This post is for the wonderful #CritYourFaves Challenge hosted by Read at Midnight. The purpose behind it is to analyse the books we love and acknowledge their flaws.
The death of minority characters in fiction is hardly a new thing. In fact, it's common enough for TV Tropes to have a couple of pages on it (see: Black Dude Dies First and Bury Your Gays). The tropes even have names. Scroll through them and I promise you - you're bound to see some of your favourites.
For some reason the minority character is, in many occasions, the first to go. Or at the very least, they don't make it out alive by the end.
By looking at the header image you might've been able to guess, but the book I have in mind here is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. TOG is not the first culprit of this 'minority character dies' trope, nor is it the last. But it is one I think needs to be spoken about more.
The series has had a total of 2 POC (People of Colour) characters, both of whom die within the series. Not only that, but they died so the white people close to them could develop as characters. It raises the question: in a world as vast and magnificent as the one in TOG, it begs the question: why is everyone white? And why do the only characters who don't fit into the vast majority end up being the ones to die?
It's a common thing for fantasy where our protagonists and the majority of those around them are white, cisgendered and hetrosexual. The fact that TOG seemed to break this trend with a POC side character was something it was praised for. Until that character died.
There are a few other works of fiction that come to mind when I think of this trope. Two of my all time favourite TV shows - Person of Interest and The 100 - fall into it as well. The main difference is that with these two shows there are a few other diverse characters around, whereas with TOG there are no others (at least not explicitly stated).
But that doesn't make up for it. Having a few other diverse characters around doesn't change the fact that this is a highly saddening trend.
In my opinion, the main problem with this trope is not that a minority character died. It's that another minority character died. It's the fact that if I see a black person (for example) on my TV screen or in a book (particularly if they aren't the primary protagonist) I've started to expect them not to survive. It's a trope that's just building up that we shouldn't be ignoring anymore. We need more diverse characters in our books and on our screens where their purpose isn't to die. This is a difficult trope to break, but I think that with more representation in our fiction, we won't have kids finding the only characters they can relate to in the ones that don't last long enough to have their own story.
Sometimes it's hard to admit the things we love aren't perfect, but it’s worse to pretend these flaws aren’t there. Thanks to Aentee for creating this challenge! I am excited to read the other #CritYourFaves discussions people will be having this month.
What are your feelings about this trope? Are there any big culprits I missed out that you think people need to talk about more? Do you have any ideas on how we as writers and readers can tackle it?
(note: I used diverse and minority as umbrella terms, but I know that it's a lot more complicated than that - I just needed words to help illustrate the points I wanted to address)