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This Heroic Death on Wynonna Earp Left Me Feeling Sad & Frustrated

Tim Rozon, Melanie Scrofano, and Shamier Anderson in Wynonna Earp (2016)


Since I know it will be called into question, let me start off by saying that I completely and utterly love Wynonna Earp. I love the show, and I have deep respect for Emily Andras, who I’ve met at cons, and the way she interacts with fans. The show has been very meaningful to me, and before this recent episode, I literally had another article ready about talking about how racially inclusive and fun the fanbase is.

Then Dolls died, and I was left with this frustrated, but familiar, knot in my stomach. To briefly recap the events, a revenant attacks Wynonna and Waverly, and Dolls joins the group to help. They’re attacked by a super demon who works for the big-bad, and Dolls, already unstable due to the genetic modifications Black Badge did to make him a dragon-man, heroically sacrifices himself to save Wynonna, Wavery, Nicole, and Doc. He dies in an episode where he has very little screentime, and honestly, he had very little in the premiere episode, as well.

Is his death heroic? Yes. Does that mean that erases all the larger issues with a black character sacrificing his life to save a group of white characters in a piece of fiction? Nope.

And before anyone starts: Yes, I read the interview with Shamier Anderson on TV Guide. I know that he wanted to leave, but the part of his interview that really got to me was this part:

“Yeah! I’m bummed about a lot of things. I’m bummed we didn’t get to go into his storyline a little more. I’m bummed we didn’t get to see the background of him a little more, just kind of his origins. … I think just outside of the show itself, it would have been really interesting to see an interracial couple, you know really go into that and really explore the ins and outs and complexities of what that is, you know, being an interracial couple in a town like Purgatory. And especially with dealing with working with each other. … I think bummed is not the right word; I think the right word is I was looking forward to seeing more of that. There’s only so much you can do in what, 52 minutes or 45 minutes? [laughs] But yeah, that would have been super cool to see a bit of backstory on that end. But you know, the show is called Wynonna Earp, so we’ve got to keep the focus there.”

There was so much about Dolls as a character that we didn’t get to in the series and now never will, despite the fact that he’s one of Wynonna’s love interests, the second-billed character in the credits, and has been such a huge part of Wynonna’s life, and that’s because those storylines were not given priority in the narrative. I still don’t know why Wynonna couldn’t have gotten pregnant with Dolls’ baby.

I mean, even the kiss that Wynonna shares with Dolls in the season three premiere, compared to Wynonna and Doc, tells you all you need to know about the love interest situation there. Loving someone when they die isn’t the same as appreciating them when they’re alive. As Wynonna says, “It’s not fair.”

Here’s the thing: We know that if it had been Nicole Haught who had been killed off on the show, for the same reasons Dolls was killed off, people would be rioting online, and rightfully so.

They would say that representation matters—that because of the history of the “bury your gays” trope, especially in sci-fi, it would be hella problematic and to kill off Nicole, even heroically, rather than find some way to write her off that opens Waverly up to be with another romantic partner in some way. And I would agree with all of that.

Yet, when Dolls, a black man, is killed off with the history of problems with POC representation across sci-fi, we’re not even allowed to have the conversation without being labeled as toxic?

I even saw someone say that if we turn this fandom into The 100 fandom, they’re going to be upset. Well, no worries, because in The 100 fandom, no one cared about the brutality and killing of black or brown characters, except fans of color and allies who sniffed the bullshit. Yet, an entire well-deserved conversation (and fan convention) has come out of the ashes of the senseless bury your gays moment of killing The 100′s Lexa.

Why is that same empathy not now being given to black and brown fans?

I’m black, but I’m also bisexual and a woman. So, when I watched Wynonna Earp, I got to watch a show that spoke to me from all sides of my identity, and with the death of Dolls—just like I felt with the death of Hale on Lost Girl—I’m being made aware of a trend in this genre that has been the bane of my existence since I became aware of it: the way black and brown bodies are used in order to raise the stakes, and how little interest fandom has is processing what that means in the larger social context of the genre.

I appreciated so much how Carmilla continued to add WOC roles, and when Mattie was killed, she came back later and had a great role in the finale. I even appreciated that, on Supergirl, they didn’t kill off Maggie when Floriana Lima wanted to leave the show.

Just like queer fans would like to watch a show without living in constant fear of a queer character being killed off for no reason, so do black and brown fans. We would also like to enjoy the wish-fulfillment and safety of watching a show, one that prides itself on being inclusive, and not feel this tension of “oh, they are going to die.” You would have thought I would have learned my lesson after Sleepy Hollow.

I was so excited about this season of Wynonna Earp. When I saw that the show was going to have not one, not two, but three characters of color in the main cast, I was very happy. I was excited to see how Jeremy was going to get developed, how Dolls and Wynonna would work together with the aftermath of Alice being born, and omg, a black woman, too? Now Dolls is gone, and I just wonder what that will mean for Jeremy and this new character. Will they stick around, or will they be killed off or underwritten?

Because here is the thing: I’m still gonna watch this show, especially since Emily Andras has always come across as an empathetic showrunner, more so than others who I won’t name here, because this isn’t a shady post.

I have always watched shows where I had to choose between good representation for women, good representation for the LGBTQ community, and good POC representation. I will always love Lost Girl, but I can also be really upset at how it handled race, and moving forward, I’m still going to enjoy Wynonna Earp, but yes, I’m gonna keep an eye on how it handles its remaining characters of color. I just wish fandom would rally around each other more.

I wish that, when I go to queer fan conventions, there were more fan art and love for the queer non-white characters, like Black Lightning’s Thunder and Luke Cage’s Shades. Will I see fan art of Shades and Comanche? Will I see non-black gay fans show love for Lightning? I hope so, and I say this not to be mean or to even be bitter, but to let people know that when those of us who live within intersecting identities enter spaces that are supposed to be “inclusive,” we are very much aware when they aren’t.

As much as people call us “racebaiters,” if we truly spoke up every time we saw something problematic going on, it might actually kill us.

I will end with this: When a fandom, especially one that wants to be inclusive, cannot even entertain having a thoughtful conversation about racist tropes without feeling like that means we’re calling everyone racist, that just says that you don’t trust your fellow POC fans. That is what makes a fandom toxic. I’m glad to see many people coming forward to give POC that space, but it also is sad that we still need to ask for it.

(image: SyFy)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.