Raise your hand if you’re still not over what happened on The 100? If you haven’t watched it yet and have miraculously remained unspoiled, then you might want to stop reading, as this is about to turn into spoiler city.
This week’s episode was a big one, not only did it give us a big Trikru and Skaikru history lesson, but we lost Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) to a stray bullet from a gun that Titus (Neil Sandilands) was firing at Clarke (Eliza Taylor).
Creator Jason Rothenberg spoke to Entertainment Weekly (and a few other sites) after the episode. He talked about Lexa’s death and what fans can expect for the rest of the season. Rothenberg confirmed that the Arkers, including Jaha, are still very much in the dark about what exactly happened with Polaris, which can be expected, you don’t blow the 13th station up on Unity Day and then talk about it. When asked about the decision to kill Lexa, Rothenberg spoke about his love for the character and explained that because they’re telling a story about “technological reincarnation,” Lexa’s death was “the obvious endpoint for the story.”
Rothenberg stood firm on his decision to have Clarke and Lexa have sex for the first time in the same episode that Lexa dies, saying that “any episode prior to now it would have been too soon in my mind.” One of the things we can definitely expect in the coming episodes is Clarke being heartbroken and doing what she can to make sure Lexa didn’t die in vain, and Rothenberg pointed out that Clarke is going to have to learn how to compartmentalize in order to do that. One of the last things Rothenberg talked about is the fan reaction and had this to say:
“Hopefully the audience will realize we’re talking about an actress who’s starring in another show, so I really didn’t have a lot of options. … She was only available to us for seven episodes this season — and beyond that, maybe never again available to us. So as a storyteller/showrunner, I needed to weigh that against the story that we’re telling. I happen to think it’s an amazing story that we’re telling, but certainly the decision to kill that character was made a little bit easier by the fact that I knew we weren’t going to get to play with Alycia Debnam-Carey anymore. Hopefully, people can forgive me. If they can’t, I understand that, too.”
In an interview with The Wrap, when asked “How aware were you of TV’s history of killing queer characters, and how much of that did you take into account when writing this story?” Rothenberg answered:
“Of course I am aware, much more so now than I was then. But this is a world where characters die. Her sexual orientation factored into her death as much as Finn’s sexual orientation factored into his, which is to say, not at all. We ended up having to tell a very difficult story and I understand its place in the TV lexicon as a trope, and I hate that it’s a trope. I hate that that’s a story people turn to to somehow say it’s bad. But that’s not at all what we’re doing. We’re not saying she’s being punished because she’s a lesbian. We’re saying that it’s part of a bigger story that we’re telling, in a world where no one is safe.”
I want to talk about these two quotes, I want to talk about fan reaction, I want to talk about my reaction. To me, these two quotes show an arrogance and an ignorance that is common with showrunners, specifically straight, white, male showrunners. They have never felt underrepresented, they have never watched a show hoping to see themselves represented, they have never watched countless shows take away their only shot at representation for one reason or another. It’s true that Rothenberg doesn’t know what the future holds but that doesn’t mean that the default for when an actor’s availability is in question is death of the character. The first quote is a lazy excuse that puts the blame on the actress instead of writers who couldn’t figure out how to tell the story in a different way. The second quote shows a lack of regard for queer (being used as an umbrella term) fans and once again, Rothenberg shakes off the blame and shows his privilege. Just for fun, let’s talk about Finn’s death. If you really want to examine it, Finn’s sexual orientation did factor into his death, had he been gay, he wouldn’t have ended up going after Clarke like he did and massacring a whole village. Lexa’s sexual orientation did factor into her death, her feelings for Clarke lead to her making decisions that lead to her death. Had Lexa not had feelings for Clarke, she would not have been in Clarke’s room when that gun went off, had Lexa not had feelings for Clarke, Titus wouldn’t have done what he did. Lexa’s sexual orientation factored into her death whether or not people want it to be acknowledged. As a matter of fact, Lexa’s sexual orientation factored in the death of two queer women, herself and Costia.
Rothenberg should have taken this more seriously, he should have done his research, sat down and had conversations with queer people who have sat through these stories for decades. The problem is that another lesbian character is dead, the problem is that once again queer fans watching knew where it was going the second there was any indication that Lexa was a lesbian. The problem isn’t just “she’s being punished because she’s a lesbian,” but that we have seen characters get injured as bad, if not worse, and survived. Why is it that the lesbian warrior gets a dishonorable stray bullet? After the episode aired I saw one person involved with the show trying to talk to the fans and offer comfort, that one person was still going more than 24 hours after the episode aired because she understands the importance of representation. That person is Adina Porter, who plays Indra. Rothenberg didn’t bother to talk to fans, he retweeted interviews and a few posts from fans telling queer fans they shouldn’t be angry, because he doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong. Queer fans have every right to be angry if that’s what they’re feeling.
While I was watching the episode, the second Lexa walked into the room where Titus was aimlessly firing a gun, I knew what was going to happen. I was about to watch another lesbian get gunned down by a stray bullet, like Tara Maclay in Buffy the Vampire Slayer over a decade ago and I started sobbing. My Twitter feed was instantly filled with people asking why, people saying things like “We should have known better than to have hope” and “I knew this was going to happen.” Lexa’s death wasn’t shocking. At least not to any of the queer viewers who are used to this. Happiness for a queer character on TV means something bad is about to happen. You want to do something shocking? Find a way to make them live.
Showrunners have a responsibility to do their research and think about the repercussions, because as much as they’d like to think it does, their show doesn’t exist in a vacuum, media doesn’t exist in a vacuum, you have to think about the larger implications. If you’re going to sit there and pat yourself on the back for your diversity but then treat your diverse characters in a manner they’ve been treated for decades, you better be prepared for backlash. If you’re going to gun down a queer character, you better be prepared for people to compare it to past characters who have gotten the same treatment. If Shonda Rhimes, a showrunner with a reputation for killing characters, can avoid using the Bury Your Gays trope in Grey’s Anatomy, I have faith that other showrunners can figure it out. The only difference is that they don’t want to.
If you don’t think this is a big deal, go ask a queer friend or family member how they feel about these characters and how their stories ended:
Tara Maclay (Buffy)
Tara Thornton (True Blood)
Sophie-Anne Leclerq (True Blood)
Cat MacKenzie (Lip Service)
Dana Fairbanks (The L Word)
Kate (Last Tango in Halifax)
Leslie Shay (Chicago Fire)
Maya St. Germain (Pretty Little Liars)
Shana Fring (Pretty Little Liars)
Sara Lance (Arrow)
Victoria Hand (Agents of Shield)
Isabelle Hartley (Agents of Shield)
Xena (Xena Warrior Princess)
Charlie Bradbury (Supernatural)
Kenya Rosewater (Defiance)
Nadia (Lost Girl)
Delphine Cormier (Orphan Black)
Rest in Peace, Heda