Why Can’t We Let Lexa Go?

Why Can’t We Let Lexa Go?

It’s been three years and three days since Lexa died on The 100. Since then, we’ve had billboards, multiple new organizations for LGBT fans, an explosion of queer content in books and television, two ClexaCons in Las Vegas, and one in London. If anything has become clear, it’s that we as a community have absolutely not let the idea of Lexa go. We still care deeply about this event, even if we didn’t watch the show, and it still resonates.

A Question of Intent

For lesbians of a certain age, we don’t think of Lexa when we think of a pointless, accidental, death, we think of Tara from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Before that, we can actually look at the very first queer female death on a TV show, Julie Solkin, who died in 1975, running out into the street after her unrequited love.

There is a history of intentional deaths too, of course. Looking at the 1970s and 1980s, there are women killed in a rage by their lovers (male or female), criminals killed in prison, trans men and women murdered in hate crimes. And while we can be angry at those, they do often ‘fit’ with the story being told. If you see a show about women in prison, it’s unlikely to be happy.

Those deaths are not the same as the ones in shows like Torre de Babel, where a shopping mall was blown up and the lesbians were unintended victims. And it’s not the same as Seinfeld, where lesbian Susan (George’s ex) dies from licking the glue on his wedding invitations. Accidental and ‘for laughs’ in one.

The Meaning of Death

What is it about those seemingly accidental deaths that hurt us more? I believe it’s because the deaths are dismissible by the masses. It’s a funny joke about how Susan dies on Seinfeld and it’s a non-event that the lesbians died on Torre de Babel. We’re taught to expect that lesbians will be killed, that bisexuals will be crazy, and that no one deserves a happy ending.

It’s much worse with the accidental deaths. There, not only are we expecting the terrible things, but they’re done flagrantly. They don’t matter. The death is dismissed and the characters move and grow, but we’re expected to forget.

Except it’s not. Not for us.

The Numbers Matter

If you’re heterosexual or cisgender, and one part of a couple dies, you can change the channel. Kate Becket leaves Castle? No problem, you can watch another snarky detective and her boyfriend on another show. Care for a womanizing rogue with a heart of gold? There are dozens. Doctors, lawyers, musicians, you name it, they’re out there.

But if you wanted an artist forced to make brutal decisions of life or death, and a military leader who joined disparate tribes under one rule, well you really only had Clarke and Lexa. Vampires? Carmilla or Adventure Time. And once those shows ended, or the characters died, there were no replacements.

Lexa’s death still matters because she gave us representation.

‘The 100’s’ Lexa was an incredible character for so many reasons. She was strong, badass, fearless, protective, compassionate, complex. She made you feel empowered. But the most important part? She made you feel represented. […] When you see yourself in a character, and you watch them find happiness, you start to feel that you’re deserving of that too.

Rachel Thompson, SeriesFuse Why Lexa’s Death Still Matters Three Years On

Nothing can replace Lexa and, beyond that, she happened at the right time. Lexa’s death happened when we were watching queer women die in record number. She happened when we’d learned to organize and connect with each other. She happened when we had Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook.

A Legacy

One of the reasons ClexaCon has “Lexa’s Legacy” as their opening panel is that her death was representative of the ongoing impact of a ‘meaningless death’ and was a perfect illustration of how it persists. After Lexa died, the numbers increased and continued to be abysmal. It was only in 2018 that we dropped back to what I’d consider mathematically expected levels.

Since then, we’ve only gotten more and more organized. We’ve made more websites, like this one, documenting so that it’s harder to ignore the reality. We learned to stand up and demand we be counted, we pointed at the impact this negligence has on our psyches, and we refused to be stopped.

We can’t let go because something that shattered so many fans also brought them together in a way I never would have predicted. We got mad, we stayed mad and then we stayed together. We can’t let go because now this is us, the rage funnelled into friendship and joy. We’re still mad, but we celebrate the things we love in a louder voice than ever before. We can’t let go because we don’t want to let go of each other.

All we need now is to make it hard to ignore the impact. We need to make it so everyone else out there, every voice you’ve heard say “Oh it’s just one character” can’t be blind to the reality. These things matter to them, to us, to adults and children. We need them to not let go either.

The Clexa Fan Documentary

Sometimes though it’s hard for us to put words to the feelings. If you weren’t invested in a fandom that was shattered, maybe you don’t quite understand what this did or why it hurt. Why does time seem to stand still for fans who won’t let go of a recurring character from a TV show? The Clexa Fan Documentary does a brilliant job of talking to some very well spoken people who can and do put feelings into words.

Content warning: Footage of Lexa being shot between 00:45-01:00

Evangeline is working on this for her PhD documentary project, hoping to complete by 2020. You can learn more about this undertaking on her website, The Clexa Fan Documentary, where she has also posted a transcript.

The Legacy Is Us

I was on the Lexa’s Legacy panel at ClexaCon London, and I will be again next month for ClexaCon 2019 in Las Vegas. What I’ve learned is the ultimate truth of Lexa is that her legacy is in all of us.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen the show. Part of why you’re here, and we’re still here, and we will meet again and again at conventions, is because of Lexa. It’s because of Lexa we stay together. It’s because of our shared emotions that we support each other in the ways we choose to carry on her legacy.

And remember: oso gonplei nou ste odon.

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 in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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