It is always shocking when your favorite TV show’s character gets killed off. But when that character belongs to the LGBTI community and is a woman, a writers room’s decision might feel as fitting into the ‘bury your gays’ trope.
Back in 2016, three Twitter pals created ClexaCon to protest the unprecedented number of female LGBTI characters’ deaths in 2016 – and specifically, that of Lexa, Clarke’s girlfriend on CW’s show The 100.
The convention was named after the onscreen relationship between the two women, using the blending ‘Clexa’ that fans created to refer to the couple.
Inaugurated in Las Vegas in 2017, the event saw ‘media consumers demand better representation on an organized scale,’ says co-founder Ashley Arnold.
Arnolds also explains ClexaCon ‘allows fans to come together from around the world to celebrate our favorite stories from TV and film’.
ClexaCon is an empowering event
Arnold points out ClexaCon is more than just a fan event. It is rather a precious tool for female empowerment.
‘Attendees can attend workshops on how to use YouTube as a platform, how to create a web series, how to write for TV, and much more,’ she says.
‘We want LGBTI women creating content, fighting their way into writers rooms and onto sets.’
Arnold, together with co-founders Danielle Jablonski and Holly Winebarger, grew up with limited representation in terms of queer role models.
‘We want to make sure that it’s different for young people in the future,’ she says.
‘While there is more representation on our screens today […] the roles we see are often side characters, have under-developed stories or are used as punchlines or to move another character’s story forward.’
Social media are crucial in increasing LGBTI representation
The three women behind ClexaCon met on Twitter.
‘Social media has given us access to so much more information as well as access to a community that was not accessible before,’ Arnold says.
‘We’re now able to search out LGBTI-focused books, fanfiction, movies, tv shows, web series, podcasts, and more online.’
Moreover, she says creators can also ‘find an audience without having to access mainstream tv and film outlets’.
Are straight male characters the most obvious choice?
Arnold believes straight male characters are ‘the safest choice’ rather than the most obvious.
‘It also happens to be the most relatable choice to those in power positions. If we look at a blockbuster like Wonder Woman, we can see female characters be central in movies and make money. There is money in creating content for women, and there is money in creating content for LGBTI women. There’s a misconception out there that we don’t have the money or we don’t spend it. I think it’s obvious we spend money on good content with good characters and good stories.’
However, Arnold is optimistic about the future.
‘We want to educate and inspire LGBTI women to enter into the world of content creation so that we can move into those positions of power,’ she says.
‘We can step outside of the same tiresome tropes and be brave and forge a new path to positive representation.’
ClexaCon across the pond
ClexaCon will cross the pond this fall. The London festival will be a smaller-scale event and will place in the capital on 3-4 November.
Some of the most prominent LBT women in media will take part in the event at the Novotel London West. Sense8’s Jamie Clayton will be there, alongside Supergirl’s Briana Wenskus. Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman, the protagonists of lesbian web series Carmilla, will also attend.
‘We’ve added some very London things, such as a London Bus Tour on Friday. We’re renting a bus and filling it with as many LGBTI women as possible,’ says Arnold.
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