The rebellion occurring within The 100 fandom has far-reaching ramifications and here’s why you should be paying attention (and even joining in).
Warning: The 100 Season Three spoilers below.
Before I continue, there is one fundamental idea that needs to be at the forefront: having diversity does not mean having good representation. Diversity does not equal a lack of racism just as having female characters does not equal feminism. It’s not enough to be a feminist anymore; we need to be intersectional and stand up for all the oppressed minorities, including LGBTQ+ and People of Color (POC).
The 100 was a show with a rocky start to the first season before becoming iconic and legendary after the second season ended and before the third season began. All through the long hiatus between the second and third seasons, it touted itself as “progressive” and gained more attention and more fans for its portrayal of strong female characters, diverse casting, and LGBTQ+ representation in the lead character. So what happened? Season 3 happened.
The third season started out well enough. We caught up three months later with our favorite characters and learned what they had been up to since the fall of Mount Weather in the second season finale. It wasn’t until episode 3×04, “Watch the Thrones,” that the story quickly steered off-course. Besides the numerous plot problems, we were introduced to the latest villains of the story when they set out to massacre three hundred sleeping warriors sent to protect them: Pike, Hannah, and Bellamy. There is something in common with these three antagonists; they are all POC.
What’s wrong with that? This show has a diverse cast and so inevitably there will be POC villains, or should they be censored and only have white villains?
No, that is not what is being said. What is being said is that this is yet another example of covert racism being taken to the extreme. Just as #OscarsSoWhite pointed out the covert racism in the awards show and movie industry, the current campaign by The 100 fandom is pointing out the problematic stereotyping against minorities that is rampant in the TV show industry.
Covert Racism: “is a form of racial discrimination that is disguised and subtle, rather than public or obvious. Concealed in the fabric of society, covert racism discriminates against individuals through often unnoticeable or seemingly passive methods. Covert, racially biased decisions are often hidden or rationalized with an explanation that society is more willing to accept. These racial biases cause a variety of problems that work to empower the suppressors while diminishing the rights and powers of the oppressed. Covert racism often works subliminally, and often much of the discrimination is being done subconsciously.”
It’s called “covert” precisely because it’s founded in our cultural upbringing and is unintentional and often based in ignorance of stereotypes. Almost all shows on TV have covert racism in one form or another, including the previous two seasons of The 100.
The first two seasons of The 100 could be written off as insensitive in the way most TV shows are insensitive. The third season, however, established and confirmed a pattern of behavior against POC that went beyond covert or coincidental.
“As much as the endlessly-optimistic sorts like to believe that race is no longer a discriminatory factor any more than eye color is, the fact remains that race is still very much an issue, especially in fiction.”
At this point in the show (after the airing of 3×08, “Terms and Conditions,” and Monty’s confirmed venture to the villain side), you can literally tell a person’s role in the show by the color of their skin. If they are white, they are the heroes of the story. If they are a minority, they’re villains and war criminals, drug users and drug dealers, imprisoned and/or tortured continuously, dead or about to die.
Out of the main characters, Jaha is a tech drug dealer, Lincoln was a drug addict/user, Bellamy is now a war criminal, and geeky Monty isn’t too far behind him. Raven is now a drug user, and all the rest are imprisoned (Lincoln) or dead (Wells, and Lincoln will soon be, too).
Out of the minor characters, Jones hasn’t appeared since the first season, Pike is a war criminal, and Jackson is now a drug user with Raven and Jaha. For the Women of Color (WOC), things are even worse with Indra, Dr. Tsing, Anya, Callie Cartwig, and Hannah as glaring examples of their continued mistreatment. Nathan Miller and his father (whom we haven’t seen since the season premiere) appear to be the only two POC who have remained relatively safe…for the moment. Nathan also happens to be LGBTQ+ with a boyfriend who is on the opposite side of the internal rebellion occurring in Arkadia. Since Lexa’s tropish death, this means even his fate might soon become the same as all the other POC on this show.
But Nathan Miller and Bryan show that Lexa’s death doesn’t matter because there is still LGBTQ+ representation and what about bisexual Clarke?
