lexa and clarke

Another queer woman died on TV and people are pissed

In episode 7 of this season of The 100, Lexa was accidentally killed by some dude who couldn’t shoot straight — her mentor, Titus — recalling feelings of déjà vu for many Buffy fans who remember when a similar thing happened to Tara. In the days since, fans devoted to the relationship between Lexa and Clarke, the bisexual series lead, freaked out in every relevant corner of the internet. Particularly Twitter. And Tumblr. #Clexa forever!

To outraged viewers, Lexa’s death is seemingly just another in the long line of queer women who have died on TV after having a happy moment. In this case, that moment was making love to the show’s lead character Clarke. The literal next time viewers saw Lexa was what became her death. In a snarky response, Autostraddle published a list of “100 Storylines We Brainstormed in 5 Minutes that Don’t Involve Dead Lesbians,” featuring such riveting suggestions as a cop going undercover. Queer women die on television so much that there are multiple Afterellen articles on the phenomenon.

Lexa’s death was not, entirely, a surprise. The actress who plays her, Alycia Debnam-Carey, is a series regular on Fear the Walking Dead, which is on a different network. She contractually couldn’t do both. But the death still felt like a betrayal to be because of the way showrunner Jason Rothenberg responded to the outcry on the podcast The Dropship the following day. He said:

I’m a little shaken by the intensity of the negativity, for sure. I understand it; I really do. I mean I get that people…that this trope does exist in television and in drama in general. We didn’t create it for that reason. Obviously this is a show where people die. Main characters get killed and [Lexa’s] the commander, and that’s not a job with a long life expectancy…For me to treat her differently — I guess some were saying that I should have taken more care with her because she’s a lesbian. I’m very torn about it obviously, because I get it, I’m sensitive to it, and I’m upset that people are upset.

Rothenberg’s words highlighted an intense tension between writers/showrunners and LGBTQ fans. He doesn’t seem to understand how important queer representation is on TV, how dabbling in mobilizing the LGBTQ community is complicated, or how much we need characters like Lexa to live for us.

Growing up in rural Indiana, my first connection to any sort of queer community was through the Calzona fandom. I didn’t have queer friends; I had people online. My best friend is someone whom I met through this community. I watched Grey’s Anatomy from the fifth episode of Season 1 until the finale of Season 9. When Arizona cheated on Callie, I just couldn’t do it anymore. After Shonda had spent seasons talking about how the two women were “made for each other,” it just felt wrong. And I never went back to Grey’s.

These feelings of betrayal are real for many queer people who may not feel connected to those around them, or who experience rejection from their friends and/or families. Characters on television, in films, and in books can provide those friends we need, those moments of solace where it is ok to be who we are in the face of such solitude and desperation.


There is real progress in LGBTQ representation on television. There was a time when queer characters were so slim that when a new one popped up, I dropped everything and started to watch that show. I literally cannot do that anymore, and that’s amazing. There are benefits to having a plethora of shows available right now — what some people say is “peak content” — and it would appear that one of them is a proliferation of shows with LGBTQ characters.

Yet, though current political progress narrative can make us think that queer representation is somehow less important, it is still so crucial. While there are certainly more queer characters on television, there aren’t stable queer couples on network television raising kids and just living their lives. Yes, Lena and Steph on The Fosters exist, and that’s wonderful, but they are the one queer couple on cable. Think of how many straight couples there are. Naming them all is pretty impossible.

Queer characters and relationships are particularly scare in comedies. So many sitcoms, like How I Met Your Mother, are rife with transmisogynistic “jokes.” And on the “good” comedies, like Modern Family and Master of None, LGBTQ characters are still ancillary. That means most meaningful queer characters are on dramas, where we see them face tragedy after tragedy rather than joy.

When LGBTQ people can laugh with as many characters as we mourn, then perhaps we will be able to lose a character without outrage. But this is not that day.

Header Image Credit: IGN


Katie Barnes (they/them/their) is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer. While at St. Olaf College studying History and (oddly) Russian (among other things), Katie fell in love with politics, and doing the hard work in the hard places. A retired fanfiction writer, Katie now actually enjoys writing with their name attached. Katie actually loves cornfields, and thinks there is nothing better than a summer night's drive through the Indiana countryside. They love basketball and are a huge fan of the UConn women's team. When not fighting the good fight, you can usually find Katie watching sports, writing, or reading a good book.

Katie Barnes is a pop-culture obsessed activist and writer.

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