To Clarke Griffin, with Love
If you’re not watching The 100, I do forgive you. It is a CW show, after all. (I don’t know why, but I can’t take the CW seriously! It doesn’t seem to matter how many of their shows I watch and love!) However, if you are unfamiliar with the show, this post is a PSA for you specifically.
Before I get too into it, I’d like to say that though I am aware of the book that inspired the show (thanks, Kass Morgan!), for my purposes, know that everything here refers exclusively to the TV series. And, with that series, there is a lot to get into. But, first and foremost, the main character, Clarke Griffin.
To be fair, there’s a lot to dislike about Clarke. She’s headstrong. She’s arrogant. She’s ruthless. She’s described as the “head” component of the “head and heart” duo that comprises two of the main characters. When I think of that description, I’m more than slightly apprehensive. I don’t like the picture it paints: that Clarke is all tactic and no compassion.But that’s an oversimplification. There may be a lot to hate about Clarke, but there’s also a lot to love. To start, she’s deeply protective. She will sacrifice anything and everything for those she’s determined to care for. Additionally, she’s dedicated to her cause to the end; she’s tireless. She’s committed to her people and that devotion colors her every decision. She’s admirable, aspirational even.If I’m being honest, though, the facet of Clarke’s characterization that warms my cold, tired heart the most is the totally nonchalant approach the writers have decided to take with regards to her sexuality. From day one, her queer identity is unsaid, and yet it is also uncontended. If you don’t have personal experience with coming out, I don’t know if I can explain to you how utopic this version of things feels. It’s as if she’s slipped into a parallel universe. It’s like ours in so many ways (the social dynamics being entirely familiar, even if the futuristic setting itself is not), except that, in this version of reality, a person’s sexuality doesn’t have to be understood—or even announced—in order for it to be respected and validated.
To give you some plot context, the show follows a group of kids, the 100, who have been returned to Earth from a space station where humanity had taken refuge during a nuclear war. The kids are all criminals, technically speaking, and have been sent down as a test as to whether or not survival on the surface is possible. As it stands at this point in the series, Clarke has had two primary relationships. She fell into a relationship with another one of the 100, a man, right after the group touches down, and their relationship is very charged by dramatic circumstance and plot twists.
Later, in the midst of an intense, three-way conflict, she strikes up a romantic and sexual relationship with the woman leader of an opposing group, Lexa. Lexa is the young commander of the population of people who survived and evolved on Earth after the nuclear devastation. Clarke, having become the unofficial head of the group from the space station, has been in close contact with Lexa for a while, especially after the two uncover a third, common enemy. They work together for a while before their relationship turns into something more. In summary, their relationship is, for lack of a better way to describe it, the opposite of queerbaiting. They meet. They disagree. They learn to trust each other. They flirt. They get together. It’s a completely familiar and believable relationship trajectory.
Many folks, reasonably so, critique the CW for the relationship’s untimely end. They’re not wrong. Eradicating queer characters before their relationships can become too serious or too central is a critical part of the perpetuation of heteronormativity in media. No matter how you look at it, Lexa leaves us too soon.
What I will say, however, is that Clarke’s relationship with Lexa is reaffirmed until (and, honestly, beyond) the end. Their love resonates so much with fans of the show. Just to give you an example, know that there’s fan convention called ClexaCon, “a multi-fandom event for LQBTQ Women and Allies.” A quick Google search of “Clexa fanfic” would also tell you everything you need to know.
I really don’t want to undermine how damaging it is for queer relationships in popular media to end so quickly, so dramatically, and so often. It hurts. It affects us irl. However, I also don’t want to undermine how game-changing positive and, more importantly, complex queer representation is. At least for me, Clarke delivers on that front. I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking about her and what she meant to me at the time she entered into my life.
Here’s to even more good and whole queer characters in our stories!