It's not you, Lexa, it's your 'tan'

Curator's Note

As one of the first respondents to the YouTube video notes, someone asked about Lexa’s brownface. But it’s a tan. But it’s the lighting. It’s a shock to many of us. Much like I was shocked on first tuning in, looking at how grounders had to make room for the sky people who, in the context of The 100 were expelled because of draining resources and their disobedience in the state. Sky people didn’t think grounders existed and didn’t know if the land was ready for them. Grounders didn’t have access to the history of the sky people because of how traditions were built and secrets were kept. I know this much about the show, enough to know this is a glorified story of colonialism. So, when an audience member calls the symbol on Lexa’s forehead a Desi spiritual symbol of commitment, bindi, I believe, I expect resistance. Reports later say that people of color nodded, white people grew uncomfortable. The comments on the youtube video tell the rest of the story.

Brownface is when lighting, color, and even language are used to ‘other’ someone, an actor or character, to be nonwhite. Their “nonwhiteness” a byproduct of an unwillingness to hire someone who didn’t need to be darkened. It’s a distant cousin of Blackface, Yellowface, and RedFace. And, when women loving women die, shouldn’t that be enough to cry for? Then again, how long did I wait for a college-educated queer woman of color character to be the lead in a show? How feasible is it for any of us to believe that show will last and be as supported if she’s darker? Did fans feel Nafessa Williams and Chantal Thuy like they had Isabelle Gomez? Did they? 


Erika, thanks for this! I had not heard of Clexacon but now I'm curious to know more. I did some cursory Googling but I'm still wondering, does it provide an adequate forum for queer women of color to discuss issues? Was that an organizer of the conference who admitted that it had not crossed her mind that Lexa is played by a white woman in brownface?

I'm thinking that convention organizers are just as oblivious to issues of representation as media producers, and that underrepresented groups are rarely *in the room* to shape programs.

Oh, the things we have to suppress while consuming pop culture!

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