We’ve seen a lot of backlash, campaigns, fundraisers, and awareness campaigns following the now-infamous death of Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) on The 100 last month.
Most notably, the Leskru campaign has raised more than $120,000 for The Trevor Project — a fantastic, commendable feat, and a shining example of using the power of fandom to inspire true, tangible change.
Lexa’s death was the last straw for many fans who’ve had to watch their LGBTQ+ representation die over and over again on the small screen, and ironically, she was far from the last — since Lexa, four other shows (The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries, The Magicians and Empire) have killed off six lesbian/bisexual female characters.
A total of 14 lesbian/bisexual characters have died so far in 2016, according to this Tumblr compilation. Last year, it was 19. And that’s not even counting the male LGBTQ+ characters.
But it wasn’t just Lexa’s death that fueled this extraordinary backlash against The 100. What made the LGBTQ+ community particularly incensed was the mistreatment they perceived from The 100‘s writers. Since the reveal that Lexa and lead character Clarke (Eliza Taylor) were going to be romantically involved, LGBTQ+ fans flocked to The 100, and to the Clexa ship. The writers whole-heartedly embraced this community, and joined in the Clexa celebrations on social media. Circumstances around Lexa’s death, and one writer’s alleged insistence that she wasn’t actually going to die, led to massive backlash and accusations that the writers had intentionally misled the LGBTQ+ community to bump up their ratings.
While The 100 still has four LGBTQ+ characters on the show, including bisexual lead character Clarke, many fans consider Lexa’s death — and the social media conversations around it — the ultimate betrayal. The 100, and television at large, have taken this community for granted for too long, and they now demand better and more plentiful representation.
And it looks like their efforts are paying off. Four women, including two writers of the Canadian TV show Saving Hope, have taken a fantastic initiative, creating and signing the “LGBT Fans Deserve Better” pledge — also known as ‘The Lexa Pledge.’
Saving Hope‘s co-executive producer and writer Noelle Carbone and producer Sonia Hosko got together with Trevor Project Fundraiser Creator Gina Tass and producer/director Michelle Mama to craft this seven-point pledge, in which they not only vow to feature LGBT characters in their stories, but to give them “significant arcs” and to consult members of the LGBTQ+ community when writing for them.
They acknowledge the Bury Your Gays trope as “harmful” and vow not to perpetuate it, and also promise not to mislead the LGBTQ+ community on social media outlets.
Perhaps most importantly, “we refuse to kill off a queer character solely to further the plot of a straight one.” While this isn’t implying that they won’t kill LGBTQ+ characters — which would be a problematic stance to take as well — it is a much-needed acknowledgement of the fact that ‘token’ characters (in this case LGBT characters) are too often relegated to the sidelines, only there to prop up the white, straight leads, and ultimately disposable. (It’s worth noting here that this part of the pledge could actually be applied to Lexa, as she was killed off to further the plot of a bisexual character.)
It is refreshing, amidst all the tension this outrage has caused between industry professionals and various fan communities, to see one group of TV writers make their intentions crystal clear: LGBTQ+ characters do not exist to fuel the straight narrative, and Saving Hope is going to be very conscious of how their LGBTQ+ characters are handled in the future.
This is an example of a TV show writing staff not only listening and interacting with fans, but pledging to make a genuine difference to how LGBTQ+ representation is handled on screen. Saving Hope is hopefully just the first of many shows that’ll provide the LGBTQ+ community the inclusive, safe space they need.
Update: At the time of writing, the pledge has been signed by a total of 15 industry professionals, including writers and producers of Rookie Blue and The Catch.
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