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THE 100: Progressive Turned Problematic

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When the CW’s The 100—a TV show loosely based on the books of the same name by Kass Morgan—began in 2014, fans of the books and people interested in the show were excited. Not only did it have an interesting futuristic plot that set itself apart from the repetitive dystopias we’ve been fed for the past few years, but the racial diversity in the main cast was fabulous in comparison to other shows targeted for teenagers and young people. Though—surprise, surprise—the protagonist, Clarke, is a white woman, the male protagonist, Bellamy, is played by Filipino-Australian, Bob Morley. Other main cast included—but was not limited to—South Korean Christopher Larkin, Latina Lindsey Morgan, and black Ricky Whittle. The role of the Chancellor—the leader of the Sky People, who grew up in space—was played by the iconic Isaiah Washington and the leader of the Woods Plan—a group of grounders—was played by Nepalese-Australian Dichen Lachman.

Only a few episodes in, fans and critics alike only had positive things to say about the show. The show was received as generally progressive, never mind the fact that by the third episode, peacemaker Wells had been killed for just about no reason. Throughout the airing of season one, the show was praised for it’s Lord of the Flies like take on human nature, inspiring deep debate by fans over the internet about whether or not their favorite’s intentions were honorable and such.

After a shocking first season finale in which the show’s notoriously victorious anti-hero, Clarke, killed roughly two hundred grounders (at the time, enemies), the second season started after a brief hiatus.

Season two is typically the fan favorite. In season two we get to dive even deeper into the sanity of our main characters, as peacekeepers become massacrers and typical assholes become a little bit nicer. We see former fan favorite, Bellamy, take on a major redemption arc as he transitions from a self-concerned to selfless leader. Alliances are made between the show’s centric Sky People and their former enemies, the grounders, as they team up to fight Mount Weather, a third variation of what was left of the human race after a nuclear explosion ninety seven years prior. During this season, we experience the pointless death of our warrior princess and beloved leader Anya, as well as mass-murderer Finn. But on the bright side, we’re introduced to Lexa, a powerful young woman leading twelve clans of grounders in unity who also happens to be a lesbian. With the introduction of Lexa’s character, LGBTQIA+ fans (myself especially) are delighted to discover that protagonist, Clarke, is bisexual. Though she was formerly involved with the now-deceased Finn, Clarke shares a passionate kiss with Lexa mid-season. Unfortunately, we also have to experience our beautiful Latina, Raven, undergo surgery without anesthesia to attempt to save her life after being shot by lovable asshole, Murphy, in an unnecessary attempt at self defense. The combination of the bullet and the surgery leave her crippled.

And, because apparently it’s some kind of trend or something, season two ends with Clarke committing genocide. Again. She wipes out nearly four hundred Mountain Men, then flees from the rest of her people out of guilt.

Season two left fans in shambles, waiting for months before the return of their beloved, progressive show…only to be greatly disappointed upon its return.

The beginning of season three is decent at best. Clarke and Lexa enjoy quite a bit of screen time together, pleasing fans, however, our wonderful man of color lead, Bellamy, is put through hell. He loses his redemption arc for no reason at all and the former fan favorite was quickly despised, resulting in rude comments towards the actor, Bob Morley, from bitter fans. As the season progresses, things go to hell quicker and quicker. Authority in The 100’s trivial society is seized by Pike, a black man the show unnecessarily demonized by his periodic refusal to make peace with the grounders, eventually burning any alliances they once had by committing mass murder of their sleeping armies (seems to be a theme, doesn’t it?).

Disabled woman of color, Raven, is not given nearly enough screen time as the show cheats fans out of the representation so many have never seen before. When Raven is put on screen, she is shown as not properly dealing with her pain and slowly succumbing to drugs introduced to her by the once inspiring former Chancellor played by Isaiah Washington.

Seeing as she disappears for numerous episodes at a time, fans quickly forget about Raven as it seems more and more likely that the highly rooted for ship, Clexa, is going to become canon. Clarke’s existence as a strong, bisexual woman on TV is extremely empowering to those who face biphobia in their every day lives, and Lexa’s existence as a powerful and influential lesbian might be even more so empowering. We see the two get together mid-season, confessing their love and then having sex. All seemed well until…what do you know, The 100 succumbs to another trope!

