The One Where We Stop Watching Chicago Fire

The One Where We Stop Watching Chicago Fire

Leslie Elizabeth Shay – Patron Saint of Lez Watch TV. May you rest in peace.

Oh, hey, her name is Leslie. That’s funny… Lez. I never watched the show, but the uproar last night made me think that, perhaps something had gone wrong. And lo, they had killed her off. Why does this matter? Well she was the only lesbian on the show (not a big deal, lots of people are the only ‘whatever’ if they’re not a white, anglo-saxon, christian male), one of two women, and … dead. The dead lesbian trope is alive and well.

From After Ellen recap “Chicago Fire” recap (3.1): A damn Shayme:

I can’t say I was shocked by Shay’s death. The summer articles about the show led me to believe she would be the one to die. From a storytelling place, it makes absolute sense. Shay was central to more characters on the show than anyone else. Her death would make the biggest impact and it sets up a season full of drama for all of the characters. But that doesn’t take into account the fact that the dead lesbian is a tired trope.

Leslie ShayEven more tired is the idea that women on television shows exist solely to advance the storylines of their male counterparts. They were never going to kill Severide or Casey (in spite of the fact that last season we learned that one good knock to the head could be the end of Matt). Instead, they looked around and found that the way to make Severide more interesting was to kill his best friend. Shay gets sacrificed so we can watch Kelly deal with his grief, so he can spiral out of control, or rage, or screw things up with Det. Hairporn, or whatever else they have in store for him.

This is the third time this show has killed a female character (yes, they also killed Darden but he has had maybe one minute of screen time, total). Hailey died to advance Casey’s storyline. Jones died, at least in part, to advance Dawson’s but also to advance Herrmann’s character growth. Now, Shay is dead to give Severide room to grow. It’s disappointing. Not just because this is a lame trope, but also because we have lost a character we loved before we got a chance to really know her.

So, while I understand this made sense from a storytelling standpoint, I can’t ignore the greater picture it fits into. Female characters need to be more than just props to make male characters look good or to give them something to overcome. For a while Leslie Shay was a character who advanced her own plots, had her own triumphs and losses, and even a smidgen of a love life and it’s a sad thing to see her join the pantheon of dead lesbians so Severide could have a reason to cry.

Thanks to all of you who have been tweeting along with the #ShaycagoFire hashtag and to everyone who has read these recaps. I will miss writing them almost as much as I will miss Shay and her priceless quips.

So. Thank you for making Tracy and me make a website, Chicago Fire. Glad I didn’t get invested!

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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