Twitter can sometimes be used for good. Shadowhunters fans took to Twitter on the morning of November 3rd to trend #SapphicScavengers, asking the series to include more positive representation of LGBT women.
“I’m kind of desperate for more sapphic representation in media, and Shadowhunters is my favorite show at the moment,” said Saara, the Twitter user who created the hashtag. “I just wanted the creators of the show to know how important it is for us and I figured Twitter would be the best way to get them to notice, Todd Slavkin in particular since he interacts with fans a lot. I’ve tweeted him about it several times before and I thought my chances would be better if I got others to do it too. I didn’t expect the hashtag to blow up like that.”
Showrunner Todd Slavkin recently came under fire from fans for implying a ship such as Clary/Izzy, nicknamed Clizzy by fans, would somehow be more sexual than the average ship. However, the tag wasn’t created in response to the remarks, although Saara did say she “did find his comments hurtful and wanted him to rethink it.”
Another twitter user, who wished to remain anonymous, also spoke about Slavkin’s comments and why it drove her to tweet in support. “When Todd Slavkin reduced relationships between two women just to sex it made a large majority of the fans feel uncomfortable. The Shadowhunters fandom is mostly LGBTQ+ fans that started watching the show for positive representation. To hear Todd dismiss and mock fans who headcanon Clary and Izzy as lesbians came across as very lesbophobic and it was disappointing to hear that a man who is responsible for writing one LGBT couple was so quick to dismiss a relationship between two strong and powerful girls.”
This is not the first time that fans have taken to twitter to ask for positive female LGBT representation. The hashtag #GiveElsaaGirlfriend exploded in popularity following the announcement of a Frozen sequel, and two parents campaigned for Rogue One’s Jyn Erso to get a girlfriend so their daughter could have representation. For every trollish Twitter campaign, fans have also tried to raise their voice to see positive changes in media.
The current push for representation feels more urgent than ever. There have been 26 deaths of lesbian and bisexual women on television this year, several after they had confessed their love to other female characters. They accounted for 10% of the deaths in the last season of television, a number that is completely disproportionate to the number of lesbian and bisexual characters actually on television. A study done by Vox’s Caroline Framke supports these statistics, showing that LGBT women are killed off at a vastly disproportionate rate.
Fans have been crying foul ever since the death of The 100’s Lexa was killed off, but their voices are drowned out by showrunners who do not seem to care. They cry that their dead lesbian is different from the others, that they had a reason for giving these women meaningless and violent deaths, that they weren’t burying their gays because this was simply how the story had to be told.
“The bloodbath of lesbian and bi characters affected me as a sapphic viewer who looked to characters like Poussey Washington as strong representation. What many non-sapphic fans don’t understand is that we see ourselves in these characters and are emotionally invested in them. Seeing sapphic characters get killed off makes other sapphics and myself believe that we will not get a happy ending because we do not fit in with society,” said the anonymous twitter user. “Having to watch multiple sapphic characters get killed off is very depressing for viewers to have to watch. It’s very rare that we find representation that is still alive and actually gets a happy ending.”
The truth is, there was no need for these stories to turn out the way they did. Poussey did not need to die to prove a point to the white characters about Black Lives Matter on Orange is the New Black. Denise did not need to take an arrow to the eye to make Daryl Dixon, a straight man, sad on The Walking Dead. Lexa even could have been written off as alive and waiting in the wings for a time when the actress could return from her gig on Fear The Walking Dead. There was no need for these deaths. There was no need to continue to bury your gays in 2016, because this is not 1950. We do not need to kill off lesbian characters in order to even get them to slip past the censors.
Movements such as #SapphicShadowhunters are important because they hit the showrunners where they actually hurt: their fanbase, and by association, their wallets. They are showing that there is an audience that is not passively hoping for but actively demanding positive representation. Many of these shows’ core fanbases are driven by young, LGBT women, and these young women deserve to see themselves represented. By making these demands and turning away from shows that fail to live up to their promise, they are sending real messages to showrunners that should not be ignored.
Saara hopes that, with the tag, she and other fans will “get the creators of the show to see it, understand how important it is to us, and give us at least one canon f/f couple. I’m doubtful they’d actually do it with any of their existing characters from the books, although it would be great, but introducing Aline and Helen (two characters from the series the show is based on) sooner rather than later, and creating original lesbian/bi/pan characters is something I could see happening if the creators are committed to continue the trend of good representation on the show.”
“My ideal goal with the tag would be for the writers and showrunners of Shadowhunters to notice the importance of representation for sapphic fans and understand that sapphic fans want a healthy relationship between two women that is not oversexualized or ends in death,” said the anonymous user I interviewed.
She continued, “I would hope that fans of other shows look at this tag and see that sapphic representation is important. Fans should be able to see themselves represented in every TV show and I don’t think it is unfair for us to want to be represented in a valid way.”
Update: Todd Slavkin did reply on November 6.