For queer women, fandoms are an outlet. An outlet to discuss the representation we receive on TV, and the characters that mean so much to us as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some fandoms start small, being ever so valuable to the creators of those shows and films. Some fandoms stay like this, and become wonderful small groups of support for creators. Others, however, grow exponentially, and even move mountains for their show to make a difference for the better. Here are five that have created amazing change one way or another in the past and present, and five smaller fandoms and characters who have done incredible things for the furthering of their queer content.
PLEASE BE AWARE! Spoilers are rife in this article from below onwards. Read at your own peril!
1. SWAN QUEEN (ONCE UPON A TIME)
When two producers from the hit show Lost went into work together to create a TV show re-imagining our favourite fairytales and Disney classics, they certainly didn’t expect the Swan Queen Nation. The show takes Snow White, Prince Charming and the Evil Queen as its main plot device, where the Evil Queen puts a curse on all of the Enchanted Forest, transporting them all to a sleepy town in our world, shielding them from the outside without their knowledge of it, or who they were before. The specific Swan Queen ship derives two of the main characters: Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming who escaped the curse, and grew up alone in the real world, and Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla) – the ‘real world’ incarnation of the Evil Queen, who is all too aware of the untold destruction Emma could bring to the curse and all she’s built since.
The pull between Emma and Regina stemmed from Henry, the son birthed by Emma and subsequently and, coincidentally, adopted by Regina. The ship emerged online in season one, but exploded in seasons two and three as a tentative camaraderie between the two blossomed. Even with six seasons (there were seven, but Jennifer Morrison left the show after the sixth)of them having not gotten together, it was clear the fans were desperate to see these two have the epic love story ending. The fandoms turned out in force at all the different conventions, making their voices heard, and both actresses acknowledged the ship during their time on the show. It was one of the first fandoms that began to call out the creators of its show for the shortcomings with these characters, and make themselves heard among the mainstream TV community.
HONORABLE MENTION: BECHLOE (THE PITCH PERFECT SAGA)
Pitch Perfect was an all-out, mainstream, full-of-fun film saga that we all were gagging to sign up for in 2012. However, what we didn’t sign up for was a ship nobody could ignore. Beca (Anna Kendrick), the main character, an alt-girl who shied away from the spotlight and loved making her own dance music, and Chloe (Brittany Snow) the outspoken redhead who co-captained the Barden Bellas, met at the beginning of the first movie while Beca was surveying her extra-curricular options at the society fair. Despite Chloe’s best efforts, Beca does not join the Bellas, and not five minutes later, Chloe catches Beca singing. She starts a duet with Beca, who eventually ends up getting into the impromptu jam session. The twist? They were both make in the dorm showers. This blossoming friendship, throughout three films, however, blossomed into nothing more than just that. For a mainstream movie, it was not surprising; hesitancy on producers’ parts to make a blockbuster inherently ‘gay’ clearly proved a step too far for them. However, that didn’t stop fans from wanting more. They lobbied for the relationship before the two sequels were released, but to no end; the only thing they got in return was a healthy amount of what appeared to be queer baiting in the final two movies. This fandom did its best to see its ship sail, and although the producers were not having it, the ship is still wildly popular to this day. We salute them!
2. CLEXA (THE 100)
If you don’t at least know of Clexa, you might have been living under a rock. That’s okay though – and that’s why we’re here telling you about them anyway! Clexa’s inception, and eventual downfall as a ship produced more positive change in the community than almost any other ship on television. Ever.
Clexa comprises of two characters from the post apocalyptic show The 100. Firstly, the main character, Clarke Griffin, one of a hundred young criminals sent back to earth from a populated space station 98 years after a nuclear apocalypse left the world uninhabitable; or so we were made to think. Late season one and season two brought the Grounders into play, a community of people whose ancestors had seemingly survived the apocalypse on Earth. The second character thus appeared – Lexa, the commander of the Grounders, or TriKru clan as it was called in their language, and a shaky coalition between 12 different clans. The real scandal and heartbreak came in season three, when just ten minutes of screen time after the pair got together and were intimate for the first time, Lexa was killed by a stray bullet, putting the choosing of the next Commander into play and supposedly forcing the development of Clarke’s character. Thousands of people boycotted the show in subsequent weeks; the creator, Jason Rothenburg, even lost over half his Twitter following due to the plot choice, and the Bury Your Gays trope was finally named and shamed. It came out that over 100 queer characters, many of them women, had been killed in recent years on screen for shock value or similar circumstances.
Thus, ClexaCon was born. A convention that invited actors and filmmakers bolstering queer media, where LGBTQ+ characters and their stories were celebrated and developed. What started as a four day convention in Vegas has grown in a full blown calendar, with a film festival, many different panelists, a one-off London pop-up convention and more. What began as the Clexa fandom revolting turned into something wonderfully positive and uplifting for the queer female community.
