‘Backstrom’ and the problem with using dead lesbians as a punchline


“I’ll have to call you back — I’m looking for two lesbians in a shed,” Rainn Wilson says in the promo for his latest show, “Backstrom.” Wilson is in a dimly lit shack with a flashlight. The line is a joke. It’s funny because the lesbians are dead. Dead lesbians. Everyone laugh, as hard you can. It wouldn’t have been funny if Wilson had said, “I’m looking for two mothers in a shed” or “I’m looking for two teachers in a shed.”

The promo has been playing non-stop on Hulu Plus and I have been trying to pinpoint what I need to stay about it for a month. After all, killing women is entertainment for everyone. Our most popular television shows are built on the defiled corpses of women. But it’s generally agreed that it’s not something we laugh at. I talked about it with my partner and my friends. There were a few hypotheses thrown out:

1. It’s funny because butch lesbians like to wear flannel and go to Home Depot, so of course they would be killed and hidden in a shed. Lesbians! Always doing home improvements as if they were men. Hilarious.

2. Lesbians! It’s a hilarious word and they don’t really count as people, so it’s OK to laugh if they are murdered.

On February 7, married couple Lisa and Anna Trubnikova were violently attacked by a former coworker who was obsessed with them. The media is trying to spin this as his lust for one of the women that spiraled out of control. But that’s a sensationalized way of looking at it. Put simply: This criminal hated these women. He hated them for not needing him, he hated them for not sleeping with him, he hated them for being happy without a man. So he killed them. Anna survived, but Lisa did not. It’s a tragedy, it’s sick, it’s not fair, it happens way too often.

To be a woman in this world is to be vulnerable. Author Rebecca Solnit says in her latest book, “Men Explain Things to Me:”

“We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.”

To be openly lesbian is to add on yet another layer of vulnerability.

AfterEllen has an informative roundup of a few of the heinous crimes that took the lives of lesbian couples. The article is pure nightmare fuel and the men who commit these crimes were attracted to their targets because of their queerness, because they could not stand the idea of two women who were happy and in love. “They deserved to die because they were lesbian,” “I was told by God … to attack my enemies, and I did so” two of the men in the article are quoted as saying.

Even a father has killed his daughter and her girlfriend for daring to be gay and happy. Britney Cosby and her partner Crystal Jackson were murdered and left near a dumpster in Texas. Koran passages underlining the sin of homosexuality were found in Cosby’s father’s bedroom. The man himself was a repeated sex offender.

Then there is the other recent case of teenage lesbian couple Mary Kristine Chappa and Mollie Olgin. The girls were abducted from a park, forced to restrain each other, raped and shot and left for dead. One of the girls survived.

Lesbians are treated in society as either disposable sex objects, women who are trying to be men, sinning heretics that must be disposed of, or feminist bitches who are too stupid to sleep with men. These perceptions attract disdain and hate. They are why we are frequently the targets of violent hate crimes. Which is why it’s totally fine and hilarious when we meet the end we were destined to meet in the first place.

“I’m looking for two lesbians in a shed.”

It’s not funny. One day our suffering won’t be a punchline.

Natasia Langfelder is just a girl, writing about girls in New York City. Read more of her work at Hot Femme in the City.

3 Responses to “‘Backstrom’ and the problem with using dead lesbians as a punchline”

  1. JD Frank

    They are looking for a live lesbian. Never says anytime about the lesbians being dead. The episode just aired this past Thursday and Backstrom is searching for a living person.

  2. J

    Well said. Thank for making me aware of this show and it’s supposed joke. I had by ad block up s0o Hulu hates me.


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