Maggie Sawyer’s true colours: the power of fandom
“These fans are turning their disappointment and heartbreak into something positive by helping a charitable cause”
It’s no secret that ever since Floriana Lima’s exit from Supergirl, Maggie and “Sanvers” (that’s Alex/Maggie) fans have been underwhelmed... to say the least. Maggie’s story was a circular whirlwind of disappointment, rather than an arc.
Usually, you move from A to B to C in a series of complexities defined by the decisions and identity of your character. Unfortunately for Maggie, where she started as a homeless 14-year-old child, kicked out by homophobic parents, was pretty much where she ended up. In her last two episodes, her father refused to accept that she’d marry a woman. Ultimately when Sanvers ended, Maggie Sawyer was once again left with a duffel bag, homeless.
The True Colours fund finds that of the 1.6 million youths homeless in the USA, 40% of them are LGBT. That’s a whopping 640,000 — a larger population than Bristol. Its mission statement is simple: to reduce that 40% to nothing.
Recently, the Maggie Sawyers fandom has been raising money for this charity, managing a whopping $7,000 in the space of about a week. You might’ve seen the hashtag #MaggieMatters pop up across Twitter, but this is where we sink our teeth into fandom. For many, Lima’s Maggie may have been the inspiration.
However, Lima is not the forceful hand pushing you to donate. For these fans, they’ve recognised a beautifully appropriate charity. Hope can be diminished or rejuvenated on television. These fans are turning their disappointment and heartbreak into something positive by helping a charitable cause.
And that, my friends, is the power of fandom. It’s a word that has been toxic in some cases. We sometimes associate fandom with the concept of “ship wars”, arguments and the refusal to see an argument from both sides. But then in 2016, when The 100’s beloved lesbian character Lexa was needlessly killed off, fandom became something more. Viewers declared, “Enough! We will not accept this kind of representation anymore!” and raised wads of cash for homeless LGBTQ youth charity, The Trevor Project. As television learns and evolves, so does fandom.
If Bury Your Gays is, touch wood, a trope tossed in the fire, has it truly turned to ashes? Or is it the first step? What is the scenario like internationally? Do showrunners avoid the trope like the plague and forget to give their LGBT character something outside of being... well... LGBT? Because of all the wonderful LGBT people I’ve met, they’ve had jobs, families, ambitions, flaws — and I challenge you to find someone within that community who is simply the boyfriend or the girlfriend or partner.
If it were up to me to state an opinion, I’d say it’s jolly good progress we aren’t shooting lesbians at random anymore, but lack of death does not equate to adequate representation. Just like a flat, two-dimensional heterosexual character is boring (you can always tell they’ll die if it’s a horror and the protagonist has a love story with The Bland Love Interest). Equally, for all sexualities, that simply is not good representation of humanity across the board.
But back to the power of fandom. It was proved when hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for The Trevor Project in Lexa’s name, as well as a convention born from it, a “Lexa Pledge” that “LGBTQ fans deserve better” , the lasting impact of “Lexa’s Legacy”. See the calibre of guests at events like ClexaCon (coming to London soon!).
On a more personal level, I’ve been honoured to witness some of the closest friendships form online. Television is changing, and so is the way we perceive it. What has been most fascinating, however, is how we action what we see.
Who could’ve guessed that the unfair treatment of Maggie Sawyer on Supergirl did not simply launch a Twitter outcry that would fade? Years ago, it might have. But now, with encouragement from showrunners elsewhere, and actresses themselves, fandom must — and I daresay it hase — realise the true power it holds.
The fans are responsible for the views. They are responsible for supporting the show. As Sarah Shahi mentioned at ClexaCon, a show called Timeless was brought back from cancellation because of fan support.
Fandom is power. But most importantly, fandom is a safe space for kindness, tolerance and courage. It’s also a place of understanding and truth. I’ll leave you with words from said fandom because this is what we can achieve when we band together. To Heather, and her beautiful story on the fundraising page:
“Never in my 29 years of life have I seen a couple like Sanvers and/or a character like Maggie on television. A woman who was kicked out of her home for being her true authentic self and then continues with life and becomes someone who is so important to a community and group of people. Maggie’s character is a representation of the LGBTQ community that needs to be portrayed and shown so people know it’s not as easy as some say.”
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