HONORABLE MENTION: ALEX DANVERS (SUPERGIRL)
Supergirl came onto our screens in 2015, offering a bright, fresh new face of superhero on the family-oriented CBS channel in the States. After a successful season, it was picked up by the CW, which made many LGBTQ+ viewers wary – after what happened to Lexa, there were few who trusted the channel to develop a lesbian character and do the story justice. However, Supergirl, having already bolstered a feminist angle with a female superhero, a wonderful HBIC in Cat Grant and a promising first season, managed to pull off another blinder in season two. Supergirl/Kara’s (Melissa Benoist) sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) had a measured, beautiful and positive coming out story on our screens. With gentle coaxing from new and out-and-proud character Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), loving support from Kara and an eventual ‘why did you feel you couldn’t tell me’ from mother Eliza (Helen Slater), Alex’s story was dealt with carefully, positively and lovingly, with those burned by Lexa’s death in mind. Chyler herself, who has attended Clexacon, has even said how much it meant to her to convey a positive story on television in that way. It was a small victory we all shared.
3. JULIANTINA (AMAR A MUERTE)
Lobbying for LGBTQ+ representation has mostly hinged on shows and films from English speaking countries, especially America and the UK. However, Mexico threw their hat into the ring with a pairing that quickly became a wild fan favourite: Juliantina, or Juliana Valdés (Barbara Lopez) and Valentina Carvajal (Macarena Achaga) from the Mexican telenovela (soap opera) Amar a Muerte (Love to Death). Valentina, the daughter of a successful and powerful media mogul, meets Juliana, the broke daughter of a hitman and on the run from a cartel, when Valentina is sitting crying in the park over her father’s death. Juliana, unlike Valentina’s unsupportive boyfriend, comforts her and thus a fast friendship was born. From this fast friendship, ample screen time showed the slow burn to a kiss, to a first time, and gave plenty of thought into how the show would tackle the subject of homophobia. In some shows, this wouldn’t be necessary; Supergirl’s Alex never needed to go down that road. However, Mexico’s outlook on LGBTQ+ representation is slightly different than the States, and producers clearly felt the need to include it and make it known it would not be accepted.
It worked. This powerhouse of a telenovela lifted thousands of fans up, making their stories heard through their pairing on a wild sci-fi themed soap opera (yes, you heard correctly). Not only that, it is believed to be the first lesbian couple on a Mexican telenovela. Both Macarena and Barbara and have said time and time again that the reason the show is so successful is because of their fans. So much so, a petition was created to lobby for a spin-off series focused solely on Juliantina – which has already reached over 70,000 signatures to date. The petition page says it all, really: “It has opened the door for our LBGTQ_ community to be more visible and accepted”. The spin off is reportedly in the works, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic there has been no recent news. We wish this wonderful project all the best, and pay homage to a powerhouse fandom that made their voices heard.
HONORABLE MENTION: SUPERCORP (SUPERGIRL)
Supergirl’s reach when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation has been ahead of many shows on television. Not only did Alex and Maggie come onto the scene, but we also welcomed Kelly Olsen (Azie Tesfai) into the fold, as well as the first trans superhero on TV, Dreamer, aka Nia Nal (Nicole Maines). However, one thing that caught the eyes of many a fan of the show was the chemistry between the Supergirl/Kara herself and Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), the powerful sister of Lex Luthor whom she befriends in season two. Their relationship has been the crux of many main and side plot lines, most recently with the latest season hinging the the reaction of Lena finally finding out that her best friend and the local superhero and are in fact, one and the same. It’s a tantalisingly interesting dynamic between them, and something many fans wait with bated breath to see develop each week. However, some fans feel that many of these scenes indicate that really, there could be a romantic connection between them if producers were willing to go there. There have been reports that the reluctancy lies in the fact that the characters they are based on remain the property of DC Comics, and therefore they can’t stray too far from their original origins, whereas Alex was an original character created for the show. Either way, we love these two, whether they’re destined to be best friends or something more – and this fandom campaigns hard to keep this show going, and in check.
4. HOLLSTEIN (THE CARMILLA SERIES)
The truly was the little series that could. Based on the actual first vampire book written, Carmilla centres around Laura (Elise Bauman), a Canadian student at Silas university in Styria, Eastern Europe, whose roommate Betty goes missing as part of a mysterious string of disappearances around campus. Laura sets herself the impossible task of finding Betty, only to be given one big obstacle in the form of Carmilla – her replacement roommate. ‘I’m your new roommate, sweetheart’, is one of the series most notable quotes. Meanwhile, Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) makes herself at home, painting herself as a pale, gorgeous stranger who doesn’t talk much, only seeming to drink soy milk out of a specific carton and only leaving the house at night. The eventual discovery that she is in fact a vampire came with not much surprise, but the twists and turns were great fun all the same. Her subsequent teamup with Laura to stop the big bad only endeared her more to fans, and thus Hollstein was born.
