Hollywood is taking the fan backlash to Lexa’s death on The 100 very seriously. But no one seems to know exactly how to respond.
The Writers’ Guild of America hosted a panel over the weekend featuring How to Get Away With Murder showrunner Pete Nowalk, Faking It‘s Carter Covington, American Crime Story writer Sonay Hoffman and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer and actress Rachel Bloom.
Via The Hollywood Reporter, we have some details about the main topic of discussion, namely the pervasive Bury Your Gays trope (the excessive amount of LGBT characters killed off to further the plot of the straight leads), and The Lexa Pledge — a pledge signed by several industry professionals who aim to do better by the LGBT community.
It is of course impossible for producers and writers to ignore the backlash from Lexa’s death on The 100. While many LGBT characters have been killed off in similar fashion both before and after, Lexa has in many ways come to symbolize the LGBT community’s struggle with fair representation in Hollywood.
Lexa (played by Alycia Debnam-Carey) was a powerful, beautiful, sympathetic lesbian character, whose relationship with bisexual lead character Clarke (Eliza Taylor) made LGBT fans believe they finally had a strong LGBT relationship to stand behind.
(Note that The Hollywood Reporter refers to Lexa as a “leading lady,” which isn’t surprising — non-fans of The 100 commonly assume she was a main character, exactly because of the massive fan outcry. She was, in fact, a supporting character introduced halfway through season 2, and killed off halfway through season 3.)
When Lexa was killed, by a stray bullet meant for Clarke and after the writers had allegedly led fans to believe she was safe, fans felt betrayed. It was the final straw, and the LGBT community is now coming out in force to demand fair treatment from the industry.
But will they get it?
While The Lexa Pledge is a great first step, the producers and writers present at the panel acknowledged that its commitment to serve this particular faction of characters may also restrict creative freedoms.
Faking It exec Carter Covington said, “It’s dangerous to tell the showrunner how to tell the story,” although he allowed that, “if a character dies and it had a bad message, I support [the Lexa pledge].”
American Crime Story‘s Sonay Hoffman added, “You have to serve the story [and] serve the character. It’s so tricky.”
While Hoffman acknowledges a general feeling that gay, lesbian and POC characters are “more expendable” (a huge problem on its own), and that exactly for this reason “it would be very hard for me to [kill them off],” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Rachel Bloom points out the need to add conflict to all stories — and more often than not on television, as we’re painfully aware, ‘conflict’ means character death.
“Once you’ve achieved happiness [in a story], you want to bring conflict back. That’s a general storytelling thing: ‘Where do we go with this character?’,” says Bloom. “But gay characters are more than their sexuality. We should move past that trope.”
We totally agree!
While The Lexa Pledge may, on the surface, seem restrictive, perhaps writers should see it as a welcome challenge: After all, a character’s story doesn’t always have to end in death. There are far more imaginative ways to continue or end a character’s arc, and perhaps this pledge to avoid a harmful trope should also be seen as a pledge to embrace more fresh, innovative storytelling.
Read more about The Lexa Pledge and find out which writers have signed it on LGBT Fans Deserve Better.