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Fans Fight for Positive Change in LGBTQ Portrayal
Recently, we featured an article that dove into the “Bury Your Gays” trope, which has attracted a lot of attention recently because of the death of Lexa, a major lesbian character on the CW’s show The 100. Fans, many of whom stopped watching after Lexa’s death, felt betrayed by the show, which had built a reputation for being progressive and LGBTQ friendly. The backlash only increased when showrunner Jason Rothenberg attempted to respond to angry fans, coming across as tone-deaf and out-of-touch. Defiant fans demanded positive change in LGBTQ character portrayals.
Even as the show’s staff mishandled the controversy, however, fans began to mobilize in surprising ways. From collective outrage, a number of campaigns and efforts have shifted the conversation away from what happened and towards positive change.
Leskru’s Trevor Project Fundraiser
One of the most incredible fan responses to the Lexa controversy is an ongoing fundraiser for the Trevor Project, a well-known crisis intervention and suicide prevention resource for LGBTQ teens. The group of fans fighting for positive change, who call themselves “Leskru,” have taken to social media to raise awareness and funds for the organization:
- Address Damages – On the fundraiser’s official website, organizers state, “There is not much we can do in the way of changing what’s already been written. What we can do however, is unite to help those who are hurting and despondent through this.”
- Sad Statistics – Additionally, the organizers dive into the startling statistics of LGBTQ youth suicide: “Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are more than 4X more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide, and youth who are questioning their sexual orientation are 3X more likely.”
- Change Representations – The fundraiser’s powerful call to action addresses how these representations affect young LGBTQ viewers: “We continue…to forge the creation of a safe haven opposing the baffling misrepresentation we had so hoped to eradicate for the younger generations. We will take this yet again to serve as a lesson, but, let it be us this time who teach it.”
So far, the fundraiser has brought in over $130,000, demonstrating the power of fans uniting for positive change and transforming controversy into action.
The Lexa Pledge
Another ongoing development resulting from the outcry around The 100 is a pledge, spearheaded by Saving Hope producers Noelle Carbone Sonia Hosko, Gina Tass (the creator of the Trevor Project fundraiser) and writer Michelle Mama, that outlines several promises from creators to LGBTQ fans for positive change:
- Seek Informed Advice – “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.”
- Avoid Toxic Trope – “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.”
- Recognize Psychosocial Damage – “We recognise that the LGBTQ community is underrepresented on television and, as such, that the deaths of queer characters have deep psychosocial ramifications.”
- Value Queer Inclusion – “We refuse to kill a queer character solely to further the plot of a straight one.”
Additionally, signers of the pledge promise never to bait or mislead LGBTQ fans via social media, a practice that fans of The 100 feel added to their sense of betrayal when the show killed Lexa. The pledge has already picked up signatures from some major showrunners and writers, including “Orphan Black” writer Sherry White and many of the writers and producers behind “Rookie Blue.” The outrage has resulted in considerable efforts for positive change in LGBTQ portrayals.
The LGBT Fans Deserve Better video’s strong case for positive change in character portrayal
Reshaping LGBTQ Portrayal
These efforts are driven by one major concern: changing the way LGBTQ characters are portrayed onscreen. Study after study has shown the effects of representation and portrayal on viewers and fans, especially those young fans who are questioning their sexuality and trying to find their way. By raising money to support those fans (and other young members of the LGBTQ community) and marshaling the creators and writers of shows and movies to strive for better LGBTQ representation, fans can have influence positive change on the LGBTQ stories we’ll see in the future.