Besides the fact that they are both tertiary characters, prior to the mid-season finale (where Lexa was already dead), Nathan and Bryan just seemed like really good friends to the casual viewer who does not follow the writers on Twitter. (I also don’t think it’s necessary to point out that a relationship between two males or between a male and female is not the same as a relationship between two females, but I will, anyway.)
As to Clarke’s LGBTQ+ representation:
“Regardless of the overall death toll of a show, the death of a gay character nevertheless has different cultural context & emotional weight, as there are unlikely to be many other gay characters in the piece of media. Gay audience members are generally left with no one else to relate to, or only the grieving partner of the dead gay.“
It’s not so much a problem of Lexa dying; most fans expected that to happen even after it was announced the actor would return for Season 3. It’s more that the show queer-baited the fans all hiatus long, calling the Clexa ship “seaworthy” plus other misleading descriptors like labeling their show “progressive” and building false promises that Lexa might not actually die. Jason Rothenberg, the showrunner, even publicly invited fans to watch them film the season finale, showing Clarke and Lexa reunited and together. Wedeservedbetter.com has been collecting further online evidence of this behavior.
This gave fans a new hope they might not have ever experienced before. A chance to not only have canon LGBTQ+ representation of the lead character but also see it last longer than the two minutes most shows give to such relationships (commonly ended by a stray bullet). This is otherwise known as the Bury your gays trope:
“Even if they do end up having some kind of relationship, at least one half of the couple, often the one who was more aggressive in pursuing a relationship, thus “perverting” the other one, has to die at the end.”
The way Lexa died (immediately after sex by a stray bullet) matters so much more than whether or not she died (or even the reasoning behind it). The 100 writers have admitted to knowing of the trope beforehand but they were “naive enough – or arrogant enough – to believe that the lgb representation in our show, and our ability as writers would superate/redeem our use of the trope.” To start with, the historical homophobia inherent behind that trope should have been paid attention to.
“Hollywood increasingly depicted gay men and women as sadists, psychopaths, and nefarious, anti-social villains. These depictions were driven by the censorship of the code, which was willing to allow “sexual perversion” if it was depicted in a negative manner, as well as the fact that homosexuality was classified as a mental illness and gay men and women were often harassed by the police.”
Clarke and Lexa were allowed their moment of “sexual perversion” before Lexa’s accidental death from a stray bullet shot by her father figure who was trying to kill her girlfriend for her “bad influence” (her “blood must not have blood” ideology). With her death, Lexa will not be remembered as the strong and ruthless Commander she was. Instead, she will forever be remembered as yet another victim of the Lesbian Death Trope (currently #144/146), her character unintentionally becoming defined by her sexuality in her death instead of it being just a part of who she was in her life.
But what about the strong, female characters?
You mean the strong, white, female characters like Clarke, Abby, Octavia, and even Lexa before they killed her? Or how about Gina, who was created specifically to be fridged for Bellamy’s head-spinning and illogical hero-to-zero arc? Or how about their treatment of WOC, which has been less than exemplary? Most recently, they turned the only main WOC (Raven) into a drug user to escape the pain of her continuous emotional and physical torture over the course of two and a half seasons.
Indra is another example of their poor treatment of WOC. She is constantly having her people killed off and her village destroyed (dropship explosion, Finn’s massacre, Mount Weather missile, and Pike’s massacre) and she, herself, has been shot twice and bombed. She was also stuck following a leader who decided “blood must not have blood” after Pike and his gang murdered three hundred of her warriors. But thankfully, she was “saved” from her despair by Octavia in an almost identical fashion to how Octavia “saved” Lincoln in “Rubicon” and, from the Season 3 trailer, will be “saving” Bellamy soon. (In case you missed the covert racism, that’s a white woman “heroically” beating up three different POCs in order to save them from themselves.)
What about the other side of the story? What does The CW Network and the showrunner have to say?
