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Monday, 7 March 2016

Editorial: 4 Reasons People Are Angry Over Lexa's Fate on The 100

Wow, that's a mouthful of a title.

Editorial: 4 Reasons People Are Angry Over Lexa's Fate
on The 100.

So, about half a week from now, wildly popular young adult post-apocalyptic television show The 100 killed off Commander Lexa, a major character who was, perhaps, unique in the current television environment for being a well-rounded character and a powerful leader who also happened to like women.

In doing so, they also shot down the series' flagship relationship, a relationship between main character Clarke and Lexa, which had the honour of also, perhaps, being unique in the current television environment, as the only flagship relationship between two women. 

(There is a reason for this, in that Alycia Debnam-Carey, playing Lexa, had recently joined the cast of Fear The Walking Dead, who had given her a contract that literally didn't allow her to star on The 100, with her seven episodes in this series being essentially a favour between networks. It's important to note that, if only to make it entirely clear that this writing choice, while horrifically mishandled, was probably not motivated by bigotry.)

Naturally, people are angry. Furious, even, and it's not just the audience either, with critics and even cast members are expressing their dissatisfaction with what happened. It's not difficult to see why, either, but it's worth talking about, because while I do hold that the writers weren't motivated by bigotry, there's a confluence of elements here that makes it a tremendous mishandling of a difficult moment.

1. It ties into an uncomfortable (and frankly horrible) trend.

Fiction and fiction writers and, let's be honest, audiences have an obsession with seeing LGBT characters die, usually in horrible circumstances, a trope that partially stems from a time when the only way writers would be allowed to include LGBT characters if there was some bundled in moral message about the evils of same-sex relationships, and that partially stems from how characters from minority groups are always treated as inherently more disposable.

So imagine how much of a slap in the face it is when The 100, a show many critics and audience members lauded for its progressive attitudes, its inclusion of multiple LGBT characters who had identities beyond The Terrible Tragedy Of Not Being Straight, and having its central character in a same-sex relationship, then unceremoniously murders one half of said relationship. 

Feels kind of unpleasant, both because it's really not nice to be constantly barraged with fiction that suggests your ultimate fate is to die violently and unexpectedly, and because people expected better from The 100, and it failed to deliver in catastrophic fashion.

2. It was creepily juxtaposed against a sex scene.

As if to hammer in Point #1 even more, Lexa's death takes place barely minutes after a sex scene with Clarke that marked the beginning of the two of them actually being in a proper, official relationship, in a move so tasteless that it actually genuinely boggles the mind that it managed to get through writers, editors, producers, studio executives, network executives, a director and actors and post-production to make it to our television screens.

While the intention probably wasn't to create the impression that Lexa died because she had sex with Clarke, and the writers have mentioned that they had considered moving that scene to earlier in the series, that's still the impression they made, and when entertainment already has a 'bury your gays' problem, that's not a good impression.

Nor does it help that this is actually Clarke's second sex scene of the third series, with her previous partner - also a woman - then getting viciously beaten up and never seen nor mentioned after that was revealed to the audience, thus strengthening the impression that taking off your clothes anywhere near Clarke will probably lead to bad things for karma-y reasons.

3. The writers and producers had spent a lot of time enthusing over Lexa, her relationship with Clarke, and the episode.

A lot of time. It seemed like there was an almost never-ending stream of not only praise for the two characters, their relationship, and the actors who played them, but also a constant attempt to build hype for them - and that push for hype went into overdrive in the week leading up to the seventh episode, where writers and producers urged people to watch the show because great things were going to happen for Clarke and Lexa.

For me, that's what pushes this from 'a horrifically bungled handling of something that contracts and networks had mandated for entirely innocent reasons' and into something a lot more uncomfortable (and, in all honesty, seems to be the principle cause of the main cast's ire) because that's just manipulative.

It also makes one thing entirely clear: Everyone involved in this production knew how important Lexa and her relationship with Clarke were to people - both on a 'hey, these are neat characters and we're invested in their romance' level and on a 'it's really great to see a same-sex couple who are a popular TV show's main couple and aren't horrible stereotypes' - and they still bungled Alycia Debnam-Carey's exit. 

4. It was such a ridiculous death.

It's odd, really. In an arc about Lexa increasingly struggling to maintain control of her people, dealing with several rebellious tribes while guiding them towards a new, peaceful policy and instituting what amounts to sweeping legal reforms, there's really no shortage of ways that she could have been killed off that would have served not only her character, but the wider storyline.

Instead, she's murdered by a stray bullet, shot by someone who didn't seem to even know she was there. It's a bizarre and, frankly, kind of silly death for a character who was one of the most important figures in the show, and while The 100 has always had an 'anyone can die' approach, it has generally gone out of its way to give its character deaths meaning and significance for the wider plot.

Would a more worthy death have calmed the outrage? Well, yes, probably, at least a little. People would have still been angry, but a death that does credit to her character and serves the storyline, rather than seeming like a throwaway scene added at the last minute, would've done wonders for easing the blow.

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