Before I get into this post I just want to say a quick thank you for over 500 followers! I’ve been planning to thank everyone for a while but every time I write up a new post I completely forget about it. All you guys reading what I have to say means a lot to me, especially when you stick around while I once again disappear for a while – so thank you!
Today I’m bringing to you a discussion post that is sort of bookish but more media-related in general. We’ve all had that moment of disappointment when the love interest is this close to being happy with another character and then – dead. I’ve been thinking about the reasons for this for a long time, and today I’m finally going to discuss them!
The ‘dead love interest’ or ‘dead partner’ trope (I’m not sure what it’s officially known as) is most common in TV shows, the reason being that TV shows need to go on and on, and they have a need to remain interesting. If the main character finds love and lives happily ever after, you can’t keep that up for 5 seasons, it would just get tedious and boring. The excitement is in watching a new relationship being formed, in the drama and in the difficulties of getting to know someone. However, killing the lover is not a good solution, but simply boils down to lazy writing and poor decision-making on the authors’ part. In The 100 for example, the main character first has one love interest, who dies, and then another one, who also dies. This is quite pointless, and only serves to make her angry and keep her interesting. In TV shows, books, and movies with contemporary settings, killing off characters for lack of a better way of getting rid of them is even worse, for there are really simple alternatives: the character could move away. They could even go to prison (which would make for quite an interesting and fresh change). Or, the most simple solution: the two characters could break up, like people do in real life, and they could learn to move on. The old love interest does not need to die to make space for a new partner – it’s a ridiculously lazy trope. If you need death to make your characters interesting, your characters suck.
Of course, this trope has a whole other dimension when it comes to LGBT+ characters. The ‘kill your gays’ trope is one of the most hated and tragic ones, and for good reason. LGBT+ characters are rare as it is, and it is even rarer for them to get a happy ending. When a character is in a same-sex relationship, the authors seem to have the annoying habit of thinking that they can’t make it last. As soon as things are working out for them, they need to be separated. Some shows handle this quite well – Pretty Little Liars has the lesbian character, Emily, go through quite a few relationships that simply end with break-ups, and some of her partners even come back every now and then, which makes for an interesting narrative that I have not seen in most shows. While the ‘kill your gays’ trope is applied in Pretty Little Liars at one point as well, the authors seem to have learned from their mistakes, because Emily’s relationships are later on handled extremely well.
So, what I’m trying to say here is quite simply that there are better ways of keeping a story alive and interesting, of changing up relationships. Of course, if your show, movie, or book is as intense and violent as The 100, death might seem like the most acceptable solution, but really, it is not. When the love interest dies, it is always obvious why, and no fan of the story will be fooled by ‘oh, everyone dies, so it’s okay’. If you’re planning on introducing a character just to make them die at the end of the season for the development of another one, don’t. We don’t want, or need, that character.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you thought about this before? What are your opinions, and experiences, with partners and love interests dying in stories? What are your favourite books, movies, and shows that you think handle this trope well? Let me know!
‘Till next time and happy reading!