In recent weeks, the showrunner, Jason Rothenberg, has lost tens of thousands of followers on Twitter. It is humorous to watch the graphs of his follower count going down, especially after he fan-baited for followers over hiatus, promising behind-the-scenes pictures for every few thousand new followers he got or for every online poll Clexa won. His only response to this debacle was an unsympathetic podcast and a quickly deleted retweet disparaging the backlash as people bullying him.
In much the same way, The CW Network continues to respond to fan outrage and campaigning with silence. Not one word of acknowledgment to the fans who were baited into being used for ratings. They are telling the viewers that we don’t matter and we don’t have the stamina to outlast their stonewalling. They got what they wanted and they have no remorse because it worked. The showrunner isn’t going to get fired, replaced, or reprimanded, the fans aren’t going to get Lexa or Lincoln back (if the actor would even be willing to come back after being bullied off the show by the showrunner). The CW Network does not care.
The recent renewal of The 100 directly on the heels of the lowest rated episode of the entire series proves that this was about ratings all along and had nothing to do with being “progressive.” Yes, that is absolutely what this boils down to: ratings and renewal. Money. The queer-baiting throughout hiatus and the Clexa-heavy first seven episodes of this season were done specifically to generate a buzz within the LGBTQ+ community when the writers already knew full-well that Lexa was going to die. As long as they could string along the LGBTQ+ viewership for several weeks to boost ratings, that was all they needed to get a fourth season.
The CW Network is not historically wrong in assuming that the opinions of the fandom don’t matter. They have the entire industry supporting them. In its second season two-part finale of Penny Dreadful, CBS (parent corporation of The CW) killed off their only POC in order to prop up a white man’s story. In the last couple of episodes of The Man in the High Castle, they took a strong, female character and reduced her into a love interest. Orphan Black even purportedly killed off one of their LGBTQ+ representation in the third season finale in a similar manner with a bullet out of nowhere (although I remain optimistic until shown otherwise that Delphine is not dead).
For a show to build its fan base over an extended hiatus by claiming itself as “progressive,” The 100 took on a certain responsibility to its audience to be just that: progressive. That is why this backlash is so important. The TV industry continues to be insensitive to stereotypes and tropes by depicting minorities in negative roles. It’s not that yet another gay character died or that it’s yet another cast full of POC villains; it’s that the viewers were lied to and used for ratings by being led to believe this time it was different.
This time, it is different. This time, it’s louder, it’s more appalling, more upsetting, more insulting. This time, it’s a unifying catalyst for change across the industry and perhaps the world. What matters now is beyond what happens with the show or the network. Over $45,000 has been raised by fans for the Trevor Project, a charity for at-risk LGBTQ+ youth. Twitter tags denouncing the show have trended non-stop every day in the weeks following Lexa’s death and there is also a tumblr blog dedicated to organizing the Twitter trends. Javier Grillo-Marxmauch, the writer of “Thirteen,” the episode where Lexa dies, has been engaging and respectful to the fans, wanting to learn from the mistakes made. He is in charge of the Xena reboot and has reassured fans that this experience has taught him lessons he will be applying and he wants to earn their trust back. People within the TV industry and PR firms are avidly watching what is occurring, wondering what the outcome might be and how they will need to react in the future. Change is happening right now as long as the momentum keeps going. The world is watching and it is no longer about just The 100 fandom.
Whether you’re a female, a POC, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or a feminist, you are a minority. Even if you’re not in the minority and simply support equal representation, we can join together and become a majority to be heard when we tell the world that harmful tropes matter, negative stereotypes matter, historical oppression matters. The fandom has spoken: good representation matters. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing (unless you’re one of the people sending death threats, then please stop). It’s a new millennium and we should be beyond damaging stereotypes and outdated tropes. Maybe our children might not have to deal with this but we still do and it is up to us to change it. Why not start now? #MinoritiesDeserveBetter
March 20th update: since the initial writing of this piece, another LGBTQ+ character has been accidentally shot dead, this time by an arrow meant for someone else just as she declared her love for her girlfriend. Goodbye, Dr. Denise Cloyd from The Walking Dead. With your death, another white, heterosexual male’s life was saved because this show doesn’t have enough of them (Abraham is the one who died in the comics).