There have been numerous articles covering the fallout of Commander Lexa’s death on The 100—most notably on the exploitation of the fanbase, the social media manipulation game and the cold way the episode was hyped to a largely LGBTQ fanbase only for that very episode to feature every young, vulnerable LGBTQ teen’s nightmare: the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope. I don’t really want to write about how badly it was done. I think it’s adequately covered by the fantastic Ms. Mo Ryan of Variety; exquisitely explored in Professor Elizabeth Bridge’s essay; numerically tolled in this alarming Autostraddle article (and the equally alarming converse of it).
What I did touch on, very briefly, was the very real humanity behind the movement wheeled into motion after Lexa’s death. I also touched on, briefly again, the very real and worrying harassment and discrimination LGBTQ teenagers/young adults/people of any age face in a society that thinks itself to be progressive but in many ways has not reached that peak yet. I spoke a little about the demo of The 100, of how I believed it to be teenagers or young adults—vulnerable ones too—and speculated that some certainly happily lost themselves in Lexa, a great character, and a horrible loss, for an hour’s blissful escapism. It isn’t so much speculation as it is what I’ve seen on Twitter.
I’ve become more active ever since the fallout, and one day, the fanbase decided to trend ‘LexaForMe’. Upon browsing the tag, I only had to look for approximately thirty seconds before finding some truly touching, genuine messages:
I quickly mentioned a research paper in one of my previous articles and much to my surprise I got a few questions about it, and queries as to where I could find similar articles. I think that kind of goes to show the real impact this death has caused, to young people’s mental health and real-life struggles. I’ve spoken to young tweeters who are still sad and depressed about Lexa’s death, and it greatly saddens me because I just wish so desperately it wasn’t that way. Yet I can’t do anything about it. Everyone mourns differently, and I don’t think anyone can be that emotionally removed to simply tell a fan to “get over it” or something akin to that.
What I do want to mention, and I write this with a massive, awestruck grin on my face, is that thefundraiser set up in Lexa’s honor (with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project) has smashed $50,000. When I first set my eyes upon this fundraiser that kind of money was just unimaginable. Now as I look at it, I can’t help but feel emotional as I think of all the people who’ve donated; people who have struggled with Lexa’s loss; people who’ve lost loved ones to LGBTQ discrimination and prejudice; people who sympathize greatly with the hurt LGBTQ fandom of The 100; people from other fandoms lending a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on.
If that isn’t further proof of the fact that people affected by Lexa’s death are real, honest-to-god, wonderful, generous human beings—then I don’t know what is. I’ve seen this fanbase being called out as bullies, morons, something to be mocked—yet in the face of all of that, they’ve knuckled down to create an amazing website. They’ve set up a Twitter account…and another one. They have been collating articles to support their cause; it gained such massive traction that even the BBC reported on it.
From the very star herself, Debnam-Carey said of the movement: “I think any attention we can draw to a movement like that is an amazing thing, and is a great thing to pursue and keep working towards” and of the situation in general: “I hate to hear people wanting to not watch the show anymore for a certain reason like that. I do understand, of course, it’s a social issue. If people are feeling that way, it’s really important to recognize.”
And she’s right. It is a social issue, and it is important to recognize it—not as something young, LGBTQ teenagers will get bored of trending and brush off—but as a final straw. I quoted the Autostraddle article earlier, glaring proof of the number of LGBTQ deaths on television, and on one of my previous articles, commenters made great analogies of why these deaths aren’t just akin to ‘normal’ deaths.
But to draw back to my original point: firstly, I cannot stress enough, that these sufferers are so incredibly human. To reference Figueiredo and Abreu(2015) again, they reviewed literature surrounding LGBT suicides and found that whilst unclear, they were strongly linked to comorbidities such as depression and anxiety disorders, as well as discrimination, prejudice, and stigmatization. Another paper, focused on bisexual individuals, came to similar conclusions; in 2014, Pompili et al. found, in their systematic review, “Individuals reporting a bisexual orientation had an increased risk of suicide attempts and ideation compared with their homosexual and heterosexual peers. Risk factors included related victimization, peer judgments, and family rejection. Bisexual individuals also reported higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse.”
