The 100 is an American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama television series, developed by Jason Rothenberg. 97 years after a nuclear apocalypse, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent from a space station to the ground to determine if Earth is habitable. Those having survived in space believed themselves to be the last of human kind -- until the hardened warriors of the Grounders prove them wrong. The Grounders live in clans reminiscent of premodern times, choosing blades and bows and arrows over guns, without knowledge of technology or science. They are much too easily described as savages, lusting for blood and war, led by the Commander, or Heda in the language of the Grounders - a young woman, described as both visionary and ruthless. And her name is Lexa.
Played by guest star Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lexa became an instant hit with viewers and critics - as well as Clarke, the lead character and leader of the delinquents, who was quickly confirmed bisexual. As with all popular television shows, a somewhat catchy name was found and the Clexa ship took sail. The LGBT community in particular was drawn to the show by the writers' promise of challenging stereotypes and respecting their representation. Lexa and Clexa took over and dominated the headlines with regards to The 100, and still do, as a matter of fact, though probably not in the way the producers would like.
The 100 Mess
If you have followed the events of 307 - orThirteen, episode 7 of season 3 - and their aftermath, you will undoubtedly have heard about showrunner and executive producer Jason Rothenberg’s blatant use of the inherently homophobic Bury Your Gays trope. During the hiatus months before season 3, in which the writers capitalized on the buzz generated by the announcement that Alycia would be reprising her recurring role as Lexa, he reassured their LGBT viewers that Lexa was in safe hands with them, Lexa walks into the trajectory of a stray bullet, intended for her female lover and shot by her father figure. That’s just about 70 seconds of screen time after finally allowing herself to love again and consummate her relationship with Clarke, played by Eliza Taylor.
In the story, Lexa died because she allowed herself a moment of weakness, to love Clarke. In season 2, we learned that Lexa believes love to be weakness, a realization based on losing her former love Costia to an enemy clan of Azgeda. "Because she was mine. They tortured her, killed her, cut off her head." In season 3, Rothenberg changed Lexa's backstory to include her mentor, father figure, and later killer, who had been teaching her that "to be Commander is to be alone" -- and yet, it was never mentioned that this particular rule applied to any former Commanders, and the Ice Nation ambassador referred to Lexa protecting Clarke's people when he challenged her, "if this is your weakness again, Azgeda will happily step in." You see where we're going with this?
The showrunner loves to point out that anyone can die on his show (a lie) and that there are no labels in this universe, and therefore, according to his logic, Lexa couldn't have died because she was gay. Perhaps not, dear Mr Rothenberg, but we don't live in a world without labels, and what we saw on our screen, what you have written to be broadcasted around the world, tells us that this character, who happens to be a lesbian, was doomed no matter what, that Costia died because she loved Lexa, that Lexa died because she loved Clarke, that the love of a lesbian and only her love is weakness. She died immediately after making love to her soulmate, according to Rothenberg, after allowing herself to be weak for one moment, to make Clarke available for just about anyone else, because that's what's so great about having a bisexual character - again, according to Rothenberg. Thanks to the writer of the episode, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, we know that they were well aware of the trope and its impact, but that the executive producer insisted on doing it anyway. Does that sound like a responsible showrunner and creator? We don't think so.
Lexa Deserved Better
It was something about Lexa and the quality of her character, along with the atrocity of this particular trope following months of queer baiting, that created a serious backlash that has still not fully ebbed away. Before Thirteen aired, Rothenberg took to Twitter to rally fans to watch the episode live. He even gave an interview with LGBT media outlet After Ellen to talk about Lexa and her relationship with Clarke.
The devastation of that moment is still hard to talk about for many who were unfortunate enough to follow the calls of many of the writers to watch along with them. If you'd like, you can get a glimpse of what went through each and every Clexa fan thanks to several reaction videos posted on YouTube. Pure elation of seeing Clarke and Lexa making love, followed by utter despair.
Social media exploded, suicide hotlines had to be tweeted, and Lexa's name trended for several hours worldwide with nearly half a million registered tweets. Lexa Deserved Better and LGBT Fans Deserve Better became rallying cries that led to a movement for better LGBT representation. Articles were published, petitions were signed, suicide attempts were confirmed.
The pain Rothenberg and his writers caused the LGBT community and fans around the world was real. And yet, only one writer made what seemed to be a genuine effort to listen, and to learn -- thank you Javier, for at least doing that, even though it was too little, too late. Or is it?
Death Is Not the End
Lexa's death and her fans' reaction catapulted the topic of representation, female LGBT representation in particular, into the mainstream media, criticizing The 100 while using Lexa's image to represent both the show as well as the Bury Your Gays trope. The minor character had officially become the face of The 100. But it was Lexa's life that had made an even bigger impact. Within just a few episodes, she had not only become a fan favorite, but a hero and role model to many.
A singular character whose importance transcended her sexuality. Why should we accept her death or be satisfied with her being the face of a toxic trope, when we can rewrite her fate and bring her back to life? When we can effectively reverse the trope and inspire acceptance and change? Why wouldn't we want this character, who's already done so much for other LGBT characters and representation on television, to be the one to fulfill her own legacy of justice and peace? When there is so much riveting story left to tell, and so much of Lexa's world still shrouded in mystery?
A LEXASPINOFF would not only narrate a unique story of an extraordinary character, it could challenge negative representation and prejudice, and not only change minds, but change lives. Because Lexa is that powerful of a character, and who would be so shortsighted and not take advantage of that? Oh, wait...
Here's just a fine selection of articles posted after 307, as well as over a year later. Even now, two years later, articles referring to Lexa and the Bury Your Gays trope are still being published.
Someday Maybe, But Not Today. by Elizabeth Bridges
What TV Can Learn from The 100 Mess by Mo Ryan
Commander Lexa: There Was Never Any Weakness in You by Nicola Choi
How "Lexa Deserved Better" Became A Rallying Cry by Sarah Karlan
For a full account from the fandom's perspective, please visit We Deserved Better for a documentation of the controversy surrounding Lexa's death and a rather impressive collection of screenshots.
Our fight is not over.