The Loss of Lexa: Grieving Queer Character Death in Clexa fandom
Danielsen has been a bachelor student since 2015 and fully involved in fandom since early 2016. She is the head of the student council which works on better student environment for all Communications and New Media students at Aalborg University (Aalborg). Furthermore, she’s been a member of the study board under the Centre of Communication since February 2017. Research interests focus on fan identity, intersectional feminism/queer studies, and the individual’s behavior in the digital landscape of social media.
Line Boye Danielsen, BA-student in Communications and New Media. Aalborg University, Denmark.
What happens when a fan gets so emotionally affected by a fictive character’s death that it transcends into real grief?
This nethnographic case study of female fans of queer character Lexa (The 100), incorporates their experience as viewers, fans and internet users with relation to their fan identity (and in some cases, lesbian identity). Specifically, this study examines the ways in which these fans were affected by said characters’ death on March 3rd 2016, here including perspectives such as disenfranchised grief, fan identity, fandom nation and stigmatization from society.
Results indicate that participants used Lexa and the online community to normalize and affirm their grief and identity, decrease negative feelings regarding their experience and to seek validation from like-minded people. It also indicates that what the fans were experiencing has similarities to grief known from other contexts.
Throughout interviews with fans focus has been on their personal identification with characters and their social identity as fans (Jenkins, R 2014 & Baym N. K. 2015), their involvement in fandom prior to and after Lexa’s death. Furthermore, reactions from friends and family has been taken into consideration and how it reflected their self-image and understanding of their grief (McNutt, B., Yakushko, O 2013). Phrases such as “I never thought I’d grieve over a fictional character”, “My friend would think I’m crazy” are repeated from the respondents and these assumptions are consistent with problematics already discussed from both Chayko; Baym; Jenkins; McNutt & Yakushko such as identification with characters, social/internet identity vs “IRL” and the lack of validation regarding their grief. Furthermore, will the perspective of lesbian representation in media and the Bury Your Gays trope be included to investigate whether this might have helped to influence the fans’ emotional reaction to the death of a fictional queer character.
KEYWORDS: grief, lgbta+, fandom
Baym, N. K. (2015). Personal connections in the digital age. Cambridge: Polity.
Chayko, M. (2012). Connecting: How We Form Social Bonds and Communities in the Internet Age. SUNY Press.
Falconer, K., Sachsenweger, M., Gibson, K., & Norman, H. (2011). Grieving in the Internet Age. New Zealand Journal of Psychology 40, 79–88
Forman, A., Kern, R., & Gil-Egui, G. (2012). Death and mourning as sources of community participation in online social networks: R.I.P. pages in Facebook. First Monday
Jenkins, R. (2014). Social Identity (4. ed.). London: Sage
McNutt, B. & Yakushko, O. (2013). Disenfranchised Grief Among Lesbian and Gay Bereaved Individuals. (pp 87–116)
Westberg Gabriel, Lýsa. Imaginary Spaces: The Fandom Nation. MA thesis U of Southern Denmark, 2012.
3 hours of video footage + field notes from researchers own attendance at ClexaCon in Las Vegas, Nevada, March 3–5 2017. Clexacon.com.
20 qualitative online interviews with fans of Lexa
Clexascience.tumblr.com & twitter.com/clexasciencedk
Bury Your Gays + Lexa’s death explained by Vox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl22caUj-oo (Caroline Framke, Cultural writer, Fox. July 16, 2016)