At ClexaCon 2019, Tracy and I were interviewed as a part of an upcoming documentary by The Clexa Project. The concept of the project was to shine a light on the devastating impact that poor representation has on queer audiences.
Although queer viewers are no stranger to heartbreak while watching film and tv, American networks failed us to a spectacular degree in 2016 when they killed off 43% of queer women characters. Despite only making up between 2-3% of all characters, lesbian and bisexual women accounted for almost 10% of all television deaths.
The Numbers are Real
Since the site began, we’ve been tracking the death of characters, internationally, which show the rather stark jump in deaths starting in 2015.
Overall, the average deaths per year is currently 7 (or 4.6% of all characters each year). Even if I restrict it to the last eleven years, the expected deaths per year are only 26.
As of today, we’re at 32 internationally.
But if you only look at the United States in 2019, out of 393 characters on air, 22 are dead. That means …
- 63% of all characters are from the United States
- 69% of all dead characters come from the United States
- 5.5% of all characters in the United States die
The Impact is Real
One of the arguments we’ve made over and over is that representation matters. What we see on television reflects on how we see ourselves. If all we see is bad representation, including death, then it changes how we look at ourselves. When we only have femme, white, cisgender representation (which remains predominant in the United States), we think that’s all there is out there.
In isolation, what’s on TV and in books may sound like it shouldn’t matter so much. After all, it’s just the media. The problem is that for a number of us, growing up that’s all we had. We grew up watching a thousand cis, white, male heroes and no lesbians throwing batarangs. Were it not for Nichelle Nichols, Mae Jemison would not be an astronaut.
Suicide rates for LGBT+ youth is at an all time high. While research is being done to better understand the causes, their work has not yet been updated past 2010. In the state of California, legislators have targeted the far religious right as the cause. And emboldening them is the sad reality that the right themselves are not introduced to positive queer role models via our media.
And enough is enough.
The Breaking Point
When Lexa died, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was why fans made a convention. It was why our website went from a few hundred characters to a few thousand. It’s why we still add more and characters, why we create new ways for people to understand the statistics, why we make it easier for you to find you.
Because if there’s one thing we truly believe here it’s that representation is important.
You can watch the teaser for “Love Me Bait Me” now.