Sunday, May 26, 2024

Lexa’s Legacy: The #LexaPledge and the Future of LGBT Representation

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Within the 100 universe, Lexa’s legacy of peace and compassion may have been shattered in episode 12, but she is leaving her mark on the real world in the most beautiful way. Not only have the queer activists behind LGBT Fans Deserve Better already raised almost $125,000 for The Trevor Project—an organization that helps at risk LGBT youth—in just over a month since the infamous “Thirteen” aired, these same activists are behind what is being called the #LexaPledge. I can’t wait to tell you all about this, because it’s amazing and beautiful and…no I’m not crying what are you talking about?

 What is the #LexaPledge?

A collaboration between the creators of the LBGT Fans Deserve Better Website and the creators of “Saving Hope,” the “Lexa Pledge” is a pledge to the LGBTQ fandom, and a much needed one at that. It is both a call to change the way that writers and producers treat LGBT characters and a sign that they have heard us and want to do better in the future. Although you can read it in full on their website, the seven core tenants are worth repeating in full because this is such a game-changing commitment:

  1. We will ensure that any significant or recurring LGBTQ characters we introduce, to a new or pre-existing series, will have significant storylines with meaningful arcs.
  2. When creating arcs for these significant or recurring characters we will consult with sources within the LGBTQ community, like queer writers or producers on staff, or members of queer advocacy groups like GLAAD, The Trevor Project, It Gets Better, Egale, The 519, etc.
  3. We recognize that the LGBTQ community is underrepresented on television and, as such, that the deaths of queer characters have deep psychosocial ramifications.
  4. We refuse to kill a queer character solely to further the plot of a straight one.
  5. We acknowledge that the Bury Your Gays trope is harmful to the greater LGBTQ community, especially to queer youth. As such, we will avoid making story choices that perpetuate that toxic trope.
  6. We promise never to bait or mislead fans via social media or any other outlet.
  7. We know there is a long road ahead of us to ensure that the queer community is properly and fairly represented on TV. We pledge to begin that journey today.

Are you reading this? Go back and read it again. Let it sink in. This is exactly what Kylie was calling for in her open letter to Jason Rothenberg. This is the kind of sensitive, thoughtful representation that LGBT fans and characters deserve.

The best part? The fans made it happen. We did. We refused to be ignored or shouted down. We turned anger and frustration into something positive. Rather than devolve into hateful infighting (though there is still some of that, the internet is the internet after all), Leskru put their hard work where their mouth was and raised almost 125k for charity.

But that wasn’t enough. Oh no. LGBT Fans Deserve Better found a way to start impacting the very industry that had brought the website into existence. On its first day (April 21st), the #LexaPledge had 8 signatures. As of today, it has 15. This may seem small. 15 signatures in a sea of thousands? What can that do?

It can start something bigger. It only takes one stone to start an avalanche and given that Lexa’s legacy has refused to gentle into that good night, this could grow much bigger than 15 signatures. Who could have predicted on March 3rd that the death of a character could bring anything more than ineffectual twitter outrage and Rothenberg losing 15k followers? Who could have predicted that the end of her story would be the beginning of a new one, one with the potential to impact TV and film for generations? When we look back years from now, I hope to be able to say that I was a part of changing LGBT representation for the better.

We also need to remember that this has been around for less than a week and already has more than its creators signing on. It could have been ignored entirely. The industry could have just rolled on with the original signatures and no more. That people outside of its immediate circle of influence are even paying attention to the pledge means something. While Saving Hope, a Canadian TV show, might not be a household name in the US, writers and producers from Rookie Blue and The Catch have joined the ranks of signatories as well. Getting signatures from a currently airing drama (The Catch) on a big network (ABC) is a huge step in the right direction.*

But even if it never gets bigger, this is a sign that our voices are being heard. There are people within the film industry who want to see things change as much as we do. Lexa’s death sparked a conversation that carried on with the death of other LGBT female characters this season: Kira from The Magicians, Denise from The Walking Dead, Nora and Mary Louise from The Vampire Diaries, Mimi Whiteman from Empire, and the list goes terrifyingly on. There have been 14 15* deaths of LGBT female characters in 2016 alone (23 if we broaden it to the 2015/2016 season) and we’re only four months into the year. When I think that there are those in the industry who want to change this, even if it is a small minority, I feel hopeful.

If nothing else, the very existence of the Lexa Pledge reveals the power of fandom and the importance of being critical of the media we consume. While it may feel like we’re flailing about in the dark when it comes to criticizing harmful tropes in media, this is proof that voices carry. Did you know that Kylie’s open letter to Jason Rothenberg is linked on the LGBT Fans Deserve Better website? Even we here at Fandom Following have made an impact in this discussion. So for those of you who wonder why we do this, this is why. Because we can change the conversation.

The Lexa Pledge is further proof that interactions between fandom and media creators need not be one sided or toxic. We may not have won over Rothenberg, but we’ve impacted Javier Grillo-Marxauch (see the discussion here) and the 15 signers of the Lexa Pledge, thus far. By being passionate but not vitriolic, angry but willing to engage, we have made an impact on the industry that hurt us. We should be proud of ourselves, folks. This is how we do it right.

How Can I be Involved?

If you would like to be involved in the movement to stop the harmful Bury Your Gays, trope, head on over to the LGBT Fans Deserve Better Website. They have information about twitter trends and TV blackouts as well as a link to donating to The Trevor Project, or you could go there directly.

A Lasting Legacy

Lexa’s fans are doing in the real world what her character was trying to do on the show: change the world for the better. We have made it possible to impact the way LGBT men and women are depicted on screen in a positive way and done so without resorting to violence or giving in to hate. This is a legacy our Heda would be proud of.

*Update: It has come to my attention that Thursday night, The Catch killed off a bisexual female character (who was also a woc) after she slept with her female love interest by having a male love interest shoot her. This was clearly already scripted and filmed by the time the writers and producers of this show signed the pledge, so it is possible that this is a declaration to do better on the show in the future. It doesn’t undermine what they did with this character at all, but perhaps they signed this pledge precisely because they realized what they had already done and want to do better. Let’s hope we hear from them soon for clarification.

*Further Update: Sherry White (co-executive producer of The Catch) has made a statement on the LGBT Fans Deserve Better Website which explains what happened. In brief, she realized after several shows had killed off female LGBT characters that she and the writing team of The Catch had done the same thing, though not maliciously. It was already too late to change the show, as it had already filmed, but when she was approached to sign the Lexa Pledge, she immediately did as a promise that she would do better in the future. I, for one, am relieved and grateful that she not only signed it, but was willing to discuss what happened after The Catch killed off Felicity.

Images Courtesy of The CW.

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