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Characters getting the Tara Maclay treatment

Blaze

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So it's has become pretty obvious recently that lesbian characters in TV show often get the Tara treatment, meaning they get killed off, often to either further the plot of another character, or simply because the writers were queer baiting and they no longer needed the character. Now spoilers for the TV show the 100, but tonight they killed off the lesbian character. Not only that, they killed her off after a reconciliation sex scene (cough like Tara/Willow cough), and wait for it, she was killed by a stray bullet.

Now there's a bit of an uproar about this, with reason. It goes deeper than just losing a fan favourite, but for teenagers and young people growing up with very few lesbian models on TV, and seeing literally all of them die, the consequences to seeing all the gay characters being dispensed for shock value and to serve the storyline of other characters (often straight) are important. It's not just about being sad over the death of a character (being part of the 100 fandom, I've experience first hand people that have gone as far as having suicidal thoughts over this, because of the lack of representation, and the shitty representation gay characters gets). Some people rely on those characters because it is not safe at home, or in the real world, to be gay, or openly gay. Having queer representation is often the only way people have to feel somewhat normal, or to look up to something. Now first question for discussion, should writers be more careful who they kill off when were talking real life consequences for killing the character? Does the way in which the character is killed matter (let's be honest, Tara's death was purely to further Willow's storyline, and for shock value).

Now the term getting "Tara Macklayed" has come up quite often on other site I visit. So what do you think are the implication of Joss "starting" this trend? Should he be to blame? Should he have thought twice before killing one of the first openly gay character on TV? Are people drawing inspiration from Joss when it comes to killing characters for shock value? I mean, the resemblance here is uncanny, but even concerning other shows, it seems Joss has started a trend of killing the gay characters. Discuss.
 

ChaseRules

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I think Joss was a bit to blame for that . They killed Tara & next season brought in Kennedy who was hated both for how she acted & in some people minds replacing Tara .
It almost like being gay was a killer there . He also had Buffy & Faith flirt with each other & then made Faith a crazy women . Almost like saying that if you different then things would go bad for you . Just look at Andrew . He acted gay & they had him acting evil & spineless.
 

Blaze

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I think Joss was a bit to blame for that . They killed Tara & next season brought in Kennedy who was hated both for how she acted & in some people minds replacing Tara .
It almost like being gay was a killer there . He also had Buffy & Faith flirt with each other & then made Faith a crazy women . Almost like saying that if you different then things would go bad for you . Just look at Andrew . He acted gay & they had him acting evil & spineless.
I definitely think Joss didn't intend for it to come off this way. But you're right, it does come off this way. It's like killing the token black character first in horror movies sort of deal.

Now it brings the question, where is the line between fan servicing and keeping characters around, or doing the complete opposite and giving them the shitty treatment because they are gay. People will always find a way to accuse you of either or, but because well written gay characters are so rare, killing them off has more of an impact than it does when a straight character is killed. Joss treats all of his character shittily, there's no happy ending, so I can give it a pass. But now the issue comes from the fact that this trend is picking up where gay characters tend to be treated this way.
 

ChaseRules

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Well looking back we have Buffy killing Angel & running away in grief . And Giles in pain after losing Jenny .
But look at what Willow does when Tara dies . We see them kiss & then she shot & Willow wants to destroy the world .

And Andrew acts gay from time to time & is evil like . Plus in Angel when they get Dana the Slayer they have him act
like he likes girls.
 

thetopher

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I don't know about other tv characters getting the Tara-treatment but I do think what Joss did led to some unintended consequences. Firstly it should be said that what Joss initially did should be commended, he took a risk and as a result Tillow was treated with respect from the off, he fought for their first onscreen kiss, they were written as a couple equal to any of the others on the show. There was no pandering or titilation for the sake of ratings, the couple were- dramatically speaking- there to tell stories about those characters instead of just servicing the plot/fans/ratings. All of that was pretty much unknown up until that point.

And while I think the timing of Tara's death- right after having had *the gay sex*- can be seen as problematic I also think that saying that 'it shouldn't have happened at all because Tara was gay' is wrong. Death happened on Buffy and Angel, tragedy happened, and Tara was part of that, she wasn't immune. So Joss treated her as she should've - just like any other character.
So no, I don't think Joss did a 'bad' thing by killing off Tara because he's consistent. He causes pain to his protagonists, sometimes in the form of character death.

If other shows are simply just killing off their gay/lesbian characters then that's a problem, but not one that has much to do with Joss.