The pair’s relationship is the epitome of the enemies to tentative friends to lovers trope, and fans in 2014 were going crazy for this adorable couple. After one season of 36 five-minute episodes, a Christmas special episode was aired – with multi-camera work no less (the whole series is filmed in the perspective that the viewer is a subscriber to Laura’s Youtube channel) – and those seven minutes were so special to the fans that they lobbied for more. One season turned into two, then into three, and finally into a fully-fledged movie – all because the fans rallied together to drum up support for multiple seasons. #SaveCarmilla became a trending hashtag not days after the first season’s last episode aired, and both Elise and Natasha have often paid tribute to the devoted fans for keeping the show going. The movie, which was released in 2017, got a 92% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and its inception was reviewed spotlight piece on popular culture website Vox. Not only is Carmilla the little web series that could, but their supporters make up the little fandom that could as well.
HONORABLE MENTION: ROSA DIAZ (BROOKLYN NINE-NINE)
In this fandom, they are all Doug Judy. Rosa Diaz marched onto our screens in the hit NBC/then-FOX/then-back-to-NBC show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, following a detective squad in the kitsch area of NYC. Rosa’s character was always mysterious, fearsome and commanding, and a lot of fans carried the head canon that she was in fact, queer. It seems that they were not the only ones to think so, as writers revealed they discovered ‘over multiple seasons’ that they wanted to go down the road of having Rosa come out.
In season five we saw just that; Rosa tentatively came out to fellow cop Charles Boyle and subsequently to the whole squad in a short and sharp daily briefing. Stephanie, who is bisexual herself, has said she is determined to show those who resonate with Rosa’s character, and all queer people, that they are not alone. Rosa’s bisexuality has certainly given her the platform to do that, and the subject has been upheld throughout the seasons. The fandom may have been on the money, but the producers weren’t far behind on this one!
5. WYNONNA EARP/WAYHAUGHT
Make your peace, y’all. The Earpers are in the house.
When it comes to powerhouse fandoms, nobody can really deny that these guys are the epitome of them. Wynonna Earp snuck onto our screens in 2015, putting a fresh twist on both western, comedy and horror – well, they mashed them perfectly together. Wynonna Earp (Melanie Scrofano), returns to her home town of Purgatory to discover her ancestor Wyatt Earp left her a not-so-fun present: the demon versions of his worst outlaw enemies risen from hell. Which she has to send back with his old-timey gun. A show with a wacky enough premise to qualify for a possible recipe for disaster turned into an absolute fan favourite. Two characters who helped bolster the show’s profile in the queer community was the fiesty younger sister of Wynonna and all-around wonderful human, Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), and the new police officer in town, Nicole Haught, whose out and proud gayness won the fans over before she even had time to win Waverly’s heart. The pairing’s chemistry came off them in waves with each passing episode, and one script choice for Nicole even saw the producers shunning the Bury Your Gay trope when Nicole survives a bullet due to a bulletproof vest.
The fandom was healthy and vibrant up throughout the three full seasons, and after news of a season 4 renewal they were more than ready for another in 2019. However, due to budgeting problems at the show’s production company IDW Entertainment, production was suddenly halted. Despite the initial confusion behind the stalling, leagues of people in the fandom converged on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, spreading the hashtag #FightForWynonna with the aim of saving the show from the axe. The ferocity with which the fandom fought for their show saw determination not seen since the reaction following the death of Lexa on The 100. People explained how important the show was to them in their posts, a large reason being that the queer representation on the show was uniquely second to none, with multiple queer characters like Waverly, Nicole and Jeremy (Varun Saranga) and the forefront of the billing. The fandom’s hashtag, bolstered by the cast and the executive producer Emily Andras, began trending at least once a week. Some fans even went as far as paying for a billboard in New York’s Times Square, trying their best to demonstrate the love that was out there for the show to promote the restarting of production. After five agonising months of tireless campaigning by this fandom, Emily took to Twitter to announce that the show had officially been saved – the show’s production would continue in January 2020. Filming is currently halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this is the case for many shows, and the fans can sleep soundly knowing that they fought tooth and nail for their show in a way no-one had ever seen before. It was truly something special.
HONORABLE MENTION/ONE TO WATCH: MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM
During lockdown, Motherland: Fort Salem has roared onto our screens to keep us entertained; it shows us what the world might have been like if United States had ended persecution against witches after an agreement that they would instead fight for their country. It follows three young women in basic training to early deployment in this army, 300 years after the agreement took place in the 1700s. It has quickly caught the attention of multiple queer fans, however, due to one of the three young women being unabashedly and unashamedly queer. Raelle (Taylor Hickson) is a reluctant recruit with ‘major authority issues’ whose mother died while fighting in the same army. However, there is also a fourth recruit in Scylla, a mysterious new soldier whose presence and motives are apparently ‘not what they seem’. A blossoming kinship between the two lays the groundwork for what could be a deep, layered and brilliant relationship playing out on our screens, all through a main character’s perspective. A good portion of queer characters these days are only supporting characters, so to see a main character get this kind of treatment from day one is refreshing. With a following already on Twitter and Tumblr, this show and the characters of Raelle and Scylla could be getting a whole new fandom of their own in the weeks to come.
There you have it, folks. Our most dedicated fandoms, the characters they follow, and those little groups that saw the best in the representation they have – and how to push to make it better. We salute you all, and as always – happy watching!
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