The Lexa Test

By now, if you follow entertainment news at all, you’re probably aware that controversy has been following CW’s post-apocalypse show The 100 after it killed off a lesbian character named Lexa.

It wasn’t Lexa’s death in and of itself that pissed off so many viewers, but all the context surrounding her death and the manner in which it was executed (so to speak — too soon?). Here’s what I wrote about it in the immediate aftermath of her death.

The 100 let down a great character and a vulnerable queer audience

Here are also some great articles discussing the fallout and information that has come out regarding the writers’ deliberate misleading of fans about Lexa’s death, including allegations a staff writer went on a lesbian message board to reassure fans about Lexa’s status as a character despite knowing at that time they were already killing her off.

What TV Can Learn From ‘The 100’ Mess by Mo Ryan

Of Manpain, Misogyny, and The 100 Mess by Elizabeth Bridges

When Does Social Media Go Too Far? by Nicola Choi

And here is a statement from the showrunner himself, claiming he would have done things differently had he really been aware of the harm his actions would have caused.

The Life and Death of Lexa by Jason Rothenberg

Combined with statements from the writer of the episode, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the picture that has emerged is of a writing staff that was definitely, unquestioningly aware of the Dead Lesbian trope, but was so caught up in their own writing that they believed they would either subvert or avoid it entirely. Their belief in their own skill as writers made them think that this story would be special and different, which led to an older authoritarian father figure steeped in traditional religious beliefs murdering his lesbian daughter figure immediately after she consummated her relationship with her female lover, who was the actual target of the murder. Yeah, I don’t know how they missed that either.

Which leads me to thinking that there needs to be a test that writers can use to pump the brakes before they embark on yet another Dead Lesbian storyline. Like the Bechdel Test, it isn’t meant to be definitive, nor to prevent anyone from engaging in this sort of storyline ever again. But it is meant to make writers stop and seriously contemplate if what they’re about to do is really necessary for their story, and if its value as entertainment outweighs the potential harm it might cause.

So, the Lexa Test. Which you could just as easily name the Tara Maclay test, or the name of one of dozens of other women who died tragically from this list of dead queer women compiled by Autostraddle.

THE LEXA TEST: Are you about to kill a queer woman on your show? STOP and ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Is she the ONLY queer woman, or one of very few queer women, on your show?
  2. Has she recently made progress in her relationship with another woman?
  3. Is she being killed by someone/something that disapproves of her relationship?

If the answer to all these questions is no, still stop and think. Don’t trust that your story is so unique and wonderful that people will want to watch it in spite of how hurtful it is. I promise you: 99.9% of the time it’s not. Really take into account how you may impact a real human being who is searching for hope in a world that rejects and vilifies them for their identity. Your work does not exist in a vacuum, and if people are telling you that your fictional story will cause real harm to a marginalized and oppressed group, then it’s not a story that’s worth being told.