The problem I have comes with the perception and handling after the event. Mostly because only Willow properly mourns Tara's death onscreen- its percieved as more of a 'plot-death' rather than an emotional one. Something the writers needed simply to get Willow from A to B ( S6 Tillow is not unique in this, Spike's AR is used in very much the same way)

In the past Jenny is mourned for more than one episode, so is Doyle, so is Joyce- their deaths are felt- and Tara is arguably as close to her group as those people were (except perhaps Joyce). She spent two years in their company, she was a part of them, she was family. Whilst Cordy left, Angel left, Oz left, and Riley left Tara died- that was huge, the first true 'Scoobie' death.
Yet we get next to nothing, we get Willow's grief obviously, and lots of numbness from Buffy and co. Some genuine sadness from Dawn...but then its all swept away by the plot and never mentioned again.

I would've liked for somebody to have mentioned Tara in S7, shown sadness at her passing. Perhaps a line where Buffy mentions putting fresh flowers on Tara's grave until Willow's return, or Dawn talking about what she and Tara used to do on a day out. Xander consolng Willow, something. Spike doesn't even ask where Tara is- she was back with Willow last he heard and he doesn't mention anything on his return (so yes, okay he's got lots of other things on his mind but still).
It just seems badly handled but that doesn't have anything to do with Tara's sexuality.

None of this is because Tara is gay, it's because she was family and her death should've been mourned by everyone. It wouldn't have taken much effort on the part of the writers to make it feel more organic to all concerned. That way Tara's death would've been seen as the death of somebody important to everyone, not just Willow's girlfriends and so it might have mitigated some of the criticism levelled at Joss after.

I don't think Joss is a homophobe but I do think he perhpas shoudl've thought more carefully about the after effects of ended Tillow the way he did.
And his solution shouldn't have been to just chuck another girl at Willow and go 'ta-dah! I dont hate lesbians, see?'

Also he treated Cordelia pretty much exactly the same way over on Angel- killed off to service the plot, not much reaction except from the love interest- but at least Cordy got a worthy send-off.
 
Foxy
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Spot on

The Bronze

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Now first question for discussion, should writers be more careful who they kill off when were talking real life consequences for killing the character? Does the way in which the character is killed matter (let's be honest, Tara's death was purely to further Willow's storyline, and for shock value).
No they shouldn't and no it doesn't. I don't suppose this is going to be a particularly popular point of view but I would much rather writers completely ignore real life outrage and focus on their art. They need to tell the story they want to tell and then let everyone else decide if they find it good value or entertaining. The second you start pandering to one group of people, you'll have to jump through a million hoops to keep everyone happy. Tell your story the way you want to and allow everyone else to vote with their remote. It's the only way to ensure any real creativity.

So what do you think are the implication of Joss "starting" this trend? Should he be to blame?
Joss killed off one of his characters that happened to be gay. He'd already killed off Jenny, Doyle and Joyce who were all straight. Later he kills off straight characters Wesley, Fred & Anya. Gay character's Willow, Kennedy, Andrew, Billy, Satsu are still alive and kicking in Season 10. The idea that Joss is the destroyer of gay characters is wrong to begin with so blaming him for a following trend is doubly wrong.

Should he have thought twice before killing one of the first openly gay character on TV?
No he shouldn't. As I said above writer's need to be brave and stay true to their vision and not bow to pressure from everyone else. The new Ghostbusters trailer is a prime example of this new thinking. Instead of people watching it and slamming it for being a humour free zone some people are watching it and complaining that although there's a black woman in it she's not the character they want her to be. Write your own characters people!

Are people drawing inspiration from Joss when it comes to killing characters for shock value?
I guess creative people draw inspiration from all over including Joss. It's a bit unfair to claim a death in a dangerous universe is just for shock value though. Having death inserts a real threat which makes sense.

being part of the 100 fandom, I've experience first hand people that have gone as far as having suicidal thoughts over this, because of the lack of representation, and the shitty representation gay characters gets
This is horrible to hear. In all honesty though this isn't the fault of the writers. They can't be responsible for the lives of their viewers. People need counselling and genuine real life help.
 

ChaseRules

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I agree with @thetopher 100 % . You said what I would if I was a good writer . I think one if not the main reason people hated Kennedy was the fact it was like
Joss was replacing Tara with Willow . I would have loved Willow talking about Tara with Kennedy . That would really made things all around .

And you right about Cordelia. She did get a send off but showing her to us & then yanking her away because of his dislike was so so wrong .
 

Buffy Summers

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Now it brings the question, where is the line between fan servicing and keeping characters around, or doing the complete opposite and giving them the shitty treatment because they are gay. People will always find a way to accuse you of either or, but because well written gay characters are so rare, killing them off has more of an impact than it does when a straight character is killed.
Exactly, people will find something to criticize no matter what.

