Thursday, March 17, 2016

Our Fight Is Not Over

I’m about to say something that seemed practically sacrilegious as of two weeks ago: I never really loved “The 100” all that much. Based on everyone’s enthusiastic recommendations, I sat down and dutifully binge-watched the first two seasons last year. Certainly I enjoyed parts of it, including its powerful female characterizations, and was interested to see the Clexa storyline develop. But, to be honest, I was just there for what turned out to be the super-duper, oh-so slow burn that was Clexa in the first place. I commend both Alycia Debnam-Carey and Eliza Taylor on their nuanced portrayals. But because of the way they ended things between those two at the end of the season two – with Lexa and her Grounder’s abandonment of their however tenuous alliance with Clarke and her Sky People over Mount Weather – I felt a little cheated. Yes, we got that one glorious, oh-so thirsty kiss. But then larger politics of loyalty and power took over and that was that.

So when folks started watching again in Season 3, I was encouraged by what I heard – but not enough to catch up right away. And now, I’ll confess, I’m so glad I didn’t bother. I tend to not get too involved in the spoilery, behind-the-scenes gossip associated with shows. Before all of this happened I really wasn’t aware of how show creator Jason Rothenberg has been interacting with fans. But now that I’ve read up on it I take particular umbrage to is how he appears to have actively courted LGBT fans only to saddle them once again with a disappointing, repetitive and frankly tired-ass trope. So here we have a moment of true happiness followed by sudden and random death. Lexa is yet another dead LGBT character. Oh, geez, your shirt – AGAIN.

One might have been able to argue that in the Tara Maclay days some 14 years ago that the writers innocently were unaware of the Bury Your Gays trope (and, again, I’m not saying they were, but they could). But it’s clear that is not the case now. The series creator actively engaged and encouraged its LGBT fans and seemed to make promises that he obviously had no intentions of keeping. You can’t hold yourself up as a model example of representation and then offer us the very same sorry representations we’ve too often been force fed That’s not how this works. That’s now how any of this works.

What is most clear from this debacle is that LGBT audiences crave to see their own happy endings reflected back to them. And, just as clear, is that we will no longer sit passively by when we are disappointed and deceived by the stories we’re told.

The LGBT fandom’s reaction to this latest, tragic TV development is to stand up and demand accountability. To stand up and demand better stories. To stand up and demand we not be taken for granted as fans. If you’re a true ally, show us – don’t keep telling us you are. (And, conversely, don’t be sending out death threats or malicious messages to people who write make believe for a living – that helps no one.)

Look, tons of wonderful and eloquent fans have written on this topic already. Like here and here. You got LGBT FANS DESERVE better to trend for hours last week. And you’ve even inspired mainstream media like Variety and the GLAAD president to weight in on the situation. When you have 142 dead lesbian and bisexual characters on TV and only 16 or so TV shows where they have been given happy endings, the math is clearly off. That’s especially true when you consider there are currently more than 400 scripted shows on television. Our stories are few-and-far-between as is, and when they’re told they are disproportionately tragic.

While I’ve touched on this whole “The 100” situation in the last couple of weeks, I haven’t written too explicitly about the show on purpose because, again, I wasn’t watching. Like I said, it just wasn’t and isn’t my favorite. But the din of this controversy has risen above just one series and is now about what LGBT fans want, and demand, from their storytellers. It’s not just about the death of one beloved character. And that’s fantastic.

Even more fantastic, fans are turning their anger into positive action. Fans have come together to raise money for the Trevor Project. That campaign has so far raised more than $45,000. That’s a lot of money to help struggling LGBT youth. That’s a lot of good out of something bad. May it carry through to a continuous battle cry for more and better representations across all of entertainment, period. I’ve been writing about this stuff for a long time (10 years in April, folks). And I will always be on the side that advocates for more and better LGBT representations. It matters, it always had.

We will meet again, because this fight is not over.


Jay said...

