Queer Characters Keep Dying on TV. Here’s How to Make it Stop

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 5.19.01 PM(Spoiler alert for the The 100)

Fans of the The 100 were outraged over the recent death of Lexa, a lesbian and one of the main women characters on the show. This wasn’t simply a case of fans angry because a beloved, badass character was written off. This was a case of fans angry because a beloved, badass, queer character was killed—again.

The 100 is set in a post-apocalyptic world and the writers are far from hesitant to kill off their characters. But this case is different: As Feministing writer Katie Barnes argues, in addition to the sheer number of queer women to be killed off in television, fans are angry about the circumstances around Lexa’s death.

“To outraged viewers, Lexa’s death is seemingly just another in the long line of queer women who have died on TV after having a happy moment,” writes Barnes. “In this case, that moment was making love to the show’s lead [female] character, Clarke. The literal next time viewers saw Lexa was what became her death.”

To make matters worse, Lexa’s death came after the show had teased fans all season long, both on-screen and through the show’s social media accounts, with hints of a relationship between Lexa and Clarke, says Nix Santos of Indiewire.

“The fans then concluded that they had been turned into pawns in order to boost the show’s ratings, to which they responded with disappointment and anger,” Santos writes.

Lesbian and bisexual women characters have met death in disproportionately higher numbers this spring, according to Maureen Ryan, chief TV critic for Variety. In addition to The 100, Ryan cites as evidence the television shows The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead, Empire, The Expanse and The Magicians, which have all lost queer female characters—and angered fans.

In response to the outpouring of criticism, Saving Hope writer and co-executive producer Noelle Carbon and producer Sonia Hosko, in collaboration with Gina Tass of The Trevor Project and producer/director/writer Michelle Mama, created The Lexa Pledge.

The Lexa Pledge asks signatories—all members of the TV/media industry—to, among other things, create meaningful storylines for LGBTQ characters, consult the LGBTQ community on significant or recurring LGBTQ characters, and avoid killing of queer characters for the sole purpose of advancing the plot line of a straight character. Additionally, the signatories acknowledge that because LGBTQ people are underrepresented in television, killing off LGBTQ characters can result in deep psychological consequences for queer audiences.

The pledge has a total of 16 signatures so far from writers and producers, including from the shows The Catch and Rookie Blue.

The pledge is just a first step and there is of course much more work to be done, but as Feministing’s Barnes says, the pledge has already had some effect. Just a few days after Sherry White, co-executive producer of The Catch, signed the pledge, an LGBTQ character was killed off on the show. However, instead of avoiding discussion of her mistake, White released a statement apologizing and promising to be more mindful in the future.

Ultimately, this issue boils down to representation.

“For me, positive representation means being able to see LGBTQ lives mirrored on-screen with respect,” says Tass, one of the creators of the pledge. “LGBTQ youth deserve to grow [up] watching loving, supportive, relationships/ friendships/partnerships between LGBTQ characters without having to worry that one will end up deceased to further [the] storyline or to be simply used as a plot device.”

You can read The Lexa Pledge in its entirety here.

 

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Jumana Bambot is an editorial intern at Ms.