At a school-level, Whitaker et al. (2016) found that LGBT school-goers were three-times more likely to commit suicide or have suicidal ideations than their heterosexual peers, though the researchers admitted the likely causes were unclear and further research was required in that area, particularly for that age group.
And this isn’t just a Westernized problem; it’s really rather global. I have simply skimmed the surface of research (but if you are interested, I highly recommend JSTOR or Science Direct as reliable sources of journal articles). Even then, I happened across Biçmen & Bekiroğulları’s article (2014) about LGBT individuals in Turkey, and the social problems they faced. Extremely worrying, they found that LGBT individuals were subject to intense harassment and abuse—both verbal and physical—to a point where they weren’t accepted in their hometowns or even in places they’d migrated to. The full paper can be found here.
But what does this mean for this charitable movement, the social media uproar following Lexa’s death, and television culture in general? Firstly, as I have confessed in my previous article: I’m young and naive. I have never witnessed as many LGBTQ deaths as listed on Autostraddle, so perhaps I am not the ideal spokesperson for this situation. But I have to note that even I am aware of the changing scope of television these days. When my mother used to sit down to watch an episode of ‘Angel’ (she very much-loved David Boreanaz) she would not be live-tweeting or interacting with fellow fans on social media platforms. It was a matter of watching the weekly episode and then getting on with life, even if some undoubtedly traumatizing and awful stuff may have happened on the show.
Now, as younger audiences are getting cleverer with social media and more vocally active, they have a voice. They will be heard. That is evident in the way they smartly organize phrases to trend, for certain hours and even convert for different time-zones. It is evident in the way they reach out to critics active on Twitter, eloquently and well-versed. It is evident in the way they set up websites and Twitters in order to collate everything, or ‘receipts’. Television isn’t what it was ten or fifteen years ago. Now I know I’m a hypocrite for making such a statement when I am a peachy twenty-two, but you would surely have to be very ignorant to not see it. Social media matters, because it’s instantaneous reaction to certain episodes; it is instantaneous support systems to vulnerable people left in shock over certain twists.
I suppose the point that I’m making is a very obvious one: that television viewers are not just props or stepping-stones for show-runners, especially LGBTQ viewers. That isn’t entitlement—it’s a rarity to see LGBTQ characters on television, well-represented. If you flick the channel, you will see a billion other straight males with dark hair and a gloomy back-story. But LGBTQ viewers, whilst vulnerable and sometimes scared to approach new shows, are also compassionate, generous, empathetic and inspirational individuals. Who on earth would have thought they’d have raised over $50,000?!
The reason why I’m linking journal articles and papers isn’t to seem like some sort of snob (gosh, that’s the last thing I’d want to do). I’m linking them because they provide real, hard statistics and also qualitative information on LGBTQ individuals in the real world. The same LGBTQ individuals who tune into shows like The 100, which promised representation and ‘groundbreaking’ storylines only to find themselves lured into the same, exploitative trap of a cheap lesbian death. The reason I linked them is because the reaction I saw on Twitter was raw, emotional and heartbreaking. The messages I received on Twitter, when I opened my Direct Messages box for all, was full of grief and heartbreak. Many kindly acknowledged my personal loss: and I confess, my mind was such a mess at that time that I didn’t grieve for Lexa much at all. I had other things to grieve over. But infinitely worse than Lexa’s death, and Debnam-Carey’s departure (she will be sorely missed—for me, she carried some episodes that were frankly dull to watch) was getting these tearful reactions and messages from young viewers. I plucked up the courage to watch some reaction videos on YouTube too, for episode seven (‘Thirteen’) and the stark contrast of utter happiness at the Clarke and Lexa kiss—representation given to them, finally—only to be robbed minutes later by her death, resulting in masses of tears and disbelief—was dumbfounding to watch. It was horrific to see unfold on my PC screen, and there are a few reaction videos that will stay in my mind forever—because their reactions were so heartbreakingly genuine.
