I won’t name names, because I’m wary of spoilers, but one of my favourite characters was recently killed off on a TV show I love. This character was a woman and though at the time, the issue of sexism did not once enter my mind, I later found out that there had been some considerable buzz online when the episode first aired, so much so in fact that the actress who played the character waded into the debate herself in defence of the show’s writer.
I’m not sure I can be called a feminist, given that I am male, but I am absolutely an advocate of equality for women both in the real world and within the realms of fiction. This particular character was popular and clearly the show wanted us to feel sadness and anger at her death; that is why she was killed. This character had knowledge that made her a threat to the antagonist; that is why she was killed. This character existed within a show that had its protagonists constantly under threat; that is why she was killed. She was, in my opinion, certainly not killed simply because she was a woman.
I love a good heroine, perhaps even more so than their male counterparts because they do, after all, have many more stereotypes to overcome, making them all the more empowering and enigmatic when they do lead the way. Surely the point about equality means however that we must take the bad with the good and accept that female characters are also at risk of getting the chop? If a popular male character had been killed off of the same show, there would no doubt have been a similar outpouring of grief from the fans but likely no suggestion that the decision had been made because of his gender. If anything it was testament to her likeability that she was killed.
This kind of reverse sexism is fascinating and somewhat disappointing to me, because I feel we live in a time where female characters receive more attention and equality than ever before and pointing the finger where it need not be is a real shame. There are still improvements to be made but making female characters untouchable because of their gender is not equality and will get us nowhere in the long run. We need to see them represented realistically, warts and all, and if that means some of our favourites must pay the ultimate price, so be it.
What female characters do you love? Do you feel women are treated more equally in fiction now than in the past?