I was disappointed yet not entirely surprised by the ending of last week’s episode of “The 100.” A show that I had previously viewed as progressive made use of a trope that is both pointless and harmful to the LGBT community.
“The 100” is a CW show in its third season that I spoke highly of in a previous review. I lauded its diversity and the fact that it had an openly bisexual lead character in a time when bisexuality is highly underrepresented on television.
But season three, despite having its interesting moments, has been destroying the character development of one of its leads while sidelining many other supporting characters. More heinous than that, however, is what the writers chose to do with the character of Lexa – the lesbian leader of 12 clans. Although the actress was only ever considered a guest star, her character played a pretty important role in half of season 2 and the entirety of this season.
Throughout her appearance on the show, the audience has seen Lexa fall in love with the bisexual lead (Clarke) and do everything she could to prove to Clarke how much she cares about her. Even after betraying Clarke out of necessity, Lexa worked hard to redeem herself, at great risk to her position as the “heda” (leader) of her people.
Although I was not a huge fan of Lexa at the start, I still realized the importance of seeing these two powerful female characters fall in love and kiss each other in a mainstream show. That kind of representation is hard to come by. Even though I wanted Clarke to enter a relationship with her friend Bellamy, it was hard not to start rooting for Lexa and Clarke this season after seeing the immense growth of their relationship.
The episode on March 3 showed the two finally trusting each other enough to make love before going their separate ways in order to help their people. It was a bittersweet scene, knowing they might be on opposite sides of a war even though they clearly loved each other immensely. But I would have been fine with that plot … if that’s where it ended.
Barely ten minutes after their sex scene, Lexa’s advisor attempts to kill Clarke by shooting her. Hearing the commotion, Lexa runs into the room and is struck by a stray bullet. As she bleeds out, she says her final words to Clarke and ensures her safety before dying.
In a show that kills as many characters as “The 100” does, it might seem strange to be so incensed about the death of one more person. But to kill off one of your few main LGBT characters right after she finally consummates her relationship with another woman is just messed up. Whether the writer intended it or not, it implies that Clarke and Lexa deserved to be punished for having sex with each other. (Not to mention, the only other time Clarke has had sex with another woman on the show, both of them were beaten or threatened by a man directly afterwards.)
Killing off LGBT characters is such a common occurrence in the media, that there is literally a page on tvtropes.com entitled “Bury Your Gays,” (the trope is also known as “Dead Lesbian Syndrome”). The website describes the trope by saying that in certain works of fiction, “gay characters just aren’t allowed happy endings.”
The page further explains that, “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.”
Some argue that the trope doesn’t apply to shows where anyone can die, such as “The 100.” But the page goes on to explain that the death of an LGBT character simply has “a different cultural context and emotional weight, as there are unlikely to be many other gay characters in the piece of media,” and that it is “impossible to discount unconscious biases and broader context that do lend the trope credence.”
The show’s writer claims that “The 100” takes place in a world without homophobia, but that doesn’t mean the viewers watching the show live in a world without it. Having to see the main lesbian character on the show killed in such an abrupt manner is bound to have an emotional effect on the LGBT fans who are exposed to this kind of thing all the time.
Here’s the thing – I get that Lexa had to die. Not only does her actress have a full-time role in another series, but some pretty game-changing things were discovered as a result of Lexa’s death. But it’s the way in which she died that is so frustrating.
To not only kill a lesbian character directly after her first on-screen sex scene, but to also kill her in a way that took away her agency was just unnecessary. She is a strong character – literally – having beaten plenty of people in combat and commanding respect as a leader. So to have her accidentally shot by a man who consistently doubted her choices and tried to kill her lover is just cheap.
We could have seen her go out in battle or die by willingly sacrificing herself to save Clarke or her people. But instead, she runs into a room and is immediately shot – just like another lesbian character, Tara from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” was killed by a stray bullet meant for someone else.
If you really have to kill one of your few main LGBT characters to further the plot, at least do it in a way that respects the character and definitely DO NOT kill them directly after they have sex.
I have seen so many people commenting online about how upset they are by this episode, and I get why. I haven’t even seen many of these other shows and movies that they have where one of the few or only LGBT characters was brutally and pointlessly killed. It was bad enough I had to see the bisexual Rachel from “House of Cards,” whose only healthy relationship was with a woman, be killed by the man who was obsessed with her or see the bisexual Delphine shot on “Orphan Black.” But now “The 100” has to do it too?
Media is influential on our society, whether people realize that or not. These kinds of tropes encourage the idea that LGBT people don’t deserve to have love and should be punished in some way for having those deviant feelings. It also serves the purpose of discouraging LGBT people who are already struggling with a heteronormative and prejudiced society while possibly trying to come to terms with their sexuality. If even their favorite character can’t find love and happiness in a fictional universe, how can they ever hope to?
That’s why I am disappointed in “The 100” and the way this seemingly progressive show betrayed the trust of its fans.