I also think that saying that 'it shouldn't have happened at all because Tara was gay' is wrong.
Agreed. You need to write the story, not get so bogged down in "being PC" that the story sucks.

No they shouldn't and no it doesn't. I don't suppose this is going to be a particularly popular point of view but I would much rather writers completely ignore real life outrage and focus on their art. They need to tell the story they want to tell and then let everyone else decide if they find it good value or entertaining. The second you start pandering to one group of people, you'll have to jump through a million hoops to keep everyone happy. Tell your story the way you want to and allow everyone else to vote with their remote. It's the only way to ensure any real creativity.
Agree 100%. Fan pandering just does not work.

It's one thing if shows are intentionally killing off gay characters. Which honestly I don't think is happening simply because shows WANT a token gay character to keep that audience. Probably a lot of the outrage is simply because a favorite character was killed (that she was gay obviously drew a lot of people to her character). And they probably chose to kill that character off because of the shock value it would have. Having said that, I am happy to see the gay community standing up for themselves about how they are represented on tv. From an outsiders perspective, it seems like they put up with a lot of bad stereotyping and watch shows that portray gays as sex-crazed etc.
 

cryptwarmer

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First...While Tara's death wasn't much mourned onscreen by anyone but Willow, Tara did show up in S7 in two important places, a major role in CWDP, and the conflict Willow had in getting involved with Kennedy. So she did not disappear completely. None of that has to do with her being gay, just mentioning that she was not totally forgotten.

I'm not gay so there is perspective and sensitivity I simply will never have. When I saw Tara get killed I was shocked, horrified and sad. I never thought at all that it had anything to do with her being gay. Never the sense of "there they go, killing a gay person". But by then the fact that she was gay was something I didn't even think about. She was Willow's partner the same way Xander was Anya's partner. It wasn't like I was watching and ever thought, "oh look, there's the gay couple".

I watch very little television so I don't know if this is a thing or not. I didn't get the sense that it was a thing on Buffy.
 

Athena

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thetopher & The Bronze have pretty much said everything I wanted to say, so I won't repeat it, other than to reiterate that Joss did not kill off Tara for being gay. The fact she was gay had nothing to do with the decision to kill her off. For Willow to truly turn dark, something terrible had to happen to her and unfortunately, that meant Tara, being the closest person in her life. If Willow were straight and Oz were still in the show, it would have been Oz. That's nothing against sexuality, it's a plot device. It's something that happens in fiction.

Sunnydale is a world where death happens every day and doesn't discriminate against race, sexuality, gender.... If anything, Tara's death is the most shocking, not because she's a gay character, but because her death isn't caused by any supernatural force, but with a handgun and by a human.
 

Blaze

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No they shouldn't and no it doesn't. I don't suppose this is going to be a particularly popular point of view but I would much rather writers completely ignore real life outrage and focus on their art. They need to tell the story they want to tell and then let everyone else decide if they find it good value or entertaining. The second you start pandering to one group of people, you'll have to jump through a million hoops to keep everyone happy. Tell your story the way you want to and allow everyone else to vote with their remote. It's the only way to ensure any real creativity.
I think the main problem with the 100, not so much with Buffy, is that the producer WAS pandering to the gay audience. He made interviews, posted, tweetted, that he was gonna show a love story between two ladies and that there was hope that it would not be the same tragic affair that we are used to see. He did use the gay community as an easy way to get ratings, because he knew the following the character had, and he advertised it as something that no other show had ever done. Now is it a good advertisement method, yes it is. But it's one thing to tell a story without pandering to the outside world, it's another thing to meddle with both as he did.

Joss killed off one of his characters that happened to be gay. He'd already killed off Jenny, Doyle and Joyce who were all straight. Later he kills off straight characters Wesley, Fred & Anya. Gay character's Willow, Kennedy, Andrew, Billy, Satsu are still alive and kicking in Season 10. The idea that Joss is the destroyer of gay characters is wrong to begin with so blaming him for a following trend is doubly wrong.
I completely agree that Joss should not be to blame. Like others have said, he was pretty equal when it came to killing everyone, regardless of sexual orientation etc. I think the issue now comes from the fact that every single lesbian character that is written in modern show dies. At which point does it go further than just killing a character because it makes the story better. As you said, for a show like Buffy, it isn't so relevant, we have many gay characters, some of which are clearly still kicking. But most shows don't have multiple gay characters, and the gay characters never get a happy ending. While there's always at least one straight character with a happy ending (normally, although I think that maybe with Joss we won't even see that). I just can't envision that for all of those shows, the best course of action to tell the story was to kill the gay character.

