Scream played right into the most disturbing horror trope of them all.
Oh, Rachel, we hardly knew you. No, really, the only thing we knew about you before you were hung (twice) by the masked killer was that you were shy, a cutter and a lesbian. On a show where anyone can die, it was disappointing to see Scream succumb to the most tired horror trope of them all: Bury Your Gays.
Rachel was a secondary character. She was characterized by her depression, her shame over the viral video incident and her relationship with Audrey. Having her be the killer’s second victim did nothing but establish there is no method to the killer’s madness beyond extensive horror movie knowledge. Nina had a much stronger connection to the group of kids involved in this nightmare. She was their queen bee and they all lived under her influence. She was the one to take the video of Audrey and Rachel and then post it online. Nina was connected to all of the characters in one way or another, but Audrey was the only one who knew Rachel — she didn’t even go to the same school as the other kids. Killing her was random, and whether the show is aware of this or not, it played into one of the oldest horror tropes in the books.
From the campy horror of the ’60s and ’70s to television classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Tara, no lesbian is safe from dying a horrible death when there is a killer on the loose. The trope originated in literature as a way to either punish characters for their supposed deviance or go to the opposite extreme and elevate gay characters to an almost saintly level of goodness to further point out how evil everyone else is. Either way, it’s an outdated plot device.
Rachel clearly falls in the latter category. She was very Tara-esque in the few moments she was alive on screen. From her blonde hair to the way she shyly tilted her head away from Audrey every time she was told she was beautiful, it was clear Rachel was too good for this world. By the laws of horror movie logic, that meant she had to die, ostensibly because her death would hurt the audience in a way the offing of the morally bankrupt Nina did not.
But Scream is supposed to be about subverting horror tropes, not playing into them, and there were other minor characters whose death would have carried weight. Emma’s mother would have been particularly heartbreaking. Rachel’s swift and brutal demise was clearly a way to up the stakes, but her death was ultimately so trite and predictable, it was a major letdown from last week’s killer opener.
Adding Rachel to the long list of horror’s dead lesbians (especially this early in the game) is a worrying sign that Scream is not as self-aware as it claims to be. Having Noah, our resident horror expert, lampshade the trope would have at least acknowledged the show understood that it had just perpetuated one of the oldest horror tricks in the book. Instead, Rachel died and the stakes were raised at her expense.
At least Audrey is still alive, and she even has a shot of making it to the end. If she does, she’ll be standing at the finish line alone, though. She’s yet another LGBTQ character whose significant other was offed, leaving her angry and single. Is that progress? Not really. Whatever happens next, Audrey and the show will move forward in the shadow of Rachel’s death, and with only one minority character on the show, poor Riley had better watch her back — after all, if Scream intends to follow horror tropes instead of invert them, the next character to die after the promiscuous teen and the lesbian is the minority character.
Scream can do better than this (it already did in the premiere). If the showrunners want to surprise the audience, then the killer needs to throw the horror playbook away and start making his own rules. Otherwise, the only horror to be found here is that the genre hasn’t progressed enough to let the lesbian couple make it to the end.