The Bury Your Gays trope came to a forefront this past television season when a multitude of LGBTQ characters were killed off shows including “The Walking Dead,” “Empire” and most notably, “The 100.”
Javier Grillo-Marxuach — who wrote the highly controversial episode of the CW show that killed off Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), after she had sex with Clarke (Eliza Taylor) — spoke on a panel Saturday morning at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, to address the trope, which is defined as killing off a gay character to further the story of a straight one.
Along with writers and producers from “Shameless,” “Faking It” and “The Originals,” Grillo-Marxuach discussed the progress of the TV industry in regards to the inclusion of LGBTQ characters, but first, he tackled the elephant in the room.
“I think the failure was to recognize the cultural impact that would have on the context of the show,” Grillo-Marxuach said.
Addressing the social media outcry, he noted that rather than pointing fingers, the bigger issue at hand is the discussion that resulted from the “Clexa” controversy.
“The systemic failure to recognize it as an event of the magnitude that it had [outside the show] is the real subject of discussion here,” Grillo-Marxuach said. “When there’s a bigger issue involved of perhaps if we knew, why did we still go through with it? I think that’s a big issue.”
Coming to his defense, “Faking It” creator Carter Covington applauded Grillo-Marxuach and “The 100” writers for putting Lexa and Clarke’s relationship on TV in the first place.
“I feel like I have one of the gayest shows on TV so I’ve earned the right to speak to this,” Covington said with a laugh. “I think what’s getting lost in ‘The 100’ is that there was an amazing relationship…and that the death of one of these characters caused this huge ripple…This is storytelling, and I think ‘The 100’…is being assaulted and in the end, I think they’re giving fans this amazing chance to meet each other online and on Twitter. There’s so much good the ‘The 100’ is doing for the community.”
Grillo-Marxuach chimed in further on the Twitter barrage — which included fans pleading him to sign The Lexa Pledge, though he explained “I won’t make promises I can’t keep” — and he commended fans for being so vocal and creating a place of social activism.
“When the thing with ‘The 100’ happened and all the rage and fury came down on Twitter, the thing I was reminded of is when Caitlyn Jenner was on ESPN she said, give me your rage, I can take it,” the writer/producer said, referencing Jenner’s acceptance speech at the ESPY awards last year.
“I am grateful for the tidal wave that came down on me,” Grillo-Marxuach said, adding, “For the exposure and understanding that I received that people are willing to share stories and sometimes the rage, but also other emotions that come with it…the activism that goes on online is humongously important.”
Panelist Carina MacKenzie, writer on “The Originals,” also applauded the loud Twitter noise, saying, “This conversation wouldn’t be happening without fans on social media. I’m really glad that this conversation is happening at all, and that’s because of the fans on a show that’s a tiny little show on a tiny little network that has now changed the way we talk about television.”
While the panel largely commended viewers for sharing their passion on social media, Covington did admit that he’s received many “really hurtful” messages (“I got accused of queer-baiting,” he said). He warned the room of the poor impact that can result from such negativity online.
“I’m trying to put out what I think is the most positive messages out to the community I’ve ever seen on TV,” Covington said. “I really wish we could change the conversation and become a glass half full fandom…I just wish the conversation was more of gratitude so that people could be rewarded, and you’re going to get so many more LGBTQ characters…I’m really worried that it’s going to have the opposite effect of what fans want.”
As simply put by Grillo-Marxuach, “The same pen that created those relationships is the one that created the outcome that we see today.”