BL Tropes: Sudden Death Ending

Welcome to Queer Fudanshi! Let’s talk. Today, we’re going to talk about BL tropes. Specifically for this post, we’ll be talking about the sudden death ending trope. That’s right, today’s all about BL Tropes: Sudden Death Ending.

New to Random Talk? Every Monday I pick a random topic to share and talk to you guys about. In addition, each topic can have a varying category.

There are Ramble times where I discuss topics in a more casual fashion such as Why #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyFriend is Plausible, but not Possible, or How Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (AKA The Scorbus Play) Failed the LGBT Community. BL Tropes where are I share my thoughts on BL and Yaoi clichés like the “No Means Yes Seme.” Then, there are Character Studies such as the ones I did for The Mindy Project and Ugly Betty where I discuss Queer characters from media. Are they great representation? Are they not? And why.

So Let’s Get Talking.

The Youtube Video

This blog post, kind of like the talk about Rictor from the X-Men, and the post about the Mass Effect Series was inspired by a piece of media I’d just checked out. But instead of a movie or video game, this one is about a BL live action.

That’s right, this time it was a BL drama that I recently watched that ended in a way that I wasn’t too happy about. Guys, gals, and those all around, I am not a fan of the “sudden death ending” trope. BL has a lot of tropes in them such as the constant “no means yes seme” trope in yaoi manga. That said, the sudden death one is one of my least favorites.

While in the video above I explain my thoughts on the trope, I’ll take some time here to talk about what the trope is.

It’s a pretty simple concept that has terrible effects on the LGBTQ and Fujoshi/Fudanshi communities. Plus, it’s sadly seen way too often to count. The “Sudden Death Ending” trope is when a BL live action decides to kill off one of the main characters in order to give the story, and the other character, a dramatic ending and reaction.

So say for instance we watch a Thai drama about two high school boys named Ti and Ice. The movie follows their story from being virtual strangers, to how they get closer, to how they fall in love. Then, suddenly ice gets hit by a car and dies before he can seek medical treatment. Then the movie ends 5-10 minutes later. This is the “Sudden Death Ending” trope.

If you are interested in talking all about BL Tropes: Sudden Death Ending you can click on the video above to hear my thoughts. Then lets get into the comments below to have a conversation.

  • Blusocket

    I don’t watch BL dramas so I had no idea this was a thing, but it’s amazing that these shows have managed to fall into the same tired, cruel, trope as western media (Bury Your Gays) especially when at least one other person I know has told me that the draw of BL manga for them is specifically that its characters and couples almost always get to live and be happy. It feels like sacrilege (to indulge my dramatics) and like shooting yourself in the foot, but I’m sure the drama and tragedy sell very well. Sigh. Thank you for this video; it’s a frustrating thing to learn, but I appreciate that I did learn it, and all your hard work!

    • I think this trope is seen more in live action dramas than in manga, so that may be where the difference is in what your friend and I’ve said. But yeah, I totally agree that somehow BL has put itself in the same problem as Western media with with the Bury Your Gays trope. Its just sad that gay and LGBTQ deaths are used so often to bring out more drama in these shows.

      And glad you liked the video 🙂

    • The Censorship standards are probably higher for LA then it is for 2D media.

      • Blusocket

        I’m no expert on Japanese censorship laws, but I feel like referring to a higher proprensity for dead gays in dramas than manga as censorship is probably misleading? Like, anti-pornography laws do always tend to come down harder on same gender erotic content, sometimes even non-explicit same-gender content, but imo it’s waaaayy more likely that this trend is just a product of the same structures that lead to homophobic tv trends in the west: very few to no lgbt/q tv writers or execs and an unwillingness to take a risk on new stories with material percieved to be risky or divisive. Manga, as far as I understand, has a lower barrier to entry and less supervision, plus BL being a pretty established, if niche, manga genre (eg, publishers know it will sell) means artists have more freedom to experiment. That, more than specific legal restrictions, is probably the primary contributer to the difference. Japan definitely has huge problems with homophobia, just like every other nation on the planet, and it’s important not to dismiss or sugarcoat that fact, but it’s also important to be careful not to spread misinformation about what is and isn’t a real, influential issue, especially when that misinformation could potentially feed stereotypes about non-western countries being “backwards” with regard to civil rights. Again, not to diminish very real problems and struggles, just to be careful and cautious in how we talk about this.

