The total number of bisexual female characters on TV since 1983, over the course of 33 years, represents 0.5% of heterosexual characters in one year. With a desire to paint a clearer picture of exactly how female bisexuality is treated on television, we have embarked on a project to create a database that will provide insight into both the quality and quantity of female bisexual representation, as well as identifying the common tropes that go along with it.
List of all lesbian and bisexual female characters featured on scripted broadcast TV in the 2015-2016 season. Of the 1936 main/recurring characters, only 34 of were lesbian/bisexual women – our rate of representation is 1.75%, and 13 (38%) of those are dead at the end of the season.
While not the deadliest network, the lesbian/bi characters killed on The CW this season had arguably the most impact on the fan community. The CW featured 11 lesbian/bisexual female characters, 8 of which had main/recurring roles, out of 298 main/recurring total characters. 5 of them are dead at the end of the season.
On the 18 scripted TV shows that aired on FOX, lesbian/bisexual women account for 3.3% of main/recurring characters (274 total characters, a number much lower than on other networks), and, according to Vox, 10.7% of all deaths. They are still killed at a rate 3 times higher than their appearance rate.
ABC featured fifteen lesbian or bisexual characters, nine of which had main or recurring roles. Compared to the 559 total main or recurring characters on ABC, that means that lesbian or bisexual women make up 1.6% of characters, and 9.7% of all deaths on the network.
Only 3 of the 26 scripted TV shows that aired this season on CBS featured lesbian/bisexual female characters. A total of only 5 characters, and 3 are now dead (that’s 60% dead, which beats the 50% death rate on NBC). Except for Person of Interest, where the lesbian character dies and becomes the voice of an AI (an “evolutionary step” of the Dead Lesbian Trope), none of them had significant storylines (although both Under the Dome and Code Black add to the kill count).
Out of 21 scripted TV shows that aired in the 2015-2016 season on NBC, and 342 main or recurring characters, only two shows featured a total of 4 lesbian/bisexual female characters. If the world mirrored NBC, lesbian and bisexual women would represent less than 0.6% of the population. Two of the four are dead at the end of the season. 0 regular or recurring lesbian/bisexual characters are left at the end of the season.
The 2015-2016 television season, which ran from June 1, 2015, through May 31, 2016, saw 26 lesbian and bisexual women killed off on shows available to US audiences (not counting international shows that don’t air in the US). In total, queer women account for 10% of all deaths on TV, a number highly disproportionate with the rate of representation. We unfortunately start off the 2016-2017 season early, with a first name on the list added June 17th.
The 2015-2016 season saw 26 lesbian and bisexual women killed off on shows available to US audiences, while show-runners continue to justify why their own stories do not fit the trope. In total, queer women accounted for 10% of all deaths on TV, a number highly disproportionate with the rate of representation.
A trope is by definition, a pattern in storytelling. Lesbian and bisexual women are killed off at alarming rates, usually soon after finding happiness. TV shows don’t exist in a vacuum and each of these shows add to the trope and contribute to the overall TV landscape in the same way.
Producers gathered at the ATX Festival on Saturday morning to address the Bury Your Gays trope. The one hour panel was called “Bury Your Tropes” and consisted mainly of the involved speakers defending their right to use the trope. As fans and consumers of media, we are naturally dismayed at the lack of understanding, or even attempt at understanding, the issues surrounding the Bury Your Gays trope as discussed by the panelists. In a time of so much outcry over the disproportionate death of LGBT+ characters on television, it is uniquely frustrating to be misunderstood and maligned time and time again.
Every time a lesbian or bisexual character is killed off, statements from television writers, producers, and showrunners can be summarized as a collection of ‘excuses’ justifying why their own stories do not fit the tropes and citing creative freedom. The problem is not that LGBT characters are killed because of their sexuality within the story, but the disproportionately high number of lesbian and bisexual characters killed off, compared to the low rate of representation.