Sunday, May 26, 2024

Shining A Light on LGBT+ Representation with The Clexa Project

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It’s safe to say the death of Alycia Debnam-Carey’s character Lexa kom Trikru on The 100 changed the media landscape forever. Occurring as it did amidst the dozens of deaths of other queer female characters we have dubbed the Spring Slaughter, her death became both a climax and a turning point in the discussion of the treatment of queer female characters in media. The average household TV watcher may never had heard of Lexa or The 100, but anyone in the tv and film industry would have to be either very ignorant or very sheltered not to have heard of here. ATX and the Writer’s Guild each hosted a panel on the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope almost exactly one year ago.

Showrunners are now more aware of the trope—which can be summarized as the death, suffering, and all around not-positive treatment of LGBT+ characters—and profess a desire to avoid it. Yet the conversation has mostly centered around how this or that instance defies the trope rather than on constructive ways to avoid the suffering and death of wlw characters. Moreover, the intra-industry conversations that we’re privy to have mostly taken place between non-LGBT+ women, the group most affected by Lexa’s death.

Correcting this trend was the point of ClexaCon, a convention devoted entirely to LGBT+ women in media that took place last year and will happen again in 2018. (I’m so hyped, you guys.) The con sought to allow the marginalized groups themselves to speak on what Lexa’s death and the Spring Slaughter (though not called that at the con) meant to them and how we can better represent ourselves.

Big events such as this are absolutely necessary for bringing to light the core issues and promoting better representation for LGBT+ women. We need panels about how to write wlw novels and create other wlw content for ourselves. We need discussion groups that celebrate our favorite wlw characters and ships. We need art and conversations that make us happy and remind us that not every story told about LGBT+ female characters is exploitative or sad. We need the freedom to retell the story our own way, a happy way, even if it’s not ‘canon’. Small time cons like TGIFemslash foster friendships and the space to celebrate and ‘transgress’ canon with our own creative pieces and ideas. We need all of this, and more.

We also need the space to talk about what Lexa’s death meant to us, how it was harmful, and what can be done differently. Not just for ourselves, though that is important. As a marginalized group, LGBT+ women need to have a voice to speak their own story rather than have ourselves talked about by those who do not face what we’ve had to face. But, we also need to share our stories with the world at large. The system needs to be challenged. Those with power need to hear and understand our concerns. We need to create change.

This, and more, is the goal of a team behind the documentary film known as The Clexa Project.

A group of dedicated activists, they seek to convey the necessity of positive and intersectional queer relationships in media. To better attain this goal, they are in process of creating a film documenting the reactions, thoughts, and stories of those most affected. In short, it gives voice to those whose voice has been silenced, ignored, or under-represented in this process: queer women themselves. Their vision is threefold: celebrate intersectional narratives, challenge degrading stereotypes, and cultivate a culture of humanization.

The documentary film explores and unfolds how the mainstream tv/film industry misrepresents, baits, and erases diverse LGBTQ+ characters, specifically queer women. And they mean all queer women. In keeping with their goal of promoting diverse and intersectional queer representation, the film specifically seeks out the voices of bi, pan, trans, ace and LGBT+ women of color and highlights how these narratives are even less present in our media landscape.

In the wake of Lexa’s death, we cannot afford to elevate one kind of queer female representation over another. Now is the time to fight for the most erased narratives as well as those that are represented, but done in harmful and destructive ways. We will make lasting change when we all succeed and are all given the space to see our stories told and ourselves reflected on screen. Lexa may have been a white lesbian (since we only know of relationships with women), but she has come to represent so much more. She’s a banner both of mourning and of hope and change. She brought attention to the plight of queer female characters, and now stands as a turning point moving forward.

In her shadow, we must create space for all LGBT+ women to rally around her and have their voices heard, their stories told, and their narratives discussed. Alongside discussing the harmful depictions of white wlw characters, we must bring to light how women of color, trans women, and bi, pan, and ace women are often mis- or under-represented in media as well. We must pull everyone up together. The Clexa Project seeks to do just that.

Yet we must never lose sight of those nuggets of goodness. The gems of representation that lie in the piles of misery and bullshit. Gems like Korrasami, WayHaught, Shoot, Hollstein, Sanvers, Cophine, or Kelly and Yorkie. Plus, I’m sure I’m forgetting others (sorry!). Celebrating the good is as necessary as drawing attention to where there’s drastic need for improvement. Highlighting the positive shows that we accept and embrace stories told about us that do well by us. This, again, is something The Clexa Project seeks to do.

Basically, this project is a work of love seeking to draw attention to something that matters a whole hell of a lot. I’m not just saying that because it’s personal. I mean, it is personal. The relationship Clexa and Lexa’s death were a part of what helped me understand my sexuality. Plus, I’m one of the people who were interviewed for the project while I was at ClexaCon (I’m in the trailer!).

So trust me when I saw that this is both personally valuable and necessary culturally. We need projects like this to reach a wide audience. To get our stories out there. To humanize the tragedy and loss so that someone who might not identify as LGBT+ can’t just say, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of pissed off, entitled teenagers on the internet whining about a character dying.” No, this is our life. Our story. And it matters.

Check out the second trailer and revel in it’s sheer awesomeness: (for the first teaser trailer, click here)

No news yet on what’s next, but I’m eagerly awaiting whatever it is. I know some of the other people they’ve interviewed for this. I’ve met and interacted with them. They’re A+ people, as are the creators behind it. After my interview, I sat and talked with them for at least half an hour and could have gone all night. They’re honest, real, and super smart and gifted.

You can check out their website and Twitter page for news and updates. If you have the ability, you can donate to make sure this project moves forward. We need it; it’s going to be amazing, powerful, and a beacon of truth and hope.

Images and Teaser Trailer Courtesy of The Clexa Project

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