Looking / Credit: HBO

Looking / Credit: HBO

Looking finally got the ending all fans were waiting for at the end of July in the US. Cancelled by HBO, the series was granted a television movie to wrap things up, which will premiere in the UK tomorrow night (August 2).

Following the lives of three fictional gay characters in San Francisco, the series was hailed as a huge step in the right direction for sexuality diversity on television. Sad then it was to see it come to such a swift end and, as the axe fell, HBO became a much more hetero-centric place.

Earlier in the year, the network had also killed off Game of Thrones' final out gay character, Loras Tyrell, but this was a death to serve the story. HBO have historically always been very good to their LGBT community of characters. For me this Thrones death wasn't a part of the 'Bury Your Gays' trope which has plagued the small screen for some time. It wasn't exploitative and didn't leave the viewers feeling cheated. Though there isn't a huge representation of the community on HBO at the moment, they have been very good to their LGBT characters in the past.

Many of us may believe that this 'Bury Your Gays' trope is something that has fizzled out in recent times due to acceptance of equality between members of society in the Western world, no matter what their sexuality. Unfortunately, that's not the case, as was proved in March, 2016.

'Bury Your Gays'

The 100 landed in hot water when the show killed off its lead character, Lexa, played by Alycia Debnam-Carey. Showrunner Jason Rothenberg was forced to write a lengthy and apologetic blog post - this was no simple pouring of outrage from a fanbase. Whilst Debnam-Carey may have had to leave the show due to her major role on AMC's Fear The Walking Dead, it was something entirely mishandled and the fans let their disgust be known. Lexa was killed off just moments after sleeping with another female for the first time. A lesbian relationship was consummated and then destroyed within seconds due to a stray bullet. It was unnecessary and clearly added for effect.

Rothenberg wrote at the time: "I still write and produce television for the real world where negative and hurtful tropes exist. And I am very sorry for not recognising this as fully as I should have. Knowing everything I know now, Lexa's death would have played out differently.

"I promise you burying, baiting or hurting anyone was never our intention."

Lexa in The 100 / Credit: The CW
Lexa in The 100 / Credit: The CW

Still, the damage was done and the week following the controversial death, the series saw its worst ratings to that date of that season, with 1.39 million viewers dropping to 1.25 million. Fans promised they wouldn't return to the show unless something was done about the death. 

Fan of the show, 21-year-old Louise told Female First: "It was the way in which it was handled. They spent hours building up this complex, intricate and frankly beautiful relationship, paving the way for shows of its kind to do the same and be accepting of the LGBT community in the future. Then, in seconds it was ripped away. It was a huge slap in the face."

The show also went on to kill its black character Lincoln, played by Ricky Whittle.

Speaking to AfterBuzzTV in an interview following the broadcast of the death, Whittle slammed the show and Rothenberg about the decision which had been made.

Whittle explained: "At the beginning of the season, [I] had a whole storyline that was cut, that was just non-existent. It was my choice to go.

"This is going to be the most controversial thing I will say, is that basically Jason Rothenberg abused his position to make my job untenable. What he did was disgusting and he should be ashamed. A lot was made of what my mom said all over Twitter, but everything she said was true.

"He was professionally bullying me, cutting out all the storyline I was supposed to be doing, cutting lines, cutting everything out, trying to make my character and myself as insignificant as possible."

He continued: "Every time a script would come through I would see literally nothing for Lincoln. He's not doing anything. It was never about screen time, it's an ensemble cast… But it was why he had no screen time.

"I approached other producers and said, 'What's going on?' because Jason always stayed in Santa Monica. 'Why am I being treated like this?' And the producer I spoke to just [said], 'You need to speak to him. I don't know what his problems are with you.'"

What is really interesting however is how Whittle also spoke out about the handling of Lexa's final storyline.

He said: "[Lexa is] too incredible a character to be caught by a stray bullet, and then Lincoln, that was really weak.

"It's sabotaging the story… It just makes Pike a villain, there's no layers. It's taken away his complexity. Before it was like, yeah, he's aggressive and he's killing all these Grounders, but he's just trying to look out for people, he's trying to think of the greater good. Now he's just killing people - and that's not down to Pike, that's down to the writing. And for me, I just thought that's just Jason trying to get me off the show as quickly as possible."

So, you'd think Rothenberg would have strong words for Whittle after the actor made such strong accusations, right? Wrong. Gothenburg simply said in a statement: "Ricky Whittle is a talented actor; I appreciate his work on The 100 and wish him all the best moving forward on American Gods."

The UK

We may think that the UK is generally a more accepting place than the US when it comes to same-sex relationships and their representation on TV, but still to this day there are complaints made when a same-sex kiss is shown on the box.

BBC soap boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins, who looks after EastEnders, admitted that the soap still receives as many complaints about gay kisses and relationships as they did over 10 years ago.

In a Huffington Post roundtable he explained: "The Duty Log responses have not changed now to how they were 10 years ago, when people said, 'I threw up my dinner, I had to sit my seven-year-old down and explain to them that this was wrong.

"Danny Dyer, who the audience saw as this big gruff man, his son came out to him within a month of Danny being on screen, and he put his arm around his son and said, 'I love you, you're my boy, I don't care'."

Though EastEnders did kill off Ben Mitchell's boyfriend Paul Coker almost immediately after they went public with their relationship, this was again to further a story. Paul was killed in a homophobic attack, something that hasn't been heavily explored in the world of UK soap to-date, and so whilst his death was sad for all involved, it was part of a historic storyline.

Ben and Paul in EastEnders / Credit: BBC
Ben and Paul in EastEnders / Credit: BBC

American LGBT representation and diversity

GLAAD - the American media monitoring organisation founded by members of the LGBT community in the media - found in their latest representation report - released in October 2015 - that whilst big moves were being made to represent the LGBT community on American television, there is still a lot of room for change, especially when it comes to diversity.

Taking a look at representation within the 2015-16 TV season, the report is based on scripted series which aired in primetime between June 1, 2015 and May 31, 2016.

The report found that broadcast TV's representation of characters within the LGBT spectrum stood at 4%, which breaks down to 35 out of 881 series regular roles. This marks an increase of a tenth of a percent when measured against the previous period. Lesbians make up 33% of that community whilst bisexuals account for 20%. Unfortunately, not a single transgender character was offered on broadcast.

Cable meanwhile added 20 series regular LGBT roles, with an additional 58 recurring thanks to most-inclusive channels ABC Family and Showtime, which look after 18 LGBT characters each.

Whilst representation was slightly higher than the period the year before, 69% of broadcast LGBT characters, 71% of cable and 73% of streaming were white characters.

Though it's clear that the LGBT community is being represented perhaps more than ever before, there's still a lot of room for improvement, especially when it comes to diversity and giving those characters room and life to breathe.

Looking concludes tomorrow night (August 2) at 10.15pm on Sky Atlantic HD.


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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