Perhaps it is premonition or simply a desire to see more positive queer women characters on the silver screen that prompted Keira Knightley’s spontaneous response to a suggestion for a lesbian twist to a sequel of Bend It Like Beckham.
“Fuck yeah!” she told Pride Source when asked about queer women fans unfulfilled desire that her character Jules and her co-star Parminder Nagra’s character, Jess, should have been an item. “That would’ve been amazing. I think they should’ve been, too. I think that would’ve been great.”
We need a sequel,” she added, stating that she wasn’t aware of any lost lesbian ending to the 2002 film that launched her career when she was 17-years old.
Since then, she’s enjoyed played strong women in a number of films during her more than two-decade long career.
Soon queer women fans will be able to enjoy seeing Keira on the screen in the movie Colette.
Needless to say, the film about bisexual French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette might be one of the many on the top of queer women and feminist media watchers’ minds when they attend the first-ever ClexaCon London on November 3 and 4.
The wildly popular conference celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer women and characters in television, film, web series, comics, books, and other media.
Colette divorced her husband whom she penned four Claudine stories as her first husband Henry “Willy” Gauthier-Villars’ ghostwriter. She divorced him and gained her own creative voice. She went on to earn a Nobel Prize nomination in Literature in 1948. Her novella, “Gigi,” was adapted into a play and Academy Award-winning movie for Best Picture.
Keira said Colette’s approach to sexuality spoke to her when she was asked.
“Yes, because she was entirely natural to herself and she acted without shame,” she said. “What a wonderful, positive way of looking at your sexuality and the people that you fall in love with. I really respected that about her. I loved that she was herself and that any rule that didn’t fit she just broke and made the life that she wanted to live.”
I think that’s a wonderful, empowering story, both from a feminist point of view and from the point of view of her sexuality.”
Kill The Queer
That positivity is much needed due to the recent state of the lack of queer images on big and small screens within the past two years.
ClexaCon’s name derives from beloved lesbian characters Clarke and Lexa on The CW’s “The 100” and the anger that arose when Lexa was suddenly killed off in 2016.
Seizing on the momentum and their own anger about Lexa’s death, Ashley Arnold, Danielle, and Holly Winebarger channeled queer women and feminist TV, movie and other media lovers’ fury launching ClexaCon in Las Vegas in 2017.
“The lesbian character was killed off in a really bad way and it caused a lot of outrage and a lot of backlash on social media,” said Danielle. “That TV season ended up being one of the worst in recent memory in terms of the number of LGBTQ women who were killed off [on] mainstream TV shows.”
It was a terrible high number and because of social media we were able to see the impact that it was having on people,” she continued. “Queer women were standing up and not taking it anymore.”
Their goal was to bring together queer women and allied media fans on all platforms together offline to “celebrate positive LGBTQ women’s representation in media,” create a community, and mobilize for change.
Change is needed. The most recent Studio Responsibility Index from GLAAD measuring insight into queer representation in TV and film in 2017 showed a significant drop in queer representation in media from 2016. Actually, last year tied for the “lowest number and the lowest percentage ever of LGBTQ-inclusive films amongst all mainstream releases since Glaad began its tracking in 2012, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media organization, in the introduction of the report.
She also noted the potential impact on Hollywood if studios don’t include queer characters and themes in TV shows and movies.
Films and TV shows audiences are young. According to the Theatrical Home Entertainment Market Environment 2017 report, in the US and Canada aged 18-39 made up 38 percent of the “frequent moviegoer” audiences in 2017. Glaad’s own Accelerating Acceptance report showed that 20 percent of Americans aged 18-34 and 12 percent aged 35-51 identify as LGBTQ.
“If Hollywood wants to remain relevant with these audiences and keep them buying tickets, they must create stories that are reflective of the world LGBTQ people and our friends and family know,” wrote Sarah calling upon major and independent studios to step up with their releases citing queer Academy Award-Winning films “Moonlight,” “Call Me By Your Name,” and “A Fantastic Woman.”