Thank you, Dorothy!
I actually did love "The 100" up until now. I have to admit that I started, because I knew about the introduction of Lexa in season two, but I started with season one anyway and I liked the show as a whole. It was new on so many levels with its many grey areas instead of just black and white and all those kick-ass female characters. But Lexa ... Lexa was more than just the icing on the cake. She was a well written, 3-dimensional character. I'd love to know how much of it was in the scripts and how much was Alycia's doing, because hell, that girl is just that good. I even thought it was in interesting decision to have Lexa leave Clarke at the Mountain. I don't know if it had been satisfactory if this had been the end of their story, but it wasn't. And when season three started it felt like fanfiction coming to life.
As so many way more articluate people than me have already pointed out: This is not about the death of a character, but about a broken promise. A promise to do better this time. I watched all the spoilers (yeah, I know ... I really shouldn't have) and I read all the things the writers and the showrunner had to say on the subject and so I let my guard down for just a second.
There has never been a time when the death of a fictional character felt as personal to me as this one did. It did, because I let my guard down when I usually don't, because I have learned the hard way that there is no such thing as a good/happy representation for me on TV. And I am so done with feeling this way. I want to be able to watch something without thinking "Yeah, well, they are going to die anyway".
This is the time where things have to change and I think they are about to which makes me happy. I have never been an overly political person, but this time ... this time it's personal.
By the way, for anyone reading this who's worried about their personal safety: I made it to 39 without wearing a bullet proof vest. I never got the memo that I needed one. ;)

astroidb612 said...

I'm so glad you said this. I agree. I never thought The 100 lived up to the potential of the premise. It felt clunky and hamfisted to me most of the time.

After the Clexa uproar started, I was taken aback by Rothenberg's comment that this show was not about relationships, not a soap opera. And my first thought was, well then you should be designing video games, because at the heart of any long-running series is the relationships. Relationships are what make the plot mechanisms matter for more than the 1 hour you're engaged. That's what makes shows like Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, Hill Street Blues, M*A*S*H, etc. fan favorites and held dear long after they've finished their runs. None of those shows were "Soap Operas" but they all relied heavily on viewers buying in, deeply buying in, to the relationships between the characters to make the larger, societal issues being addressed resonate.

The 100 feels like all head (and a discombobulated head at that) and far too little heart. Clexa (and to some degree, Octavia and Lincoln which is also about to come to an abrupt end) was the exception to that.

there are better shows to watch, maybe not with lesbian love stories in them, but more human and relatable ones at least.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this.
I agree on every note.

Anonymous said...

And so, now, they are finally going to reboot Xena with the writer/producer's assurance that Xena and Gabrielle's relationship will be honored and no longer seen as subtext. Can we trust this guy? Can we finally have another HEA story?

Kaz said...

I really enjoy The 100 and dare I say I also enjoy that silly little show Faking It. I have long ago given up hope for "lesbian happy endings". I think Xena killed off my optimism. I now just look for well written gay characters. They are few and far between but every once in a while 1 or 2 pop up. The well written Root and Shaw characters of Person Of Interest is about as good as it gets. I am never surprised when a gay character dies. If they do die or leave the show I want it to be for a damn good reason. I want thier death to be meaningful and heroic if possible. However, too often the death is poorly done and has little reason behind it. Yes, the way they handled Lexa's death was pathetic and I'm glad people are outraged and taking action. Hollyweird needs to hear us and write better, more compelling stories about us. Will I keep watching The 100 ?? Yes I will. Clark is just as fascinating a character as Lexa's and as long as they keep writing her character well, I will keep watching.

Heather Anne Hogan said...

Beautifully said, as always!

Anonymous said...

Now I have my answer. Thank you.

Fridax said...

Right. I blame Tumblr. Basically for slowly sucking me into The 100 vortex of just another gaze, just another touch, intoxicating Clexadom. I actually started watching S1, but couldn't get myself to binge-watch up to S3. IDK, maybe experience told me to wait until the whole season was available, just to be sure nothing bad happens. As was clear from the early days of The (One) Hundred, death was just a stab away from everyone, us gay ladies included. Brace yourselves! The showrunner is promising a huge twist...

Next morning, AS and Tumblr were fully at it. Once again, the sh*t hit the fandom. Although being kind of detached from the series, I was still affected by Lexa's demise or rather how she went/ the way our community was misled up to that point.

It was terrifying/inspiring to see what came out of that Clexa vortex and its surroundings. Really, enough is enough, and I'm glad we're fighting back this unholy trend of killing off the (only) gay(s) in town with verve.

Anonymous said...

If only you were in charge over at AE...

Adam said...

On point! Thank you..You made me realize ;)

Carmen SanDiego said...

10 years in April, we should celebrate!

Anonymous said...

Well said DS!! I also tried getting into the show because I'd heard buzz of the gay relationship and on that front I was definitely disappointed. I watched through season 2 and was like, huh, one kiss? After that I pretty much quit watching. I did like the strong female characters though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dorothy we were worried this was going to slip past you! Do also look up what fans think about After Ellen's coverage of the issue won't you :)