Rewriting TV: 5 LGBTQ+ Characters Who Deserved Better

Let's pick up the pen - which character deserved better in your eyes?

Victoria Hicks
Created by Victoria Hicks
On Jun 27, 2023
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Five is not nearly enough to shout out in this article today with the treatment of LGBTQ+ characters in TV and film. Tropes such as "bury your gays" showcases characters in this community as expendable compared to heterosexual characters or even villainous. Though it has slowed down, there are still some characters we wanted more for and who deserved more than better! Let's talk about a few of them from some popular TV shows!

1. Poussey Washington (Orange Is The New Black)

Orange is the New Black was a TV show that took us all by storm during the 2013-2019 years. It ran for 7 successful seasons and had an awesome group of women who were coming to terms with being and sometimes finding love behind bars. Poussey Washington played flawlessly by Samira Wiley was a main character on the show until her death in the 4th season. You heard right, this beloved character died.

Captain Desi Piscatella would take advantage of, intimidate, and mistreat the inmates just because he could at Litchfield Penitentiary. A large group of characters got together to peacefully protest the mistreatment in the cafeteria. The force Poussey was met with by Corrections Officer Bailey mirrored the real-life way black civilian Eric Garner was met with back in 2014. Garner was put into a chokehold after officers attempted to arrest him - killing him. Garner repeated he couldn't breathe 11 times, but was ignored.

Poussey had the same treatment - CO Baily put his knee into her back while she tried to communicate several times she was being hurt. Bailey ignored her and kept the force down, not paying any attention. Poussey's girlfriend, Brook Soso, portrayed by Kimiko Glenn took the news hard like the other characters - pushing everyone away. The rest of the series does try to show the other characters attempting to move on from such a devastating loss - but it doesn't quite feel the same. While our hearts are TRULY broken over losing this character in such an intense way - the show did a fantastic job bringing attention to deaths such as Eric Garner and later unfortunately George Floyd.

2. Sammy Lieberman (Dance Academy)

Dance Academy was a show for the times! Even if you watched later, you were still attached to these characters and their storylines. Dance Academy follows a small-town girl in Australia named Tara who goes on to try to chase her dreams of being a dancer at the National Academy for Dance. Drama, romance, and humorous moments ensue. Even moments that make you dislike some characters and love others. The show ran from 2010 - 2013 for 3 seasons!

Samuel Lieberman who we learned to call "Sammy" was played by Thom Green - who just had a way of making you love and adore this character. Sammy goes through an entire journey of figuring himself out, his sexuality, breaking away from his conservative Jewish parents' career expectations, etc. When Sammy finally gets with his boyfriend Ollie, played by the fantastic Keiynan Lonsdale - he's on top of the world. He can finally be himself, his dancing is better - he's improved, and he's happy! We, the audience, are happy. Regarding his dancing, he wanted to prove to his parents that he made the right choice and can make a career out of it. So when he and Tara get parts in the Prix de Fonteyn he works hard for.

In a series of flashbacks - we learn since Sammy couldn't dance with all of his friends on stage he would dance with a video of them as his backdrop and a voiceover. The voiceover and video are heartwarming and touching - hits you right in the feels. It isn't until a series of events unfold that we learn that on his way to the competition, Sammy was struck by a car offscreen!

This shocked everyone to their core: characters and audience included. Definitely, something we didn't see coming. To make matters worse, Sammy DIES on the way to the hospital. The characters learn one by one and we're just sitting watching in disbelief. Most viewers were outraged and heartbroken by this as Sammy was one of the most beloved characters of the show. We didn't get to see the rest of his newfound happiness play out. A huge disappointment and punches you right in the gut. He deserved better than being struck by a car offscreen.

3. Maya St. Germain (Pretty Little Liars)

Now, this one is a huge one - Maya St. Germain of Pretty Little Liars. Pretty Little Liars doesn't need a massive introduction but for those who are just getting started on your PLL journey - Pretty Little Liars is a time suck and we loved it! It ran from 2010 - 2017 with 7 seasons and a time jump that everyone's split about. It's a mystery drama that aired on ABC Family (now known as Freeform) that followed a group of girls in a small town whose best friend goes missing. Shortly after she's found dead they start receiving strange text messages from someone named "A" who makes them do insane things and pits them against each other at times by threatening to release their secrets. Pretty Little Liars is based on the book series by Sara Shepherd, but the teen drama was created by plot-hole queen Marlene King.