Hitting A Nerve
The ClexaCon women hit a nerve.
The first event attracted nearly 2,000 women – queer and straight – in Las Vegas in 2017, said Danielle Jablonski, co-founder and director of ClexaCon.
This year, the conference attracted more than 4,000 attendees from 43 counties and every state in the United States, with the exception of one, more than doubling the previous year’s attendance to Las Vegas.
It became the largest multi-fandom event for LGBTQ women and allies in the world.
Taking ClexaCon To The World
Almost immediately after announcing the first ClexaCon, the women received requests to host the event in other parts of the world, Danielle said.
“We’ve been wanting to do international events,” she said noting that the Las Vegas event is supported by 16 year-round volunteers and many more during the event. “London makes sense for us because some of our team is already based in London and it’s such a major hub of Europe.”
Its European edition is far away from its glitzier Las Vegas hometown, but Danielle expects a positive showing of European media fans in a more intimate atmosphere at the Novotel London West.
“I love our Las Vegas event…its massive and really fun,” said Danielle, “but I also I think [there’s] something nice about having a smaller version of it [where] we can all really get to chat and get to know each other a little bit better.”
“I’m excited,” she said. “I think that we … are going to be having some interesting conversations.”
The conference will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of “I Can’t Think Straight” with actress Sheetal Sheth, also of The World Unseen.
Netflix Sense8 Jamie Clayton will make a rare appearance at the conference.
“I’m really excited to have Jamie Clayton from Sense8 joining us,” Danielle said. “She doesn’t do a whole lot of events.”
I think that the show Sense8 was such an incredible show and had such incredible representation for LGBTQ women,” she praised the show. “I think that’s going to be fantastic to have her there.”
Fans will be able to also meet celebrities Katherine Barrell of Wynonna Earp, Victoria Broom of Marcella and Different for Girls, Jamie Clayton of Sense8, Mandahla Rose of Forever Not Maybe, and All About E, and Briana Venskus of Supergirl and The Walking Dead.
Almost Adults and Camilla stars Elise Bauman, Natasha Negovanlis, and Annie Briggs, also a star of Clairvoyant.
Similar to Las Vegas, attendees will be able to meet and get autographs of their favorite celebrities, but they will also get to hear from 15 industry professionals telling their stories and working with panels, meet and greets, workshops that will hopefully inspire, innovative, and disrupt the media industry.
Attendees will be able to participate in content creation panels, acting panels as well as academic panels with an elite community of LGBTQ gamechangers, industry tastemakers, media influencers and actors.
Discussing the future of diversity, inclusivity and intersectionality in entertainment the panels will be covering a wide range of timely and trending topics from women’s voices (“Placing ourselves in the narrative: Queer Women and Fanfiction”) to non-binary & gender conforming people representation (“I have a Que(e)ry: where non-binary and gender non-conforming people fit within gendered, queer spaces), among others.
ClexaCon’s goal is “genuinely pushing the envelope forward for female LGBTQ+ representation in front of and behind the camera,” according to the conference’s August 6 news release.
“Their voice matters. Pick up a camera, grab a pen, start writing, start creating because there are other people who care about what you have to say,” added Ashley in the release.
Danielle is also excited about double decker bus tour of London filled with queer people.
“The bus will be full of queer women from around the world I think that’s a cool way to see London,” she said.
“Whether you are a fangirl, a creator, an activist, or all of the above, ClexaCon offers something for everyone,” added Holly in the release.
ClexaCon London is 3 -4 at Novotel London West, Hammersmith International Ctre,1 Shortlands, Hammersmith, London W6 8DR. ClexaCon general admission is $150.
Keira’s portrayal of Colette will be a welcome sight to lesbian and feminist fans when it hits US movie theaters October 12. United Kingdom moviegoers will have to wait until January 25, 2019.
Can’t make it to London? It’s Vegas baby! ClexaCon returns home to Las Vegas on April 11-, 2019.
Book your next trip to London with Girls That Roam Travel. Contact Heather Cassell at Girls That Roam Travel at 415-517-7239 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.