The Sandman Showed a Queer Character's Death And It Wasn't a bad Trope

After a recent episode of HBO's Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon, in which one of the show's two confirmed gay characters, Laenor Velaryon's lover Joffrey, was brutally killed, we wrote that the death fit the tired "Bury Your Gays" trope. Many of the show's fans didn't agree.

Some defended the show by saying that "literally every character" in the GOT universe dies a painful death. Is that really true, though?

Jon Snow, Tormund Giantsbane, Brienne of Tarth, Arya, Sansa, and Bran Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Podrick Payne, Samwell Tarly, Gilly, Bronn of the Blackwater, Robin Arryn, Davos Seaworth, Grey Worm, Gendry, Daario Naharis, Jaqen H'ghar, and so many more straight characters made it to the end of the original series.

But how many gay or lesbian characters? Yara Greyjoy is the only one.

It's not surprising, it's not sneaky, and it's not clever writing. It's so common in the Game of Thro

nes universe that it's even a trope within Westeros. If a gay character shows up on screen, you can almost always be sure that they will die in a horrible way.

Others who defended the show said that if gay characters can't die, we'll only get gay characters in media that is safe for all ages. They want a better thing. They want queer media that is subversive and complicated, with gay characters who can be bad, evil, and flawed. They want queer horror, action, and science fiction, which means queer characters will have to die sometimes.

But do you know how to make gay media better? If we change what we do. And the way this show kills gay characters is about as boring and unoriginal as it gets.

It's not a trope that gay characters can die. For it to work, we just need to know that gay characters can live. In Our Flag Means Death, when Lucius was thrown overboard, it wasn't Bury Your Gays, and in The Haunting of Bly Manor, Dani didn't drown herself to become the new Lady of the Lake.

The Sandman is a recent show that does a great job of showing how to have messy, complicated, and queer characters who can die. In the few episodes of Netflix's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's comic, more queer characters died than in House of the Dragon, but because of how it was done, no one thinks that those deaths fell into the territory of tired and harmful tropes.

In The Sandman, we see the deaths of about six gay characters, including a lesbian in a 24-hour diner, the cook of that diner, Johanna Constantine's ex-girlfriend, Alex Burgess and his boyfriend, and, of course, the delightfully evil gay serial killer The Corinthian. In House of the Dragon, none of these felt like death.

A show has to prove itself before it can break a trope. Why should queer fans trust you if you can't show queer characters being happy, successful, or even just surviving?

The Sandman is better than House of the Dragon because it has gay characters like Constantine, Desire, Rose's roommate, and the drag queen Hal Carter who are happy and alive. We see different kinds of people in queer stories, so when a queer character dies, it's interesting and sad, not just a trope.

Even better, the show has the complicated, "bad" gay characters that fans want to see. This show has a nonbinary sibling of Dream who is manipulative and dishonest. It also has a charismatic gay serial killer who uses his charm to sleep with and kill gay men. And everything works.

The problem with the Bury Your Gays trope isn't that "gay characters can't die." The question is "Why is death the only way you can think of for queer characters to end?" We don't want LGBTQ+ characters to stop dying. Instead, we want LGBTQ+ stories to stop being so boring, predictable, and sad.


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