        • Censorship isn’t limited to the Government, there is also Self Censorship out of fear of the Parents and other Moral Guardians.

          • Blusocket

            Absolutely! But I don’t think that’s the primary cause of Bury Your Gays, and ‘censorship’ has a pretty strong connotation of *legal* censorship, so I think it’s more responsible/better for clear communication to specify when we’re using it in a different sense.

  • Marfisa

    Luckily, this doesn’t seem to happen too much anymore in BL manga or anime, even though the two most famous early Japanese boys’ love manga, “The Heart of Thomas” and “Song of the Wind and Trees,” were both about tragic boys’ boarding school romances (mostly unrequited) in which at least one of the boys involved eventually wound up dead. In one of them the other boy wound up repenting for cruelly rejecting/not taking seriously the kid who had a crush on him by entering the priesthood(!). I believe both of these manga were originally published in the 1990’s, but they seem much older, partly because of the 19th century European setting and partly because of what now looks like the old-fashioned art style. “The Heart of Thomas” was translated into English and published in the U.S. (by Fantagraphics, I think) seven or eight years ago. It’s actually pretty well done, if you can tolerate artistically-executed melodrama with depressing underlying attitudes toward gayness.

    Anyway, both of these works have been filmed as live-action dramas at least once. (I saw an updated modern-day adaptation of one of them at a convention ten or twelve years ago.) I know very little about the history of BL film drama. But if “Heart of Thomas”/”Song of the Wind and Trees” adaptations were among the earliest BL dramas filmed in Japan (which would make sense, since the classic status of the source material presumably suggested that fujoshi and fudanshi, at least, might well be interested in paying to see a film version–and possibly not-particularly-into-BL fans of creators Moto Hagio and Takemiya [I can’t recall the rest of her name] in general would as well), that may have set enough of a precedent that later directors and screenwriters, etc., figured that the tragic ending of the romance depicted was as integral a part of the appeal as it is in “Romeo and Juliet.” This might at least partially explain why this trope appears to have been over-represented in Asian BL film dramas ever since.

    It seems to be somewhat less prevalent in Western movies (with “Brokeback Mountain,” the AIDS drama “Philadelphia”–although that’s not primarily a romance–and the more recent lesbian-themed French film “Blue Is the Warmest Color” being notable exceptions). But that might be because my impression is that Western filmmakers tend to make fewer films with primarily gay themes that are aimed at general audiences (as opposed to more specifically LGBTQ-audience-targeted movies like “Coffee Date” and miniseries like “Noah’s Arc” that used to air on LOGO)–if only because as far as most people in Hollywood are concerned, the whole fujoshi/fudanshi phenomenon of often-non-LGBTQ people being interested in BL or other LGBTQ material didn’t exist in the West until much more recently than it did in Japan or other parts of Asia.

    • Thank you for all of this information! I’m aware of “Heart of Thomas” and “Song of the Wind and Trees” and how they were the start of the BL manga genre, but I’ve never read them myself. Adding to that, I didn’t even know that there was live action dramas of these stories.

      I agree with you that these being the first dramas have had an effect on the BL live action genre as a whole. In fact, I’m most certain of it. At the end of the day, when it comes to movie/tv show making, precedent is key. “What has made money before and how can we slightly subvert that to make something new but marketable?” That’s why so many people pitch new projects as “It’s _____ mixed with ______.” That’s what most movie/tv show making executives (and sometimes even production teams) consider when greenlighting new work.

      Having this precedent of having these sad and sudden death endings work can make following productions think that it’s the way to go.

      As for Western stories, if the story is primarily focused on LGBT life, I feel that the stories aren’t as immediate to go to a death or sad ending. It’s not their initial thought or goal anyway. (That said, there’s still a lot of them). Conversely, with stories that don’t primarily focus on LGBT life but have LGBT characters, the death count skyrockets.

      For instance, last year an incident happened with a lesbian character dying in the show the 100 that sparked outrage from fans who like LGBT content (which partially lead to the creation of this site). Another site that was created as a response was this one that is actively counting the number of Queer Female deaths in tv shows. The count is currently at 175 and sadly increases regularly. Spoiler warning for the link, it includes how each character dies. (https://www.autostraddle.com/all-65-dead-lesbian-and-bisexual-characters-on-tv-and-how-they-died-312315/)