Has everyone rehydrated after sobbing their eyes out? Before we get started, we’re going to talk about the third episode of The Last of Us, so take caution as plot points will be discussed. We’ll also be discussing The Haunting of Bly Manor, which you should watch if you haven’t already. If you haven’t already put it together with the title and the two series, we’re discussing queer representation in horror series.
As a queer woman that consumes horror media like a child consumes candy, queer representation has been quite a hit or miss. We’ve had American Horror Story, which has the representation in numbers but is riddled with stereotypes and biphobia. Before the 2010s, there were films that were had implicit queer representation. Recently, we’ve had Jennifer’s Body and it can be traced all the way back to the 1960s with The Haunting. However, the 2020s have given us two distinct queer relationships that shine through the tragic settings. We’re going to discuss them individually.
SPOILERS ARE DISCUSSED FOR THE FOLLOWING: THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR, THE LAST OF US, THe Walking Dead, supernatural, killing eve, game of thrones, The 100
The Haunting of Bly Manor: A Sapphic Love Story
2020 started off as a vile year full of sickness, death and depression. However, one thing I was looking forward to was a new Mike Flanagan series. The Haunting of Hill House rocked my world on its release. It too had fantastic queer representation, though it wasn’t the forefront. The Haunting of Bly Manor was a different beast. Time looping, confusing and fascinating–it was an experiment that paid off content wise. What I was not expecting was crying so hard I felt like I was going to throw up over the storyline of Dani and Jamie.
Their Sapphic love story can be summed up in a Taylor Swift song title: sad, beautiful, tragic. Heterosexual love stories thrive on the will-they-won’t-they tension that grows over a story arc. This time, we get to see that explicitly through two women. There’s no drama around the circumstances on how they’re in love. There’s also no dramatic coming out sequence that verifies that ‘allows’ them to fall in love. They are simply falling in love like a typical romance we’ve seen on screens before–and it was refreshing. Before I delve into it more as well as compare it with episode 3 of TLOU, let’s get into how these tragic love stories are not in coherence with a harmful trend in media.
Bury Your Gays: A Harmful trope
While both of the storylines I’m discussing end tragically–in one or another’s death–these do not fall into the ‘bury your gays’ trope. ‘Bury Your Gays’ comes from the trend in media of an LGBTQ+ character finding happiness and then, in a shocking, unnecessary turn of events, they are killed off. This usually comes out of nowhere, and it’s a cheap trick to make a bunch of people cry and get upset as if it was some shocking plot twist and intended from the start. It’s lazy writing and seems like a cop out from writers–almost like they’re scared of writing a queer experience themselves and won’t bring in writers to finish out a character’s storyline.
Examples of this trope being used: Charlie in Supernatural, Villanelle in Killing Eve, Denise in The Walking Dead, Poussey in Orange is the New Black, Lexi in The 100. One even involves Pedro Pascal with the death of his character Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones. All unnecessary in the scheme of plot and brutality.
The Haunting of Bly Manor and The Last of Us did not do that, however. It ended sadly and in deaths, but we got to see them fall in love and be happy. There was no tragic ‘cusp of happiness.’ They were happy. They were in love, and it was on display. It didn’t end on shocking nor surprising terms. We knew what was going to happen when the bad things began–it was not to shock the audience. This led to true grief and no anger towards the writers–they did it right. They also did it in less time than the worst writers that draw out their queer character’s storyline only to kill them off.
The Last of US: Long, Long time
The Last of Us already had me impressed, but nothing took my breath away quite like this episode. We got a two-decade love story in 60 minutes, and it was something beautiful. We follow Bill and Frank, who weren’t fully fleshed out in the game–Frank was already dead when we meet up with Bill. This allowed for a lot of flexibility with his story and how to adapt it to the screen. What we got was a sweet, gentle love in a messed-up world. We saw them bicker about paint, we saw them laugh and eat strawberries. We saw them spontaneously and thoughtfully in love.
The end of their story is a tragic one. It is not violent, however, as someone may expect in a zombie-style show. There was no such thing as a gentle death on The Walking Dead. Bill and Frank got to grow old together. They discussed how scary love is. They talked about queer sex like it was sex–we saw that first time awkwardness on screen. It was relieving to see something so endearing about a queer relationship without fetishization or stereotypes. It was pure love like every relationship should be. There is a reason “Long, Long Time” is being compared to the Pixar movie, UP–it was a life complete we were mourning.
Comparing Bly manor and Long, long time
There isn’t much more to say in comparing these two, other than we have a queer love story that ends tragically by forces out of their control and another queer love story that ends tragically in a good way. It was not death for drama. Their deaths were meaningful and inevitable–either by the cruel curse of the Lady in the Lake or by a man not letting the love of his life die alone. Queer representation can always improve; however, it seems like The Last of Us took from notes from media that came before it. They approached Bill and Frank’s story with the same melancholy delicateness that Flanagan did with Dani and Jamie’s.
As I’ve said before, queer stories should not be solely about the common traumas. Not every LGBTQ+ story needs a dramatic coming out story nor do we need to watch the character we love bullied and terrorized. The community already deals with those things enough. If TV is meant to be an escape from it all, every piece of media that represents us shouldn’t focus only on that. We want to see romance and comedy. Drama that is about universal stuff. These shows are not released to push a ‘woke’ narrative. If you’re claiming it is, you need expand your horizons and stop watching things that cater only to you.
The love stories here are sad and magnificent–and we got them from the horror genre. I think I’m going to love them (and cry about them) for a long, long time.
I still haven’t recovered, and I don’t plan on doing so. TikTok also won’t let me go–I keep getting bombarded with the most beautiful, sad edits of those two. The Void of Celluloid is on visual platforms with regular content. Therefore, check out the TVOC TikTok and Instagram. It is Black History Month as well as Valentine’s Day coming up, so I am going to do a few articles here and there about Black horror cinema and television as well as some recommendations on what to watch for the holiday and over the course of the month. Stay tuned for that.
Anyways, thanks for spelunking this void with me. If you’re new to the Void of Celluloid, welcome. Feel free to spelunk some other voids while you’re here. You can follow me on other platforms by clicking the buttons below. We post regularly and stay up to date about what’s going on in horror today, reflect on what went on yesterday, and plan for a better, horror filled tomorrow. See ya next time.