For anyone who doesn’t watch The 100, the CW made great strides toward representation when it revealed that its leading character is bisexual. Initially, Clarke came across as the generic cishet white girl we now commonly follow in dystopian societies, and I got on The 100’s case about that a while back. I have never been happier to be wrong. The 100 started off rather campy, but it has really grown into its potential, and it is most certainly one of the better shows on TV right now. The reveal of Clarke’s bisexuality and Lexa’s queerness only added more layers to two already well developed characters—but the writers are also taking another step to show why their sexualities should matter to us.
So, for the uninitiated, The 100 takes place is a dystopian future after a nuclear war wiped out almost all humanity. Clarke and her people—called the Skypeople—used to live on a space station, but they all recently traveled to the ground, which they discovered was still populated. The Mountain Men and the Grounders are just two factions of people who have been surviving on a radioactive Earth. Though the Skypeople and the Grounders clashed at first, they have a common enemy in the Mountain Men, and this past season has seen an uneasy alliance between the two.
Clarke has since become the leader of the Skypeople, and she and Lexa, the head of the Grounders, have naturally been spending a lot of time together planning their war against the Mountain Men. A lot of us suspected for a good long while that Lexa was LGBTQ+ and into Clarke, as she mentions to Clarke at one point that there was another woman she cared about who was tortured and murdered. “Bodyguard of Lies” is the episode that confirmed that both these women are queer—and they finally kissed.
In the world of The 100, gender and sexuality are not seen as part of a binary the way they are in our world. As such, the characters themselves don’t use labels the same way that we do. They haven’t even discussed sexuality with each other. So at this point in time, whether Lexa is homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, or something else is yet to be confirmed—and it will probably remain that way until the writers let us know one way or another. As for Clarke, her bisexuality has been confirmed to us by the writers, and she marks the CW’s first bisexual lead character.
Up until this point, Clarke’s only relationships have been with male characters. First there was her best friend Wells—and while the two were never in a relationship, the potential for one was certainly there. Clarke and Bellamy have also hinted at a possible romantic interest in each other. Then of course, there’s Finn, the man Clarke actually dated and slept with. Finn died earlier this season when Lexa sentenced him to a slow execution for murdering nineteen people—to spare him the unnecessary pain, Clarke stabbed and killed him instead.
Finn’s death was a turning point in the show. It marked the start of the Grounder-Skypeople alliance while also once again enforcing the fact that The 100 is really not afraid to take the characters dark places with devastating consequences. Finn was also the white, heterosexual pretty boy love interest character typical in these dystopian stories. Finn’s character acted as Clarke’s moral compass throughout the first season before he was fridged for her pain this season. It’s not often that we see the male characters die in these instances—and his death also opened up the doors for Clarke’s relationship with Lexa. They are both grieving for lost loves, and those losses have hardened them and given them the strength to do what needs to be done in order to win the war, no matter the cost. Lexa in particular doesn’t like opening herself up to anyone, at least until Clarke came around, and that’s probably because she views Clarke as a kindred spirit and respects her strength of character. Sadly, before this season, Clarke shows no signs that she experiences same-sex attraction, but the kiss she shares with Lexa hardly comes out of nowhere. Lexa is one of the few people who understands what Clarke is going through currently, and that’s more than likely why Clarke is so drawn to her.
But Clarke and Lexa are important characters for other reasons. To start off, neither Clarke nor Lexa are stock stereotypes, and the reveal of their sexualities fits in with what we know about their relationship thus far. As the second season has been building up to this for a while, the kiss also feels believable and unforced. And though it’s too soon to say for certain whether Clarke and Lexa will remain together—I hope they do—or what the other characters even think about their feelings for each other, who they both are as people also makes them stand out. The CW hasn’t just given us two queer women finding common ground with each other—it’s given us two queer female warlords. Clarke and Lexa are leading an army and making the tough decisions others can’t make. People are living and dying on their orders. They are flawed characters who make mistakes, but they are also respected by their people. To put it simply, they are fucking awesome.
Not only are they amazing characters, The 100 is also using the respect they are shown by their people to teach us something about acceptance. The 100 deals a lot with factions, death, and genocide. People are butchered, harvested, eaten, and enslaved all the time in this world. But as a result, heteronormativity has been erased. As Jason Rothenberg, the show’s creator, said:
Clarke is a bisexual character. Remember that in this society, no one’s worried about it. They’re worried about spears to the chest. (x)
There can be problems in creating a world where LGBTQ+ issues don’t exist—Teen Wolf is a good example of this. Homophobia might not exist in that world, but it certainly exists in how the story is written. As a result, Teen Wolf isn’t the safe, accepting show it was intended to be. The 100 is hardly the utopia that Teen Wolf wants to be—and it runs the same risks as Teen Wolf here as well—but it’s because its world is so horrible that it can teach its audience a thing or two about acceptance. Viewers are going to see two badass warlords dealing with other problems, and concerns about their sexualities will in turn seem unimportant. When you’re constantly in a fight for your life, surrounded by acid fog and man-eating monsters, why would anyone care about someone’s sexuality?
If we see Clarke and Lexa shamed for their relationship, it’s not going to be because they are two women. It’s going to be because they are Grounder and Skyperson—the same way Octavia and Lincoln were shamed during the first season. But even then, though there is still a divide among the Grounders and the Skypeople, it’s a divide that is slowly decreasing. Both sides have been learning about each other for the entirety of the second half of this season and discovering that they’re not that different from one another. Both the Grounders and the Skypeople are willing to execute criminals for minor crimes and kill others for their own survival. In the first season, the Skypeople sacrificed 300 of their own people so the rest of them could live. In the second season, Lexa and Clarke do the exact same thing to the Grounders in order keep an advantage they have in the war against the Mountain Men.
When I first reviewed The 100, I mentioned that it is entirely possible that the prejudices we have today—homophobia, racism, to name a few—could disappear if something happened to change a society’s values, but that The 100 needed to show why and how that change happened to make it believable. That is exactly what this show has been doing, and once again, I’m happy to be wrong. We can see through The 100 that some things can get better in a dystopian society, and that dystopian stories don’t need to use the suffering or erasure of minority groups for shock value to show us how horrible the world can be. But Clarke’s and Lexa’s sexualities can also make us think more closely about the shortcomings of our own society. It’s pretty sad that a world as horrible as the one The 100 takes place in is a lot more accepting than our own. But at the very least, The 100 is using this opportunity to show us how stupid and pointless our own homophobic attitudes really are.