Bianca Lawson played Maya perfectly! Maya was spunky, free-spirited, and a little unconventional, and Emily Fields played by Shay Mitchell fell for her hard. They sort of started off as flirty friends, but Maya could see Emily was interested. Emily was coming to terms with her sexuality and felt she could be herself with Maya.

It wouldn't be a TV show in the early 2010's if the "bury your gays" trope didn't make an appearance. With "A" on the girls' trail, monitoring their every move - they discover Mona's involvement as "A". Shocked and thinking we've seen it all this episode as the girls walk home, an ambulance truck speeds to Maya's house. Emily's mother reveals that they found a body and they believe it's Maya. Emily breaks down understandably as her friends console her, watching a body being brought out on a gurney.

This was insane! Maya may have not been a main character, but she was the free-spirited queer woman we loved. To have her killed offscreen and taken away and her story not completely figured out was a disservice to the character. Later they try to include Maya as a part of the mystery with the phrase "Maya knew" which turned out to just be an acronym for something relating to Aria which didn't pan out. Disappointing. And then they wrote her death off later in the following season as a jealous ex-boyfriend, upset she was with Emily, followed her to Rosewood and killed her. Disappointing. Was hoping for more for Maya - the potential was lost.

4. Charlotte DiLaurentis (Pretty Little Liars)

With the introduction of Pretty Little Liars out of the way, let's talk about a red herring turned mastermind in the series - Charlotte DiLaurentis also known as CeCe Drake (played by Vanessa Ray). Within these hurtful tropes lies one where people who identify as transgender are stereotypically revealed to be killers and manipulators. They may also be called their deadnames by upset protagonists to hold leverage against them.

Charlotte DiLaurentis! We first meet her in the series as occasional fun blonde CeCe Drake. She shows up to fill the red herring quota and may or may not give the viewers something new to add to their theory board. For a while, CeCe wasn't a series "regular" and again would just pop up suddenly. It wasn't until the season 6A finale that it's revealed that CeCe Drake is not only really Charlotte DiLaurentis, but Charlotte DiLaurentis was formerly Charles DiLaurentis.

After monologuing about her plan and what lengths she had to go to to get everything to fall into place - she attempts to blow up Radley to kill her family and herself! When the bomb is stopped by the girls, Charlotte attempts to take her life by jumping from the roof, but is stopped by the girls - they encourage her to come back. Charlotte vows to never do anything as "A" again.

However, in the second half, 6B - we learn that Charlotte is not only dead (initially offscreen), but Mona did it. She met Charlotte in the town's clock tower to talk and confront her about a few things. Unfortunately, the two struggle, Mona tries to threaten Charlotte and Charlotte fights back - Charlotte's head gets smashed up against an open pipe. To stage it as a suicide, Mona throws Charlotte from the clock tower - which is how she's initially found before the mystery is uncovered.

So a few things with this: The show was good for its time, but did a terrible job handling this topic. The characters, for quite a while, even in the episode title and EVEN in the puzzle that needed to be solved, referred to Charlotte as her deadname - "Charles". Which at the time may not had landed with some, but it did with others and even more so now. There were so many other people they could've made "A". There were ways to work in trans representation without making the one trans character a villain. There was also the speculation that Charlotte was never meant to be "A", but the final scripts were rewritten once fans sort of uncovered the mystery with their Sherlock skills. Something we may never know, but one thing's for sure, Charlotte could've been handled a lot better, I enjoyed CeCe Drake sort of sleuthing around a bit in the earlier seasons.

5. Oberyn Martell (Game of Thrones)

Game of Thrones (2011-2019) ran for 8 seasons and was based on a series of novels ("A Song of Ice and Fire") written by George R.R. Martin. The popular show aired every week on HBO and followed the story of 9 noble families fighting over control of the throne!

Pedro Pascal played Oberyn Martell who came from House Martell. Oberyn is the younger brother of Prince Doran Martell who rules Dorne. Oberyn was a little hotheaded, quick-witted, very flirty with both men and women, and was comfortable with his sexuality.

