When it premiered in 2012, many queer female viewers started watching firehouse drama Chicago Fire.
While the show intrigued and excited with its tragedy and drama and the friendships between the emergency workers, lesbian character Leslie Shay (played by Lauren German) was also a huge draw to the NBC show.
Unfortunately, Shay was killed off as season three began, with the EMT being hit in the head with a pipe as Firehouse 51 went up in flames, and her colleagues were unable to save her.
Despite Shay’s death providing the emotional punch that the show’s writers were aiming for, many fans were upset and frustrated that once again, a lesbian character had been killed off on a television show.
That’s not the only thing leaving LGBT fans unhappy though, as since Shay’s death, none of the Chicago franchise shows (including Chicago Med and Chicago P.D) have featured LGBT characters. During a TCA panel, AfterEllen asked the franchise’s creator, Dick Wolf, why:
The Shay character was written that way from the beginning. We don’t go out of our way, and we never have on any of the shows, to integrate specific groups. I think that that’s shortsighted. I think that if it’s a natural story development, it should be utilized, just like I’ve never counted heads in any of the shows and said, Oh, black, Hispanic, white.’ It doesn’t work that way.
You cast actors who you think are going to bring a new color to the palette, but I honestly it has certainly not been avoided, but it is not something that the writers feel that they have to include. If there is a character who lends itself to any designation, we have absolutely no objection to using them or to developing characters who have that as part of their makeup.”
Out bisexual actress Monica Raymund, who plays Gabriella Dawson on Chicago Fire also offered her opinion on it, saying that:
I think that once you start trying to fulfill boxes to meet quota, you’re not operating from a place of artistry, you’re operating from a place of business. So I’m an artist, I will put my ticket in his hat, and say that if it happens organically that’s the way it should happen. I mean, we’re not on Showtime doing The L Word here, that storyline was about that community and those humans.
This is about first responders where some are straight, some are gay, and some are queer. So I think those characters will happen organically. But to put that as a priority, it’s like saying, ‘You need to cast more Latin actors!’ Maybe that conversation is better for the entire industry not just for our show. “
While many fans will agree that media needs to be diverse (both in terms of race and in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity), Raymund and Wolf’s words will do little to salve concerns.
With the Chicago franchise being made up of three shows, the lack of LGBT representation does stick out and many will argue that in order to reflect the diversity of those professions and represent its viewers, the show will have to do better in future.