No he shouldn't. As I said above writer's need to be brave and stay true to their vision and not bow to pressure from everyone else. The new Ghostbusters trailer is a prime example of this new thinking. Instead of people watching it and slamming it for being a humour free zone some people are watching it and complaining that although there's a black woman in it she's not the character they want her to be. Write your own characters people!
That's a good point. But what's interesting is in most cases, people simply cannot go and write their own characters. Because the industry is predominantly white males. It's not wonder we get poor representation of the LGBT community, and POC. It's because those people are not likely to be behind big budget medias, like movies and shows. I might just be oversensitive with those types of issues, but I have no interest in watching a movie or show that uses stereotypes constantly, including Ghost Busters.

This is horrible to hear. In all honesty though this isn't the fault of the writers. They can't be responsible for the lives of their viewers. People need counselling and genuine real life help.
Of course the writers shouldn't be to blame specifically for this issue. I think it's more the construct of society that is to blame. The reason so many people are reacting this way over a character's death is because shows are the only escape from reality for young gay people. Growing up in a small, religious town, I can attest to that. And for me Tara and Willow really did have a positive influence on me. I won't like there is a huge issue of gay teens being more affected by depression and other mental health problems, and the suicide rate in this community is extremely high. Now I'm not saying that writers should be responsible for doing something for the gay community, but when every single gay representation on TV ends in tragedy, you start to wonder where the problem lies. Now I don't think it lies with Joss Whedon, not at all, but I do think there is a bigger issue here.


Agreed. You need to write the story, not get so bogged down in "being PC" that the story sucks.
Absolutely. That is another big issue. I think people are getting ticked off because in some cases, it's not about being PC or not, it's about the story not even being better for it. With Tara, I understand, it really did give a good story. The DW arc is one of my favourite. But more and more characters are being killed for no other reason than shock value. Aka, nothing comes out of it, so really the story still sucks. I think that's the bigger problem.

Agree 100%. Fan pandering just does not work.

It's one thing if shows are intentionally killing off gay characters. Which honestly I don't think is happening simply because shows WANT a token gay character to keep that audience. Probably a lot of the outrage is simply because a favorite character was killed (that she was gay obviously drew a lot of people to her character). And they probably chose to kill that character off because of the shock value it would have. Having said that, I am happy to see the gay community standing up for themselves about how they are represented on tv. From an outsiders perspective, it seems like they put up with a lot of bad stereotyping and watch shows that portray gays as sex-crazed etc.
From what I've read from the other fandom, it's not so much that the character (which really was a fan favourite) was killed. It's more about how she was killed. Again, was it a good advertising strategy to pander to the gay audience by telling them she wouldn't die, yes, it absolutely was, especially for a show that had poor ratings. I think part of the fact was that she was such a well written character, and for once not a stereotype, yet it still ended in the stereotype that there's not happy ending for lesbians. I get that it's tough on the writers part, they want to tell a specific story. But is the story really original, or even good at all, if before starting a show literally every gay person expects the gay character to die or leave? I completely agree that fan servicing should not be the answer to the problem, surely simple better representation is. But because the representation is so thin at the moment, when a producer kills a gay character, the backlash is more important than when a straight character dies.
 

Ethan Reigns

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Agree 100%. Fan pandering just does not work.
Of course fan pandering works - otherwise it would never happen. Getting away from the lesbian angle here, how much of Spike's appearance and screen time in Seasons 6 and 7 were fan pandering? From the point of view of "pure art", pandering should never happen, but what show on television is pure art? Angel showing up in "Chosen" was fan pandering. There was a lot of fan pandering going on to adjust the scripts to give the fans what they wanted. Some call it pandering, some call it good marketing. The hit parade on radio works exactly the same way and few people blame it (actually not as many as should blame it) for overplaying some songs at the expense of new artists. But if that was bad for business, they wouldn't do it.
 
Blaze
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Good point, and judging by the amounts of followers JRoth lost last night after killing the character, it was bad marketing! I'm calling it, ratings are going down

Kana

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I think thethoper and The Bronze have already said most of what I would have said, however the phenomenon the Blaze may be referring to is the trope : Bury Your Gays.

The problem, as others have pointed out, Tara is subversion of this trope because of Joss' general hatred of happy endings for his characters.

I suppose the argument can be made that not enough LGBT characters being indispensable, i.e. main characters. Yes in some fiction anyone can die, but some characters tend to wear plot armor. So maybe the question should be why are there not more prominent LGBT protagonists in shows that aren't necessarily about being gay.
 
