Open Letter to Jason Rothenberg

On March 7, 2016 by Kim Wetter

Dear Jason,

The 100 -- "Thirteen" -- Pictured: Alycia Debnam-Carey as Lexa -- Credit: Liane Hentscher/The CW- All Rights Reserved

The 100 — “Thirteen” — Pictured: Alycia Debnam-Carey as Lexa — Credit: Liane Hentscher/The CW- All Rights Reserved

Let me first start out by saying, I’m so sorry you are getting many, many negative reactions from fans. I’ve heard rumors that several have gone completely over the line in what they’ve said or done. That’s unacceptable and for that I’m sorry. I am not advocating for those people. I do not approve of their actions. But I’m going to try to speak for the rest of us who feel generally hurt or upset by what happened in episode 307.

I’m guessing a lot of this reaction surprised you. Most of us knew, or at least had to strongly assume, that Lexa had to die. We all know Alycia Debnam-Carey is a regular on another TV show. I was even spoiled by Twitter before I watched 307 and knew she was going to die well-before I started watching the episode (I watched a day later, on Friday). And no, I didn’t stupidly sign onto Twitter that day, like an idiot, and then get mad at the massive amounts of spoilers – Twitter actually emailed me a “popular” tweet and I saw the spoiler in the email snippet, without ever even clicking in. Bummer, for sure, but I think that’s why my perspective might surprise you. I wasn’t mad when I got that spoiler via email. I was upset, sure, but I wasn’t hurt or angry (at anything other than dumb Twitter emails). So, it’s really important to note here, it’s not that she died, it’s 100% how she died.

The unfortunate truth is that there is a long, long history of lesbians dying in TV shows. I’m sure you know this, but maybe you don’t. What you probably don’t know is that there’s an infographic of lesbian representation in television that has to include how many lesbians were killed. There’s another infographic that shows all the lesbian/bi characters ever on television and in the center is “All Lesbians go to Heaven.” We do that because it’s just too common to ignore. It happens all the time.

Tara Maclay played by Amber Bensen on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Tara Maclay played by Amber Bensen on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

There’s also one notable lesbian who died in a very similar way that Lexa did. I’m sure you know this, but maybe you don’t. Tara was killed in season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by a stray bullet. Her death resulted in creating “Bad Willow,” because Willow loved Tara more than anything else. And many of us grew up watching Buffy and Willow and Tara’s relationship was the first fully developed relationship between two women on network television. It holds a special place in the hearts of many LGBTQ individuals because of its alignment with our early adulthood. And therefore Tara’s death was as heartbreaking to us as it was to Willow. The fact that it happens immediately after the two reconcile (and consummate their reconciliation), made it hurt all that much more.

There’s a whole long, mostly unpleasant history of lesbians on television. This is where I’m pretty sure you don’t know this. I’m reminded of an interview Heather Hogan did with the creator of the short-lived US version of Skins, Bryan Elsley. In it, she asked Bryan if he was aware that it’s common in US popular culture for lesbians to sleep with or even end up with a man. In his answer, he made it very clear that he had no idea that was a thing, or a “trope.” I can imagine Heather Hogan interviewing you and asking the same thing and you may give a similar answer, maybe you won’t.

The sad fact is that lesbians in pop culture often die because of their lesbianism. And to me, that’s how Lexa died and it’s the how that is upsetting. She had just consummated her love for Clarke and we can assume that it was her love for Clarke that brought her to that doorway. Or, in other words, her lesbianism is the reason she was struck by a stray bullet. I know this sounds reductionist because Lexa, as a character, was obviously so much more, but this is just how it feels. Our collective history tells us this is why she died.

Photo credit: Afterellen.com and Heather Hogan

Photo credit: Afterellen.com and Heather Hogan

It is just something that is so deeply engrained in our collective history and there’s no way you could have known this. But that doesn’t mean you can just ignore it. I think you have a responsibility to your audience to at least try to understand the part you play in their history. I don’t think what you wrote was homophobic or purposefully hurtful, I just think it was blissfully ignorant. You did not know this long history of pain. You couldn’t have, unless you specifically sought it out.

For those fans that are angry, I can tell you it’s because it feels very personal. We’re tired of men writing our stories and not understanding the hurt they cause. Maureen Ryan wrote a piece that specifically talked about an incident with Supernatural needlessly killing a lesbian. She says this wasn’t as bad as that but to me, it is. I can’t separate my feelings about Tara Maclay or Dana Fairbanks or Cat MacKenzie or Naomi Campbell from the Great Heda of The 100. They are all intertwined. One does not exist without the history that proceeded it.

I’m sure this will never reach you, but if it does, I hope it provides some clarity. We put our trust in you as a storyteller and if you don’t want to break our trust next time, just try to understand the history in which you are playing a part. I honestly think it will lead to better storytelling in the long run.

Sincerely,
Kim Wetter (and a giant chunk of lesbian fandom)

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