Oberyn dies in the 8th episode of the 4th season of the show called "The Mountain and the Viper". This all happens because Tyrion Lannister, portrayed by Peter Dinklage, needs a champion to fight for him. He stands trial for the murder of a crime he didn't commit, King Joffery's. While Cersei picks The Mountain, Gregor, to fight for her, Tyrion who is at a loss needs a volunteer. Oberyn jumps at the chance. He wants revenge for his sister Elia who was raped and murdered along with her children by Gregor.

During this fight, Oberyn has the upper hand and while it seems like he's got this in the bag, before killing Gregor he yells for him to confess to killing Elia. Gregor pulls out his last stop and flips the script - confessing to the murder and then gouging out Oberyn's eyes and crushing his skull almost immediately. Everyone's left to just sit here in shock as Tywin Lannister sentences Tyrion to be executed for the "murder" of Joffery.

We understand he was murdered the same way in the novels, but goodness. He was taken away from everyone so soon in the show! Yes, to be fair in Game of Thrones everyone was expendable, but no one wanted our bisexual hero to go out that way.

Must Mentions

Because we can't just choose 5 - we're cheating! These characters held a special place in our hearts.

** Dr. Denise Cloyd (The Walking Dead)

The Walking Dead (2010-2022), is the longest-running show on our list that we want to discuss. It ran for a whopping 11 seasons and this doesn't include spinoffs or the comic book series it is based on (by Robert Kirkman). The show follows Deputy Rick Grimes who wakes up from a coma and realizes that the world has fallen to a zombie apocalypse. He tries to find his way back to his family and leads a group of survivors in the process.

We have to talk about Denise (played by Merritt Wever) - it's time.

In season 6 of the iconic series, the group goes after Negan's men and take out their trucks and outposts. Denise is one of the doctors of Alexandria (the safe zone our protagonists live in at the moment). Denise tries to talk to characters Daryl Dixon (played by Norman Reedus) and Rosita Espinosa (played by Christian Serratos) about dealing with their personal issues in a healthy way. Encouraging them to work things out. In this speech, she talks about why she asked Daryl and Rosita to come with her on her mission (Daryl makes her feel safe and she didn't want Rosita to continue to feel alone). She encourages them to stay strong during this tough time and says that she can even learn to be strong too. With her own strength, she refers to how she could've gone with her girlfriend Tara on a separate mission and told her she loved her, but she didn't because she was afraid. She rallies everyone together and says that maybe they're doing the right thing for them right now and they're stronger for it.

"...because you're strong and you're smart and you're both really good people and if you don't wake--" Dr. Denise Cloyd

She is shockingly and suddenly shot through the eye with an arrow!! In the middle of her uplifting speech. The arrow was meant for Daryl Dixon, the protagonist Dwight misfired and shot Denise by accident. This hit was ordered by Negan. Denise was not a main character of the show, but we all believed she was getting there especially with her becoming more confident about her relationship and feelings for Tara. It's truly unfortunate that she was killed for shock value and for fuel for Daryl Dixon.

** Villanelle (Killing Eve)

We couldn't leave without talking about Villanelle (played brilliantly by Jody Comer) of Killing Eve! Killing Eve also stars the amazing Sandra Oh as Eve. The show ran from 2018 - 2022 (for 4 seasons) and followed the lives of a security operative and an assassin whose lives become forever linked.

We haven't heard an uproar like the one we heard with Villanelle's death in the SERIES FINALE of Killing Eve. Villanelle and Eve were well-written characters from start to finish. Both characters getting to finally have their proper kiss and express their love without anything getting in the way, including themselves, was great... until Villanelle is sniped and dragged away by the currents leaving Eve and the audience devastated... in the series finale.

The writers expressed why they decided to write it this way - saying: Villanelle was too much of a loose cannon to let live after everything. The character who assassinated her wanted to tie up loose ends. Which is understandable in some ways - it was just so abrupt and left with no true closure, it was painful. Especially knowing that the books ended in a completely different way where the pair go on to fake their deaths and live together peacefully in another town. Do better writers, everything doesn't have to be done for shock value.

So there you have it! These characters just scratch the surface, but we're curious what you think! Did any of these characters go too soon in these popular TV shows? What would you have done differently as a writer for the show to better represent the LGBTQ+ community and discard the "bury your gays" trope? Let us know!

Which of these characters was your favorite?

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