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LGBTQ fandom gathering ClexaCon returns to Las Vegas

Updated April 7, 2019 - 12:53 pm

TV deaths are not created equal.

Characters bite the dust with such regularity on series such as “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead,” they sometimes only register if they go out in truly spectacular fashion.

Then there’s the 2016 demise of Lexa on The CW’s post-apocalyptic drama “The 100.” The circumstances of her death were so distressing to a key portion of the show’s fan base, they inspired an online backlash, important discussions about representation in media and the annual LGBTQ fandom convention known as ClexaCon, which returns to Las Vegas for its third year, Thursday through April 15, at the Tropicana.

‘Things should be better by now’

“It was very upsetting to me, seeing what happened with the characters on the show and the way that was handled,” ClexaCon director Danielle Jablonski says. “But I think the bigger part for me was seeing how upset it made other people, especially younger queer people.”

After a long buildup and much “shipping” — slang for fans’ desire for characters to be in a relationship — Clarke (Eliza Taylor) and Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey), known by the portmanteau Clexa, finally consummated their relationship, only for Lexa to be struck down by a stray bullet in the same episode.

For many, it was another sad example of the trope known as Bury Your Gays, in which the deaths of LGBTQ supporting characters reduce them to little more than plot devices.

“It just made me think, ‘Things should be better by now than they are,’ ” Jablonski says. “ ‘We shouldn’t still be dealing with the issue of poor representation and, when we finally have a good character, having them killed off in a stupid way.’ ”

Jablonski, who relocated to Las Vegas after the first convention, was the marketing director at a New York tech firm when that episode aired. She turned to Twitter to vent and found reinforcement in a trio of women who were channeling their frustration into the idea of a convention celebrating queer characters and their fans. She and Ashley Arnold, her fellow ClexaCon director, joined the movement roughly a month into its existence. The result, which last year attracted 4,100 attendees from 49 states and 45 countries, is basically a smaller-scaled LGBTQ version of Comic-Con.

“It establishes that it’s panels and workshops and celebrities and photo ops and craziness,” Jablonski says of that shorthand description. “And that kind of sums it up in a nutshell.” (For more information, including a schedule and ticket information, see clexa-con.com.)

‘How do we fight harder?’

In addition to discussions about the fate of Clexa, fans can hear from the actors behind some of TV’s most exquisitely named relationships. There’s Avalance (Jes Macallan’s Director Ava Sharpe and Caity Lotz’s Captain Sara Lance) from The CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow” and WayHaught (Dominque Provost-Chalkley’s Waverly Earp and Katherine Barrell’s Nicole Haught) on Syfy’s “Wynonna Earp.”

Less creative yet still quite popular are Nyssara (Katrina Law’s Nyssa al Ghul and Caity Lotz’s Sara Lance) from The CW’s “Arrow” and ThunderGrace (Nafessa Williams’ Anissa Pierce, the alter ego of the superhero Thunder, and Chantal Thuy’s Grace Choi) from The CW’s “Black Lightning.”

Amber Benson, whose lesbian witch Tara Maclay met a fate eerily similar to Lexa’s all the way back in 2002 on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” will make her first appearance at the convention. “The story of her character on ‘Buffy’ is a really important part of the Bury Your Gays trope and the history of queer characters on TV,” Jablonski notes.

ClexaCon isn’t limited to sci-fi, fantasy and other genre shows. The comedy remake “One Day at a Time” is among the featured panels. Jablonski says the show’s recent cancellation by Netflix after three seasons shouldn’t make the event too bittersweet. “It’s always a celebration, because everybody’s always excited to see the people behind these shows and hear the stories behind them.”

Still, she admits, “I think there will definitely be some conversation about LGBTQ representation and where do we go if shows like ‘One Day at a Time,’ which is so great, are being canceled. Like, what is the hope for other shows? And how do we fight harder to keep these shows on the air?”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence @reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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