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Doctor Who Kills Off Gay Character Within Record 30 Seconds of His Intro

Doctor Who Kills Off Gay Character Within Record 30 Seconds of His Intro

Doctor Who

The beloved sci-fi series may have broken a "bury your gays" trope record, and it has some fans incensed.

The latest season of Doctor Who made history when it cast Jodie Whitaker as its first-ever female Doctor of the show. And it may have just broken a record for the fastest use of the overused "bury your gays" trope when the show introduced and killed off a gay character within 30 seconds on its New Year's Day special. The move was met with a mixed response from Twitter users. Some slammed the series for feeding into the trope with its deep history of forcing queer characters to pay for their "transgressions." Others held up Doctor Who's history of LGBTQ representation as a defense of the move.

The scene in question from the New Year's Day special involved a security guard (Connor Calland) who halts a Dalek-controlled character (Charlotte Ritchie) as she attempts to move past him into a secure facility. He outs himself when asked who could unlock a fingerprint lock.

"Today, just me. Most secure digits in Yorkshire. That's what I tell my boyfriend, anyway. I probably shouldn't be telling you that, I'm new at this," the security guard says.

Cut to Ritchie's character dragging the security guard's lifeless body down a hallway less than half a minute after he reveals he's queer.

The "bury your gays" trope is a staple of Hollywood reaching back to the heyday of the Production Code when queer-coded characters could only be depicted on film only if they then paid for their transgressions, often by ending up forced into a heterosexual relationship, in a mental institution, or dead. An early example of the trope is the hideous death by fire of the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, who was obsessed with her employer's first wife, in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940).

Even as LGBTQ representation in film and television has generally improved, deaths of queer characters have proliferated -- especially on the small screen. At a panel in 2017, a spokesperson for GLAAD revealed that 62 LGBTQ TV characters had been killed off in the prior two years on shows including Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, Pretty Little Liars, The Walking Dead, and Empire.

But a particularly unwarranted death -- of the lesbian warrior Lexa after she and the bisexual lead Clarke had consummated their love on the CW's The 100 -- set off unprecedented fan backlash that resulted in Twitter campaigns and threats of a boycott by the relatively small audience. And showrunners far and wide heard the battle cry from fans.

Over the years, Doctor Who has introduced several LGBTQ characters, including John Barrowman's omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness. There was also an interspecies lesbian couple that included the lizard woman Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and her wife, Jenny (Catrin Stewart). In 2017, the show introduced Pearl Mackie's character Bill Potts as the Doctor's first lesbian companion.

Still, the blink-and-you-miss-it death of Doctor Who'sout security guard was viewed by some on social media as a sign that its writers had not learned the lesson of The 100 and by others as an indication that Doctor Who'sLGBTQ characters are viewed as equal to other characters who are often disposed of quickly and with little fanfare.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist

Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.
Tracy E. Gilchrist is the VP, Executive Producer of Entertainment for the Advocate Channel. A media veteran, she writes about the intersections of LGBTQ+ equality and pop culture. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of The Advocate and the first feminism editor for the 55-year-old brand. In 2017, she launched the company's first podcast, The Advocates. She is an experienced broadcast interviewer, panel moderator, and public speaker who has delivered her talk, "Pandora's Box to Pose: Game-changing Visibility in Film and TV," at universities throughout the country.