We live in dark and difficult times. And while it may seem trivial compared to, say, the reality that Donald Trump is still running for president, one symptom of these times that’s really starting to get to me is the ongoing prevalence of the “bury your gays” trope. This trope, as the name suggests, highlights the ubiquity with which queer characters are killed off in our popular fiction. It’s 2016, people; it’s time to stop using it.
That’s where Alice Isn’t Dead comes in.
Alice Isn’t Dead is the first project out of the Night Vale Presents podcast platform, which seeks “to bring the kind of eerie, fictional storytelling fans of the [Welcome to Night Vale] podcast have come to love”.
It follows an as-yet-unnamed truck driver as she travels the country searching for her wife, Alice, who is missing and was presumed dead. Alice’s wife, however, stumbles upon clues that prove otherwise, and takes a trucking job in order to follow these clues across the states. Along the way (so far), she’s encountered a terrifying supernatural cannibal known as the Thistle Man and gotten stuck in a town called Charlatan that kept reappearing no matter how far she drove away from it. The show is narrated entirely as a radio transmission put out by Alice’s wife from her truck’s CB radio. The wife is played by Night Vale veteran Jasika Nicole (Dana Cardinal in Night Vale), and her narration switches between relaying the actual events of her journey and reminiscing about her wife.
While the podcast focuses more on setting up the world than it does on Alice and her wife’s relationship in the first two episodes, I think that will benefit the podcast in the long run. We don’t know yet why Alice disappeared, so learning about her a little bit at a time helps maintain the mystery. That said, the narration is directly addressed to Alice, and her wife’s asides are touching and emotional. One of the things I especially like about the portrayal of the two women’s marriage is that it clearly isn’t/wasn’t perfect. They’re simply two flawed human beings who loved each other.
I’m enjoying the story so far, although it is significantly darker than the average Night Vale episode. But whatever you think about the content, the creators, or the storytelling, the most important thing about this podcast for me, in a year where pop media has killed off eight queer women already in 2016, is right there in the title: Alice Isn’t Dead. Queer women in the real world are already at risk for violence and it’s not heartening to see that reflected in media.
I’m looking at The 100, which gave viewers a complex and touching queer female relationship before killing one of them off; I’m looking at The Walking Dead, which offed a lesbian right in the wake of The 100 scandal. I’m looking at Arrow, which killed off bisexual Sara Lance as character motivation for her straight sister; I’m looking at Supernatural, which for whatever reason decided to kill off its remaining fan goodwill with me by killing off perennial favorite lesbian nerd Charlie. Whether or not Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor were intentionally challenging the “bury your gays” trope or not, it’s both important and refreshing to see a story where queer women are valued main characters with breath in their bodies.
As of right now, Alice is two episodes/”chapters” into a ten-chapter story. The half-hour-ish runtime means it’ll be easy to catch up if you haven’t been listening, and the brief total of episodes makes it more easily consumable than Night Vale (which is at eighty-five episodes as of this week). If you, like me, prefer your stories about queer ladies to end in something other than tragedy, I suggest you give it a listen. If you’re subscribed to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, you’ll have gotten a taste of it already; they released the first two episodes on the Welcome to Night Vale channel as well as on AID’s own. If not, you can find it here, or, like I did, by searching for it by name in the iTunes podcast store.