Can television really be the same after The 100 mess?
Nicola Choi on LGBTQ representation, Bury Your Gays and Lexa's lasting legacy
Two years ago, a whopper of a trend, LGBT Fans Deserve Better, dominated Twitter. When The 100 did away with lesbian clan commander Lexa, viewers weren't just upset, they were angry. This was the final straw after years of LGBTQ TV characters being killed off mercilessly. Mainstream publications such as The Washington Post, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter all jumped in. An incredible fundraiser was born, and so was a hugely successful ClexaCon.
But when we’re talking about “The 100 mess”, as Maureen Ryan from Variety coined it, we’re not just talking about the fallout of killing a lesbian.
Writers from The 100 deliberately baited lesbian and bisexual fans on queer forums—“safe spaces”—by ridiculing valid concerns of her falling victim to the “Bury Your Gays” trope. After the episode aired, influential twitter users had to post suicide hotlines, because when you remember who the target audience for The 100 are, it’s beyond unethical to deliberately manipulate and bait LGBTQ youths who may already be experiencing hardships in real-life, who use television as escapism.
However, instead of reflecting on the injustice many fans felt they faced, we can only look ahead. LGBTQ representation is constantly evolving on television... Or is it? I reached out to the Twittersphere to find out what people think. Twitter started this; Twitter will have their voice heard once more.
1.) To take the infamous 'Lexa Mess', how would you briefly evaluate LGBTQ rep on TV NOW? Specifically how do you think Lexa's death impacted LGBTQ rep, if at all? What's still missing, and what's improved, since the impact of Lexas death--if at all?— Nicola Choi (@NicolaChoi) February 13, 2018
The vocal fanbase responded near-instantly. Here’s what some of them had to say:
i think lexa’s death certainly raised awareness to something that writers were either ignorant to as being a repetitive problem or activity ignored it for a more convenient/creatively lacking ending to a f/f love story. lexa’s death aftermath made ignoring that impossible— kylie (@sanversandclexa) February 13, 2018
Still traumatized.Lexa's death really brought serious attention to Bury Your Trope as has https://t.co/2SZtq3LdoD seems its a vicious pattern being done in overkill mode.The lies,baiting & deception still continues to this day.Some draw The LBGTQ to watch their shows for profits pic.twitter.com/6woaLmpgam— Lєxα🍍⚔️🆑CℓєxαADC&E (@AquariusClexa10) February 13, 2018
Lexa's death has clearly impacted LGBTQ rep. on TV. The enormous backlash forced mainstream media to take note and they have subsequently pressed showrunners to discuss their handling of LGBTQ characters in ways they were previously allowed to get a pass for.— Peachy 🍑🌈❤ (@gapeachy7) February 13, 2018
the useless and cruel Lexa's death had the power to lower the number of mortgages amongs lgbtq characters, but, apart from this it did not improve the quality of the representation— laura lumachelli (@llumachelli) February 14, 2018
and I have not been able to love a new lgbt character because I'm afraid of having to suffer again
Of course it had an impact, but Lexa's life had a greater one. We won't achieve more awareness for what good representation is as long as writers get away with harmful tropes and stereotypes. Listen, rethink, rewrite, find a way. Be accountable, send the right message. pic.twitter.com/eok1xXfL7P— Ash | #WeNeedLexa (@komleksakru) February 14, 2018
The main takeaway from all of this.
Sadly, I don’t think we can expect perfect representation on all fronts just yet. The world is too diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, sexuality, disability... all sorts. But instead of discriminating because of those individualities, why not celebrate that?
It seems like the general consensus is that whilst the handling of the “Lexa incident” wasn’t great, everything that followed, was. In a way, it’s a victory. A tragedy will always remain a tragedy, but if it inspires such generosity, community-wide support and shared love—yes, between a multitude of strangers on the Internet—then maybe we millennials aren’t addicted to social media for all the wrong reasons.
In some cases, as seen in the above tweets, fans were so attached to Lexa and what she meant as a symbol, that they could not see LGBTQ representation the same way again. And that’s a shame, because there is great media out there. One Day at a Time, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Legends of Tomorrow. But it’s not difficult to empathise here, because for the thousandth time: television is not a vacuum. Viewers are real people; some are so young.
Vulnerability is at the forefront, and until television improves its standards regarding representation, maybe that vulnerability will remain at the forefront. It’s not to say television hasn’t—but it still has an understandably long way to go.
However, what the fanbase has so sensitively done is carry on Lexa’s legacy. Lexa was always an altruistic character. There’s nothing you can do about death, other than decide what you take from it. Lexa left a legacy of love, and the fanbase embraced it. It’s been proven in the fundraiser. In ClexaCon. In giveaways, and the production of amazing fan-work.
Legacies are left, yes. But it’s what you make of the legacy that matters. And in this case, I think the message of love has been heard loudly, triumphantly, and clearly.
Oh, we have a way to go, but the wheels of our LGBT train are definitely in motion. Now, let’s hope for a rainbow Tesla to launch us into a world truly representative of the diverse beauty we’re so blessed with every day in real life.
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