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Our biggest heartbreaks in genre

Contributed by
Feb 14, 2018

With hearts and flowers in the air at every turn, we here at Fangrrls decided to ring in Valentine's Day our own way, by visiting the times we had our own hearts utterly broken by the things we love.

If you be friend, sympathize with us in our sorrow; if you be foe, feel free to bathe in our Fangrrl tears. We don't give you this opportunity often. 

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For me, it was when Donna Noble got her memory erased at the end of series 4 of Doctor Who. As someone who loves when my favorite shows gut me, tease me and taunt me, this particular event in my absolute favorite show is the one that sticks with me more than any of the others—the one that really hurts. What happened to Donna was so much more brutal than death. As the season drew to a close, Donna, having absorbed a great deal of the Doctor's knowledge into her own brain, is physically unable to manage it. Afraid of watching his best friend destroyed by his mind, the Doctor chooses to erase any trace of him, every second she'd spent since she first appeared on his TARDIS in her wedding dress two years earlier, from her memory, effectively sentencing her to a prison of her own life. 

We had spent an entire season watching Donna transform from the completely disconnected (but fastest-typing) temp in Chiswick into one of the most determined and brash companions the Doctor had ever had. You could see in her eyes, and through Catherine Tate's amazingly heartfelt performance, that Donna was so enamored with the woman she was discovering herself to be. It is so relatable for anyone who has gone on a journey of self-improvement and discovery, who have carved out our own better selves. Having all of that erased, all of the character development that she'd gone through just wiped away, and done so without her consent, without her agency, haunts me to this day. It was just taken from her. Erasing her memory may have saved her life but it ended it just the same. All she wanted was to travel with the Doctor for the rest of her days, and no amount of lottery tickets could ever replace that. 

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As a married woman, I'm often frustrated by how married couples are portrayed in movies and television. Often, it's either as cloying matchmakers or as adulterous assholes, as if any other onscreen possibility would be inherently a snooze. But Firefly was different. Amid a crew of space cowboys and quirky misfits, Joss Whedon gave us Zoë and Wash, a wife-and-husband team, who were not only cool but also totally crazy about each other. They seemed an odd match, sure. She was a dry-witted warrior, who suffered no fools. He was a goofball pilot, who kept things light even in the darkest moments. Together they were ever-shiny. I swooned over them individually and as a couple. And then came Serenity.

The spinoff movie that I'd wanted for so long mercilessly killed off Wash. And while it hurt to lose him, it hurt even more to see Zoë lose her soulmate. In that moment, science fiction got too real. Then, I wept. To this day, I still refuse to watch Serenity ever again. I don't want to visit the 'verse if Wash + Zoë isn't in it. - Kristy Puchko

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Appearing first in The Chamber of Secrets, Dobby breaks all binding house elf customs (and defies his master’s wishes) in an attempt to save Harry Potter from being killed. Since that appearance, Dobby stole the hearts of readers like myself. He was not just another person who loved Harry, like Hermione or Ron. Dobby was special. Born a powerful magical creature among magical creatures enslaved by wizards since time immemorial, Dobby is freed by Harry, to whom he continues to be devoted throughout the books, ultimately giving his life while helping Harry. Dobby disapparates Harry and several others away from the Malfoy Manor and the approach of Voldemort. Bellatrix Lestrange is furious with Dobby for his defiance and throws a knife, which kills Dobby when he arrives at their destination.

Dobby’s death is tragic and unexpected, but every aspect of the burial is what really destroys me, from the gentle way Luna closes his eyes to the way Ron strips the socks and shoes from his own feet for Dobby to be buried in to the fact that Harry digs the grave by himself without magic. While so many of the deaths in the final books of Harry Potter are devastating, it is Dobby’s death that strikes me to the core. He didn’t have to save Harry. Wizards had abused and enslaved him and his kind; he was finally free, and he didn’t owe Harry anything. But he saved him. He lost his life in the process, but his sacrifice lives on in the people he saves.

His headstone reads: Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf. - S.E. Fleanor

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Mystique has been mostly solo for some time, but as a pair, she and Destiny were major X-Men villains of the 1980s. Writer Chris Claremont intended them as an LGBTQIA couple, but editorial mandate at Marvel specified that there could be no queer characters. Claremont still managed to drop hints to their relationship throughout his X-Men run, having initially intended a shapeshifting Mystique to be Rogue's father and Destiny to be her mother. Because everyone hates it when cool stuff happens, that story was vetoed, but he did manage to bring us years of subtext-laden appearances from comics' favorite supervillain power couple.

In Uncanny X-Men #255, however, Mystique notices Destiny has been on edge, and comments, “It's not always fun being with someone who can see the future,” to which Destiny grimly replies, “Try being that person.” Later, in a melee, Mystique and Destiny are separated, with Mystique ordering the mutant Forge to watch over her. Destiny tells Forge that if he doesn't go back, Mystique and the others will be killed. Forge leaves Destiny unguarded, and she herself is killed off-panel by Xavier's son, Legion.

When Forge apologizes for leaving Destiny, Mystique, taking Destiny's lifeless body in her arms, says, “Sorry... is such an... inadequate word...” which is the part of this tale where I can no longer hold it together and I descend into a crying mess. WHY, FORGE? WHY DID YOU LEAVE HER? Often only acknowledged as a couple after Destiny's death, sometimes it's easy for contemporary comic fans to forget the depths of Mystique and Destiny's love for one another, but as recently as the series The Wolverines, we see a Mystique that is willing to destroy the universe for a chance to see Destiny once more. With Destiny, reading the issue in which she dies is painful, but the burn for queer fans is that this love story is told either posthumously or entirely via subtext. - Sara Century

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Buffy and Angel were a seminal pair for me, my first ship. His gentle protective nature, how she could be vulnerable with him, mixed with the forbidden nature of their love, I was fully, deeply invested. But then came "Surprise" and "Innocence." Buffy and Angel have sex for the first time (and only time as far as she's concerned—more on that in a second) and he loses his soul. And we watch the wholly relatable experience of this person you've given yourself to become cruel and thoughtless as soon as it's over. And for the rest of the season we watch as Angel, our Angel, is evil, wicked, murderous. And, like, still totally hot, but evil. Never more so than the moment he kills Jenny and sets Giles up to find her body.

So when Buffy is forced to kill him in "Becoming Part 2," we get it. We're on board. But nothing, nothing could prepare us for the moment Willow's spell works at the exact second the hell dimension opens, leaving Buffy no choice but to kill the man she loves most, who is once again the man she loves most, and stare into his betrayed, confused eyes as he is sucked in. We didn't think we could ever feel so brokenhearted again...

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...That is until episode 8 of the first season of Angel. Made human again, Angel and Buffy get to be the couple they've always wanted. They get to have sex, and kiss in the daylight, and she gets to feel his beating heart. "Like a normal girl, falling asleep in the arms of a normal boyfriend. It's perfect." But she's not a normal girl and he's not a normal boyfriend, no matter how desperately they want it. Angel is useless with only human strength, so he chooses to continue to protect Buffy (and the world) rather than be with her, under one stipulation: the whole day, that beautiful day, must be erased. Only Angel will remember it, and he tells Buffy only one minute before time rolls back (while the same music from that scene at the end of "Becoming Part 2" plays in the background). She sobs, promising she'll never forget. And then she does. And we're as devastated as Angel. - Courtney Enlow

And of course, we would remiss if we didn't mention the source of the most broken hearts in the history of genre media, one that can be expressed with a single, devastating image:

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"...for a thousand summers... I will wait for you.."