The death of Lexa was about more than just the loss of a beloved character. Lexa’s death hurt and it sparked the beginning of a campaign that proclaimed “enough is enough”. Enough with accepting that the representation we get is enough. Enough with accepting that we should always be appreciative, that we should never demand more. Enough with being made to feel worthless.
Not everyone understood Lexa’s death and the outcry that followed it. Some saw it as an overreaction, some saw it as “just another character death”, so what did fans do? They made their voices heard. They refused to stop until as many people as possible understood the issue. And do you know what? They’re still fighting.
The Bury Your Gays Trope has long been around, but it’s also long been ignored. It wasn’t just the creators of these characters who were unaware of it, but even fans and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Suddenly, so many were opened up to years and years of the same shameful treatment of LGBTQ+ characters.
When you look at the statistics, you see how big an issue this really is.
In 2015-16, 42 lesbian and bisexual characters were killed off, which made up 10% of the deaths on TV in that year. In the 2016-17 TV season, 20 more died. Now, if you’re wondering “well look at all the heterosexual characters who were killed off”, consider the fact that lesbian and bisexual characters make up less than 10% of characters on TV. GLAAD’s annual report on inclusion revealed that on prime time TV, there were only 58 LGBTQ characters compared to 844 straight characters. So evidently, 20 of those characters getting killed off is pretty notable.
So, what’s the effect of these characters being continuously killed off? What message does it leave behind for the people who were validated by them? Who were able to escape from their real life worries by finding comfort in them? Quite clearly, the effect is damaging and there’s no reason why it should be happening over, and over, and over again.
LGBTQ+ representation matters. Positive LGBTQ+ representation matters even more. Show runners need to take more responsibility and look out for the fans who put endless support into these shows. We need to see more queer characters and less stray bullets. We need more queer writers writing these stories, because if you don’t know how to do it without falling into a harmful trope, you shouldn’t be doing it. To put it simply: We. Need. More.
‘The 100’s’ Lexa was an incredible character for so many reasons. She was strong, badass, fearless, protective, compassionate, complex. She made you feel empowered. But the most important part? She made you feel represented.
Clarke and Lexa’s relationship was one to be remembered. They were on opposite sides, but found a way to unite. They learned from each other and inevitably fell for each other. Of course fans latched onto their dynamic and felt hopeful for their own futures by doing so. When you see yourself in a character, and you watch them find happiness, you start to feel that you’re deserving of that too.
One of the key issues with Lexa’s death was the fact that moments before, she had just consummated her relationship. She had found happiness and fans were made to feel hopeful. Fans were encouraged to watch and root for them, despite the ending that had already been written.
Lexa died 2 years ago and the issue is still ever present. But are things improving?
Thankfully, there are many shows out there who are doing the right thing. The Netflix show “One Day at a Time” has Elena, a teenager whose coming out story was done brilliantly in the first series of the show and who found love in the second. There’s “Sense8”, a series that although unrightfully cancelled, has multiple queer characters in healthy relationships.
Alex Danvers (Supergirl) had another well told coming out arc that resonated and despite the departure of her girlfriend Maggie marking the end of ‘Sanvers’, she still continues to kick ass. There’s the much loved ‘Hollstein’ who got their happy ending on Carmilla. Wynonna Earp is doing all the right things with ‘Wayhaught’. Brooklyn Nine-Nine continue to prove why it’s one of the best shows on TV with Rosa’s revelation that she’s bisexual.
Thankfully, there are shows out there that are doing the right thing. Thanks to the “LGBT Fans Deserve Better” movement, things are changing. They’re still not perfect and shows are still going to undoubtedly get it wrong, but a large group of people will be there to greet them when they do.
Raising your voice is the only way you’re ever going to get heard. And that’s exactly what LGBTQ+ fans did after Lexa’s death. They raised their voices, they refused to be silenced and they aren’t giving up the fight for positive representation in TV.
$172K and counting has been donated to The Trevor Project following Lexa’s death. You can donate here.