Lexa—a trailblazing, inspiring, beloved and empowering LGBTQIA+ character—is murdered. For no reason. RIGHT AFTER THEY HAD SEX. Talk about the Bury Your Gays trope!

Needless to say, fans were angry. Really angry. They’ve never liked head writer Jason Rothenberg, but the cliche and uncalled for death of another minority was the last straw for some. Almost as if Rothenberg knew that the feedback would be negative, The 100 took a mini-hiatus for a few weeks directly after this episode aired. It gave fans enough time to rally together, getting angrier and angrier, but good things stemmed from this anger. Though obviously it was not okay for the writers to kill an icon like Lexa purely for shock value and to further the story line of the straight characters, fans took their negative energy and turned it into beautiful things. $100,000 have been raised in Lexa’s name for the Trevor project, aimed at preventing LGBTQIA+ suicide. Rothenberg has since apologized on Twitter, but his apology won’t bring back Lexa.

The show picked up last night (March 31) right where it left off after Lexa’s death. With Clarke grieving the loss of her lover, the fans already knew—due to rumors and spoilers—that they would be facing another tragic loss tonight, though none knew just how tragic it would be.

From season one, Lincoln—played by Ricky Whittle—was a peacemaker. He was selfless and loyal, doing every thing he could to ensure unity between the Sky People and the grounders. He constantly sacrificed his happiness and safety to protect those he loved, especially his girlfriend, Octavia. Their interracial relationship was a comforting form of representation in many ways. They were a black man and a white woman who had the perfect amount of balance in their relationship, sharing both the dominant and submissive roles. They protected each other endlessly and loved each other shamelessly.

Throughout the series’ entirety, Lincoln has been poorly mistreated and never given the plot line he deserved. Allegations had even been made by Ricky Whittle and his mother about Rothenberg “bullying” him for being black, which fans believe to be the catalyst for Whittle’s inevitable departure from the show.

Our precious Lincoln was killed by Pike at the end of last night’s episode. Though we all knew it was coming, it was shocking nonetheless. His death was execution style, on his knees in the rain. Though he remained unbroken until the end, his death was alarmingly graphic, as he was shot in the head. Though the shot was not close range, the cameras were. We saw the bullet make impact with his skull, and we watched in horror as he bled out into the mud. The scene seemed all too familiar. Immediately taking to Twitter to voice their angers and concerns, many were quick to note that Lincoln’s death had disturbing parallels between modern police brutality. He was an innocent, unarmed black man forced to kneel and await to be shot in the head.

How is it that the show that once prided itself with the title progressive could have become like this?

If The 100 has done anything right—which arguably, they haven’t—it’s the way they’ve presented Jasper’s, played by Devon Bostick, struggle with PTSD. He’s succumbed to alcohol in order to forget how Clarke, a good friend that he trusted indefinitely, killed his girlfriend in Mount Weather. After fighting until the end to save the good people still left, Jasper ultimately could not handle the guilt he felt, the trauma he had experience from his short time on the ground. He had been struck by a spear through the chest, and then forced to hold his girlfriend while she died in his arms at the hands of one of his friends. Jasper has undergone extreme mood swings, a significant increase in violence and he has destroyed all of his relationships. Thought he might be the one character The 100 has done semi-justice to (however I am in no position to decide that, considering I have never experienced PTSD) it seems that the fandom is pissed off at him for being “annoying”.

The 100 has a bisexual lead, a man of color lead, a single remaining queer relationship (that also happens to be interracial), a disabled woman of color and a character experiencing PTSD. Though these are forms of representation, they—for the most part—have not been fairly represented. And on top of that, the writers of the show have killed two of the most influential representative characters purely for shock value. Under a team of unoriginal and systematically prejudice writers, The 100 has quickly turned from TV’s “most progressive show” to one of its most problematic.

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Written By

Cassie Baker is a high school sophomore from the suburbs of Atlanta. She hopes to be a journalist and a fiction author when she grows up. She's passionate about social justice, intersectional feminism and keeping her Snapchat streaks. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing and listening to Fall Out Boy. Despite her deep love for dark lipstick and Ryan Ross, she is NOT your average scorpio. You can contact her via Twitter and Instagram: @_cassiebaker_

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