The reason I link those articles is because LGBTQ representation is still a huge problem in media. On The 100, it showed promise right up until that very episode. As a Person of Interest fan, I can assuredly say that I have utter faith in the writers to deliver on the same-sex couple of Root and Shaw—not once have they lied or made false promises, or exploited the fanbase—but that is one show, and another topic. On a broader scale, vulnerable LGBTQ youths still exist among us. You may not spot them straight away, but they are there.
Something else I’ve seen, worryingly, on Twitter is—as I’ve stressed before—the accusation of the LGBTQ community as bullies. As Mo Ryan states in her article, she has never been approached with anything other than kindness. To my knowledge, and from what I’ve seen, the LGBTQ community has been nothing but welcoming and generous. I think perhaps the $50k is proof of their generosity; as for the friendliness and open arms, you may just have to take my word for it. But never, ever have I ever seen LGBTQ fandoms—from all shows—band together to support fans like this, in the face of an exploitation so dramatic that it’s been stated multiple times by various sources even they’ve never seen anything like it.
Again, I don’t write to preach. I don’t write to dictate people’s feelings. I’m merely a student hoping to register as a pharmacist someday, and to look after patients as my first concern. I am not a writer, and I am barely eloquent. But I can empathize, and I can feel. I can learn to understand the long-lasting discrimination against the LGBTQ community, not just in real life but via social media and the Internet too—cyber-bullying is also on the rise of WHO’s increasingly unpredictable suicide rates list, because of the murky nature of it all. I’ve linked those articles just in case anybody’s interested, or in case anybody wants to do any further research. But my main point to hammer home is what I’ve said all along, it’s obvious: that LGBTQ viewers are real people. They cry and laugh and joke and emote. They are not just a statistic. They are not just a stepping stone in a plotline. They are human, and shouldn’t it be innately our duty to care and love others? When you stigmatize the LGBTQ community, essentially for who they are or who they love, would you stop and reason why? Why are you singling out a community made of flesh and blood, just like yourself? Do you see them as humans, or do you see them as just another statistic?
I understand this is a departure from my regular articles, and to be quite frank, I don’t have anything witty or cheeky to lighten the mood. I guess I am maybe still too naive to highlight this situation under a spotlight, but I want to try. I want people to listen and I want people to read those articles, and understand that objective evidence cannot lie; that LGBTQ viewers are people. That they matter, even when at their lowest, some may not think so. That as humans, as civil, decent people—we have a duty to look after each other and support each other. I wonder if this article will impact on anyone’s life at all, or if it will change anyone’s perception at all. Maybe; maybe not. But I can’t be ashamed for trying, and I can’t be ashamed of the inspirational fundraiser who has so far totaled up over $50,000 to acharity that supports and saves the lives of suicidal LGBTQ youth.
Thank you for reading this article. As said before, I am aware that this is indeed a departure from your usual article from me—but the past ten days or so have been incredibly hard-hitting for me, personally, and to see that coincide with real grief from tons and masses of youths only added to it. I hope the articles are of some interest to you; I hope that they offer some solid evidence. But most of all, I hope the article validates you. Upon reading that, it seems incredibly self-absorbed of me to say so, but I guess what I want to say is: you all matter. Greatly. You matter to your friends, your family…to me. You matter to someone in this world, and you have all been so inspirational and powerful. You have all been eye-opening and bright, bright spots of hope and joy in a seemingly dark world. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that you all continue to shine as you do. I’m contactable via twitter @NicolaChoi or indeed the comments below—but firstly, do take care of yourselves, love yourselves, and know you matter. Thank you again, for being so, so incredible. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you.