Despite having some of the most progressive and diverse queer representations on television, The 100 still struggles in combating the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope that has permeated television since 1976. This was especially evident after the death of Lexa sparked an outrage among queer viewers.
The show’s main protagonist, Clarke Griffin, is The CW’s first openly bisexual lead. Clarke serves as the leader of the The 100, a group of juvenile delinquents that were returned to Earth to determine its survivability after the human race spent three generations living on an international space station called The Ark. Clarke spent the majority of the first season in love with a male character, Finn Collins, who died at her hands halfway through season two. Clarke’s bisexuality wasn’t revealed until her connection with Lexa became more distinguished in season two. Clarke has since been shown having sexual relationships with other women, solidifying her bisexuality in the show.
Lexa was first introduced in the beginning of the show’s second season as the Grounder Commander, a lesbian warrior. Her romantic history is only briefly touched upon, when discussing Lexa’s views on love and connection. Her sexuality itself is never a point of contention within the show. In regards to how the show addresses sexuality, the showrunner, Jason Rothenberg, has stated, “Sexual orientation fits in the same place that gender identity and racial identity fits within the world of our show…The characters in the show are not concerned with those things. They are only concerned with whether they are going to live and die.”
Clarke and Lexa form a bond unlike any other on the show. They are both women in positions of power, charged with leading their two groups towards salvation. They learn from and relate to one another, understanding one another in a way that no one else can. Unlike other queer relationships on television, “Together, they were a powerful and seemingly unstoppable pair, unlike any other depiction of queer girl fans had seen before. They were not defined by their sexuality, but their relationship was treated as an important storyline within the show” (Deshler 35).
Lexa died on March 3, 2017, immediately after she and Clarke physically consummated their relationship. Fans were granted a moment of euphoria before Lexa was shot and killed by her advisor, Titus, with a bullet that was meant for Clarke. The 100 provided a new space of expression for queer female viewers, and with Lexa’s death came a wave of outrage and devastation. This is where the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope comes into full effect for The 100.
Lexa’s exit on The 100 started a digital revolt amongst viewers, as her death surged nine Trending Topics on Twitter. With Lexa’s demeanor as a powerful, feared, and comfortable with her own sexuality, fans thought her death via a stray bullet meant for Clarke was simply unfitting. Instead of giving her a more personalized and nuanced ending, the writers decided to remove her in such a disgraceful fashion. This backlash against the show and showrunner Jason Rothenberg should serve as an eyeopener to media creators that audiences do not want to see those who portray such an underrepresented group gone quickly and removed in such an uneventful way.
As seen in one of the top tweets in response to questions about the poll, one can see that Lexa and other diverse characters in the show are crucial to the show’s popularity. The promotion of more marginalized social groups gaining roles increases the likelihood to see more characters of this nature: “Indeed, several critics have argued that the success of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace […] was made possible by the path that Ellen blazed” (Dao, 124). Ellen’s popularity does not mean that homosexuals are more accepted, but marks a note for creators proving that representation of underrepresented groups is something fans want to see more of.
Television shows have had a history of killing off LGBT characters. Often, these deaths do not result in a happy ending, as shown from the graph about common deaths for these characters. Illness, suicide, and especially murder are commonplace solutions for writers to kill off characters, and often these deaths serve as a catalyst for main characters (often cisgender, heterosexual, and white) to carry the plot. When this trope is evident in media, it minimizes the importance these types of people have in society which causes issues for younger audiences of whom rely on these media’s messages in understanding the world around them.
Despite LGBT characters always assuming a doomed fate in these shows, there are some deaths which aim to revere these characters instead of use them to serve a plot purpose for a straight character. These three specific characters had a lot of discussion surrounding their deaths. Shows like Orange is the New Black’s Poussey show a more dignified death due to her helping her friend who was being restrained. Her death is quite plausible in this example and highlights honorable and positive traits in Poussey. While still bothersome that these lesbian characters seem to be introduced simply to satisfy LGBT communities, certain writers have made attempts in creating unique outcomes for these characters.
The 100 is still an extremely progressive show and Rothenberg has expressed his regrets in regards to the portrayal of Lexa’s. With queer characters already falling so few and far between on television, ‘Bury Your Gays’ minimizes that representation. Killing off LGBT characters is just another way of marginalizing LGBT people. But by only giving straight characters happy endings, television writers imply that being straight is the only way to be happy. Queer people have happy endings, so why shouldn’t queer characters?
Deshler, K. M. (2017). Not Another Dead Lesbian: The Bury Your Gays Trope, Queer Grief, and The 100 (Master’s thesis, Whitman College, 2017) (pp. 1-90). Walla Walla, WA: Whitman College.
Bonnie Dow (2001). Ellen, Television, and the Politics of Gay and Lesbian Visibility. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 18(2), (pp. 123-140).