Clexacon London 2018: The Panellist

Everyone cheering for Kat at ClexaCon London. No, not my panel, but it was the same room.

Besides just being press, I was also asked to be on two panels. I accepted, even though it meant I missed out on both Kat Barrell and Jamie Clayton in the press room.

If you’ve never been on a panel before, it’s a tricky thing. You have to balance out how much you want to talk with everyone else on the panel. You also have to keep in mind that sometimes you’re on a panel with people who have different views than you do, or who have similar projects.

Truth be told, I see those differences as a good thing, and think of these other sites who do similar work as coopetition. This is a term I use in my day job, to refer to other companies in my field. They’re not the enemy, they’re just people who do similar things in different ways. They’re also my friends and people I rely on when I have a question, because there’s no one else who understands the weirdness of trying to document queer characters for sci-fi shows who can body swap than someone who does the same thing.

While I couldn’t live tweet from the panels (that would just be rude) I can give you some of my thoughts from being on the panels and listening to what my peers said.

Lexa’s Legacy

The opening panel of ClexaCon, in the big room, is always Lexa’s Legacy, where in we discussed the impact of Lexa. It’s been two and a half years since Lexa was killed off on The 100, and it’s safe to say the landscape of TV has never been the same.

Those of us on the panel, some were deep into the fandom. Others only found out when Tumblr lost their collective minds. Those overseas felt adrift, like they were the only survivors of a ship the rest of their nation hadn’t even been aware of. We all understood that what had happened was different. Unlike the eerily similar death of Tara on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Lexa happened in a time when the internet had brought us closer.

Back in 1994, we had no access to spoilers about Kimberly ripping her wig off on Melrose Place. In 2003, we had newsgroups who slowly, slowly spun out of control asking why Tara had to die. But another 13 years later, we had Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and more. We had spoilers and we had knowledge. We’d been told for weeks that ‘our show’ wouldn’t betray us. That people were safe.

I think that, if the same thing had happened in 2003, we would have revolted in similar ways. I think that had we been fed the steady diet of lies, and had we had the same level of access and connection to the creators, where we could see their reactions, we would have done the same. Because now we knew, we really knew what it was like to be hurt and to suffer when one of the few characters we had was taken away.

Of course, when I look at other shows that had similarly dramatic deaths in 20152016, I wonder why there was no outrage from Lillian Moss‘ death on Murdoch Mysteries, or Wendy Ross-Hogarth, Jeri’s wife, on Jessica Jones. And the answer is that Lexa hit us where we were most vulnerable. The 100 is a show for young adults. As much as it pains me, some of the show’s fans weren’t even born when Ellen’s Puppy Episode aired. My fellow panelists pointed out that Lexa was a rarity – she was a strong, opinionated, leader. She gave the younger generation hope that they too could be those things. And then she was killed.

Does Lexa’s death still matter? Look at the fact that we’ve had two successful ClexaCons, and one pop-up ClexaCon London. Look at the people who ave become writers and artists and directors just to tell their stories. Our stories. Yes. Lexa’s death mattered and Lexa’s legacy is all of us.

LGBT Fans Deserve Better Presents: Representation Matters UK

This panel scared me to be on! While I know a lot about British and UK television, that’s from a very American standpoint. Have I watched shows like Coronation Street and EastEnders? Of course. And I believe soaps like that gave my British born grandmother the words to ask my mother ‘Has Mika become lesbian?’ But my depth of knowledge is as shallow as a saucer of tea compared to my fellow panelists.

Coming in to the panel, I’d made my notes of the stats I was likely to need. UK TV is ranked second at the moment on our site, with 119 shows and 380 characters. USA is first, Japan is third (all that Anime) and Canada comes in fourth. 26% of shows on the UK have at least one dead character, compared to 20% for the USA, 14% for Japan, and 17% for Canada. Looking at dead characters, 14% of recorded UK characters are dead, where as only 10% of characters in the US, 6.2% in Japan, and 6.8% of Canadian characters.

When you look at those numbers, you think that UK rep is terrible. It’s not. There’s an amazing amount of diversity on UK series, more bisexuals per capita for example, and a number of shows with positive intersectionality. Also you have to consider the types of shows. The US does record numbers with record channels. No other nation has this many stations, and 18% of US shows are actually web series. The UK? They have seven (7) web series total, making up 5% of all their shows.

And most importantly to me, the UK does most of their work on soap operas. They put queer rep on shows that everyone watches. Unlike soaps in the US, UK ones air in the evening. While their viewership is declining, we’re still talking about 8 million people on a weeknight watching Coronation Street. And don’t think it’s the only show pulling in those numbers. Emmerdale nets around 6.5 million a week, and BBC’s EastEnders clocks in at 5.7 million.

That may seem small to you. At its peak, CSI was hauling in around 25 million viewers, after all. But you have to adjust the numbers for the viewers. 25 million viewers works out to be 8% of all people in the United States. 8 million (which is twice over the population of LA, if that helps you), is 12% is the United Kingdom.

Beyond just soaps, the lack of restrictions from such groups as the FCC, affords the UK considerably more freedoms. This is not to say that Ofcom doesn’t intervene, but their restrictions are fan more relaxed (even if they think ‘arse’ and ‘beaver’ are contextually 2 of the 47 naughtiest words on TV). They also only made homosexuality fully legal 50 years ago (1967), but even with that, it took until the 1980s for things to really turn around.

With that in mind, the poor representation in the early years UK television makes perfect sense. They literally couldn’t. But once they could, in the scant 30-odd years of freedom, the United Kingdom has far surpassed any other nation in normalizing queerness.

Conclusion? If you just look at raw numbers, UK rep has a lot of death and a lot of ways to go, but they also lead the way in important areas.

Should you be on a panel?

If you get the opportunity to be on a panel, even if you think you’re not the expert, I think you should. Talking with people on the panel, listening to them closely, will teach you more about your subject than anything else. I greatly enjoyed my time on panels, and I’d happily do it again if asked.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.

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