Fan art by NikiFrost

On Sunday, “LGBTQ FANS DESERVE RESPECT” trended on Twitter. Why? Because TV shows, and those involved in them, still seem to be struggling to give it.

It’s already an absurdity that there is a division between LGBT stories and that TV series are praised simply for including them. But until they simply become “stories” and are told respectfully, they’re going to be praised for being told and critiqued when not done right.

But what’s even more absurd is that harmful LGBT tropes, such as the bury your gays trope, are still being used. Representation is still being ignored. These stories are still being sidelined. And what’s worse, fans are being invalidated.

It’s bad enough that gay characters are being killed off left right and centre, but to add fuel to the fire the fans that support these characters, see themselves in them and find hope in them are being completely mistreated.

If fans support your show, you should support them. It’s as simple as that. If fans find hope in two characters, whether they are canonically together or not, they shouldn’t be made to feel like that’s wrong.

When a same-sex pairing gets shutdown and mocked, it enforces the harmful idea that queer relationships aren’t valid. It not only makes those who look up to said pairing feel invalid, but also discourages them from turning to TV to find comfort in characters and relationships (which for some who are not out or not accepted, is all they may have).

TV series and fan bases should be a safe space to turn to, not a place where you don’t feel respected.

So, how can those behind the screen do better for LGBT fans? I can’t believe this needs answering, but it clearly needs to be said until the problem is erased.

Don’t unnecessarily (or at least harmfully) kill off queer characters.
This is an issue that was spoken about A LOT in 2016. Why not mention it again? 27 LGBT characters were killed off in 2016. When they only made up a small percentage of characters on TV anyway, it’s a pretty significant number. It’s worth noting that the above statistic, and primary focus of this article, is on queer women who TV is failing over, and over, and over again.

Although things have been looking up with shows such as Wynonna Earp, characters such as Alex Danvers and relationships such as Nomanita (Sense8), issues are still present.

Don’t queer bait.
TV shows use a lot of promotional tactics.They’ll market the series in a way which entices audiences to watch and that’s perfectly acceptable. But when you lure LGBT fans in by hinting that a f/f (or m/m) couple will happen, with zero intention of making it canon, you have a problem.

LGBT representation is pretty lackluster and LGBT representation done right is even more scarce. So when fans pick up on these hints, they’re going to get invested. If showrunners don’t intend to tell these stories, they shouldn’t include romantic subtext. They shouldn’t include a kissing scene between two female characters pointlessly. It shouldn’t be used to get views. They shouldn’t include anything else that gives LGBT fans a reason to be invested if they’re only going to invalidate it later on.

Am I going to name drop? Of course I am. Riverdale. There have been many series that have queerbaited fans, but the CW’s Riverdale is one of the more recent examples. The first episode of the series featured a kiss between characters Betty and Veronica. The following episodes featured multiple ‘Beronica’ scenes where the two clearly have a close bond and after the kiss, fans are right to read into it and ship it. The actors didn’t help either by promoting the pairing and then saying “that’s just not our show”.

If fans support a pairing that isn’t canon, handle it with respect.
Fans shouldn’t be mocked for shipping two female (or male) characters. They shouldn’t be invalidated. If they think two characters have chemistry and should be together, why should that be disregarded? Fans will interpret things differently. Perhaps there wasn’t an intention to put the characters together, but it’s what a portion of the audience supports. If they do, acknowledge it. Support fans no matter who they ship, or what they interpret.

You may think “how do you acknowledge a pairing that isn’t canon without queer baiting?”, but it’s pretty simple. Queer baiting would be noticing that fans shipped the two characters and using that as a promotional tool to get them to watch. Instead, acknowledge that section of the fan base and support them for what they choose to see.

What you shouldn’t do is what members of the Supergirl cast did in relation to ‘Supercorp’ whereby they gleefully sung “THEY’RE ONLY FRIENDS, THEY’RE NEVER GETTING TOGETHER”. Shutting down a ship by rudely singing about them never happening is completely ignorant. When fans invest their time into your show, their views should be respected. More importantly, LGBT fans shouldn’t be made to feel wrong for hoping two female characters get together. Support them. Validate them. Have some human decency and give them the respect that you’d give to fans who ship a m/f pairing.

Positive LGBT representation will continue to be fought for until the media learns how to do it correctly. The treatment of LGBT fans will continue to be questioned until those disrespecting fans understand the issue. Be supportive. Be respectful. Don’t fail your fans who are looking to you/your show for validation, pride and a sense of belonging.

 

 

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