Features and Columns · Movies

The Cinematic Origins of the “Bury Your Gays” Cliché

Every trope has an origin story.
Gay Rebel Without A Cause Guy
By  · Published on September 13th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the origins of the “bury your gays” cinematic trope.

Unfortunately, much like real life, certain demographics in film have historically been considered  “more expendable” than others. For a long time, this included queer characters.

The nuances of this expendability have shifted over time, reacting to everything from human rights victories to the AIDS epidemic, to changes in public opinion. From “deviant” queer-coded characters whose deaths are played for laughs to melodramatic “gayngst-induced suicides,” for a good deal of cinema’s history, being queer on-screen was a death sentence.

It must be said: things have changed. To the point where there’s even a “preserve your gays” trope, which as its name suggests, goes out of its way to ensure that queer characters survive.

But where did the “bury your gays” cinematic trope begin? What part did the Hayes Code play in its proliferation? And what can the trope’s origins tell us about how we tell queer stories today? Here’s a super-sized video essay that digs into it:

Watch “Where the ‘Bury Your Gays’ Trope Came From?”

Who made this?

This video essay about the origins of the “bury your gays” trope in film is by James Somerton, a Toronto-based video essayist who makes videos about “mostly queer stuff” (hell yeah). You can subscribe to Somerton on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter (I’m not going to call it “X”), here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.