Spoilers up to Season 3, Episode 7 “Thirteen” of The 1oo.
This took me a while, but I’ve been meaning to write about Commander Lexa, who was recently killed off in The 1oo, that post-apocalyptic teen drama which I binge-watched over Holy Week last year and last talked about in this post.
Lexa, who was leader of a coalition of 12 clans, died from a stray bullet. She was shot shortly after having sex with Clarke, the series’ lead and her love interest. So yes, aside from being a woman in a position of power, Lexa is also, in fact, a canon lesbian, in a series where the lead female is a canon bisexual.
Over the year-long hiatus, LGBT fans flocked to The 1oo in hopes that showrunner Jason Rothenberg would live up to his promise of delivering a groundbreaking story involving this particular storyline: Two queer women who do not necessarily grapple with their sexuality, but rather are faced with the moral ambiguity of difficult leadership choices that being leaders of their respective people in the midst of war entail.
I was among those fans. Lexa was my buy-in, as I have said time and again, because there is an utter dearth of representation on television of queer girls in positions of power, much less lesbians dealing with issues that are NOT either figuring out their sexuality or falling in love with the proverbial straight girls. Not that these issues aren’t valid — of course, they are, and I have been writing coming-of-age stories since time immemorial. It’s a favorite space.
But when I heard about Lexa, a feared leader who once had her lover killed because of her position — well, it is kind of hard to resist. I tuned in, followed her moves, got to know her and her motivations. Over the course of a handful of episodes, I studied her decision-making and familiarized myself with her burdens. I picked apart her strengths and her weaknesses. And, most especially, I enjoyed her dynamic with Clarke.
Clarke, who is also a leader; Clarke, who has had to set aside her affections for a fellow female leader because she has to put her people first. Clarke, who wanted none of it, but was thrust into a position of leadership anyway, in pretty much the same way Lexa was.
In the world of The 1oo, it is easy to forget that they’re just young girls.
That they’re just young girls, however, is something the fandom has most definitely not overlooked. In fact, hordes of Clarke and Lexa’s fans are, indeed, young women who have seen themselves in these two characters. These kids — many of them in their teens and early twenties, and many of them my friends — admired these characters’ strength and wisdom, and took to them so easily because, just like them, Clarke and Lexa are women-loving women.
I am among these women, though “young” is no longer something I could claim for myself, perhaps. But I do see myself in Clarke and I did see myself in Lexa because I am a woman-loving woman burdened with duty and responsibility, who has had to, at one point or another, make difficult choices and decisions.
I have spent these past few days trying to explain myself why Lexa’s death on The 1oo hurts, apart from the fact that I have always wanted a happy ending for these two (“We deserve a soft epilogue, my love; we are good people, and we have suffered enough.” etc.) and with Lexa dead, the what-ifs die with her. I suppose my resentment also stems from a very personal fact: I have never seen so much of myself in a TV character in a very long while, and in killing Lexa, they took away the only queer leader character I know.
Bury your gays
I am not alone in my resentment; after the horrendous turn of events in 3.07, the community was up in arms. That Lexa’s death is so reminiscent of Tara’s exit from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2002 did not help, either. Remember Tara Maclay? Also killed by a stray bullet the episode after she and her girlfriend Willow had make-up sex in Season Six of Buffy? Yep. I have never forgotten, nor have I forgiven Joss Whedon for that. Tara was my first lesbian death; I mourned her the best way I knew how sans the community that was unfortunately beyond my reach at the time.
It’s been fourteen years, and sadly, Tara’s death was not the last I mourned.
At the core of it, I initially could not decide whether it’s the Dead Lesbian Trope or the decidedly lazy storytelling that offends me more. Weeks after the death, I eventually settled for the most level-headed writer’s perspective: Granted how her character has been crafted, Lexa simply deserved a better exit. After all, did she not survive one-on-one combat to the death with the Prince of Azgeda a few episodes prior?
“I am Commander. No one fights for me.”
(Certainly a warrior of this skill deserves to be killed off in a more dignified manner — anything other than a lazy stray bullet. Please.)
Lexa deserved better
This eventually turned into the aggrieved group’s battle cry — “Lexa Deserved Better” trended hours after the episode aired on March 3rd, with disgruntled fans turning to social media to vent. Rothenberg, whose handling of the fallout has been certainly less than stellar, has been steadily losing followers on Twitter, the main platform he has been using to promote the show. He is currently at 105k followers, from a height of 121k — a loss of about 13 percent, between the episode and today.
Episode 3.08, which aired the following week, posted its worst ratings for the season. Has the backlash finally amounted to something? Perhaps.
Since then however, the CW has announced that The 1oo is coming back for Season 4, as the show goes into a mid-season hiatus — during which it probably hopes the angry fandom has managed to simmer down.
LGBT fans deserve better
Where I’m sitting (full disclosure: I spent almost a year consuming a ridiculous amount of derivative works in this fandom, as well as creating for it, which makes it kind of more painful), I see little chance of that. I don’t particularly think that a fandom that has seen more than 100 lesbians and bisexual women characters die on TV would be particularly forgetful or forgiving.
No one is taking it sitting down. Since the 3.07 episode airing, the fandom has managed to raise more than $47,000 for The Trevor Project, an organization providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, and has been managing to trend on Twitter. Say what you will about “trending on Twitter” but 247k tweets at the end of a campaign is not an easy thing to accomplish, and perhaps not one expected of a “minority” group.
And yes, they do have a centralized resource for the movement: It’s called LGBT Fans Deserve Better (and this being a worldwide fandom, it is worth noting that a Filipino is among the people at the helm of it.)
With both network and creator seemingly unresponsive to the backlash, the group is urging members to go directly to sponsors and advertisers in airing their displeasure about the way Lexa was handled — in many ways, the final straw for many.
At the very least, it’s mine.