth attempt to turn cultural production into the preferred setting for our ideological troubles. But let the forest not prevent us from seeing the trees: it is still true that decades go by and fictional lesbians continue to be deprived again and again of happy endings and a reasonable life expectancy.