Blaze
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Or get the straights to die :P (not but seriously, I agree)

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But if that was bad for business, they wouldn't do it.
It's less so on cable, but yeah, 'network' TV has to pander... and its starting to get that way for non-premium cable. Walking Dead is a perfect example- in a different form, but still, it's pandering to the audience's expectations.
 

gite63

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So what do you think are the implication of Joss "starting" this trend? Should he be to blame?
I don't think so. The tragedy of Tara was that she was “Willow's girlfriend”, and not much more than that; Joss wanted to tell a story, and killed her, as he would have killed Oz if he was still in the picture.

Are people drawing inspiration from Joss when it comes to killing characters for shock value? I mean, the resemblance here is uncanny, but even concerning other shows, it seems Joss has started a trend of killing the gay characters.
In this particular case you have cited (The 100), I think they did it on purpose (I don't watch the show), yes, for publicity, maybe?

I don't think Joss started the trend, because this was/is a worldwide problem: in 1998, there was a lesbian couple in a Brazilian soap opera, and both of them were killed in a explosion at the mall - and yes, the author did it to get rid of them.

Just look at Andrew. He acted gay & they had him acting evil & spineless.
Gay character's Willow, Kennedy, Andrew, Billy, Satsu are still alive and kicking in Season 10.
But then we had Joss having a good representation of lesbian relationships (including Buffy/Satsu), but not so much of gay men/couples. There was Larry and Andrew, whose sexuality was never really addressed on the show - he only came out in the comics; and Billy the Vampire Slayer was created by Jane Espenson.
 
Blaze
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It was definitely calculated on the 100, likely to attract viewers

ChaseRules

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Joss killed off one of his characters that happened to be gay. He'd already killed off Jenny, Doyle and Joyce who were all straight. Later he kills off straight characters Wesley, Fred & Anya. Gay character's Willow, Kennedy, Andrew, Billy, Satsu are still alive and kicking in Season 10. The idea that Joss is the destroyer of gay characters is wrong to begin with so blaming him for a following trend is doubly wrong.
I agree with you on there a number of gay people but not many.
Willow & Kennedy are a couple but they were horrible written for in Season 7.
Andrew is pretty much of a side kick & not important in things.
Billy just came out so he pretty much of a guest star .
And don't get me started on what happened to Satsu in the comics.
 

Blaze

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I don't think so. The tragedy of Tara was that she was “Willow's girlfriend”, and not much more than that; Joss wanted to tell a story, and killed her, as he would have killed Oz if he was still in the picture.
I do get that he would have killed Oz in the same way, or whoever was Willow's partner at the time. But in killing Oz you at least have other straight white male represented on the show. It's like if they would have killed Gunn, the only black lead on Angel, it would have had a bigger impact than killing just another one of the white male lead. The solution to the problem isn't to stop killing those characters, it's to represent more characters, some of which won't die.

In this particular case you have cited (The 100), I think they did it on purpose (I don't watch the show), yes, for publicity, maybe?

I don't think Joss started the trend, because this was/is a worldwide problem: in 1998, there was a lesbian couple in a Brazilian soap opera, and both of them were killed in a explosion at the mall - and yes, the author did it to get rid of them.
Looking back, I mean ya, it was pretty obvious. The show had 3 lesbians, two are dead, the third got tortured. And the bi girl watched her lover die, and now they are setting her up for a straight relationship with the male lead. When you have three characters to represent a whole community on a show, and the three of them suffer horrible death, one has to wonder to which point is it really "just telling a good story".
 
gite63
gite63
I don't know the writer/producer, but I think this guy really wants to stir the pot, not worrying about anything.

Fuffy Baith

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Not all of them get the Tara treatment. The lesbians in s1 of Jane the Virgin, one was incompetent and made to be crazy and her lover was a drug dealing killer. Lesbians are people to. Not sure about Blaze though. Lol. But as far as the representation goes, my gay best friend from high school related to Marco from Degrassi. It's important that teenagers of all kinds can relate to someone and not feel out casted. I don't like it when shows have gay/lesbian to just be like "look we have a gay character aren't we edgey". No, make them a real person who just happens to be gay. Its not a gimmick. I like the way it went down with Willow and Tara. They were just a couple, and I'm sad it ended. Mostly because i don't like Kennedy, and while I'm not a huge Tara fan, she's better than Kennedy. Who to me does feel like "look at me I'm a lesbian". I just don't like her.
 
Blaze
Blaze
Lol was that suppose to make me feel better?

ChaseRules

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About the only show lately that I seen that has had Happy Lesbians is Glee . Any other shows out there ?
 
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