Yesterday, The 100’s showrunner Jason Rothenberg penned an open letter to fans on Medium. Titled “The Life and Death of Lexa,” the letter was equal parts aknowledgement and apology. It responded to the backlash that followed “Thirteen,” and episode in which Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) — a beloved queer character and one of the few great examples of LGBT representation on TV — was killed by a stray bullet. While a quick look at the comments prove that reactions to the post have been mixed, Rothenberg’s letter is a win for fans and LGBT advocates.
The letter itself echoes many of the articles and criticisms that have surfaced in the three weeks after Lexa’s death. It recognizes the damaging effects of the “Bury Your Gays” trope and owns some of the responsibility for snatching away meaningful representation, in a manner that felt callous.
“Despite my reasons,” writes Rothenberg, “I still write and produce television for the real world where negative and hurtful tropes exist. And I am very sorry for not recognizing this as fully as I should have. Knowing everything I know now, Lexa’s death would have played out differently.”
It’s not so much what Rothenberg said in his letter that amounts to a victory for LGBT fans, though — it’s that he had to write it at all.
Over the last three weeks, fans have refused to stay silent, making their voices heard via hashtags like #LGBTFansDeserveBetter and #LexaDeservedBetter, and rallying around a very positive force: a fundraiser for The Trevor Project that’s raised over $73,000.
The fans made sure that Lexa’s death wasn’t forgotten, and that the “Bury Your Gays” trope didn’t fade from the conversation. Fans got loud enough to elicit an apology from a very important person in television. It’s wildly impressive, and it’s a credit to a community who fought for recognition on representation and trope.
“For many fans of The 100, the relationship between Clarke and Lexa was a positive step of inclusion. I take enormous pride in that, as I do in the fact that our show is heading into its 4th season with a bisexual lead and a very diverse cast. The honesty, integrity and vulnerability Eliza Taylor and Alycia Debnam-Carey brought to their characters served as an inspiration for many of our fans. Their relationship held greater importance than even I realized. And that very important representation was taken away by one stray bullet.”
For some fans, this letter undoubtedly feels a touch too little, and a bit too late, but make no mistake: this isn’t about Rothenberg and how he feels about the backlash. This is about the fans who refused to be silenced, who made themselves heard, and who channeled their deep hurt and disappointment into meaningful action.
This is just the beginning of a changing tide for LGBT fans. Now, more than ever before, representation and inclusion are fundamental parts of our conversations about television and film. Lexa’s fight is over, but this one is just beginning.