Expectation Vs. Reality: Why ‘The 100’ Has Become a Trailblazer for Normalization

The media is full of junk. Programs that are intended to destroy our minds, belittle our intelligence and alienate those who watch it each week. There are shows that mock, shows that spread hate, shows that are written to alienate the people who dedicate their time and energy to it, so we pose this question to them “What’s the point?” Why spend countless hours creating this content, when it contributes little to nothing to society. Now, sure, there’s mindless entertainment and sometimes you need a little of that in your life, but that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We have to believe there are still people married to the idea of making good TV. There are a handful of shows who break the mold, that are constantly navigating the murky waters of this business and when you find a show such as The 100, that obliterates all of these entertainment faux pas, it’s like a breath of fresh air in a wasteland of pollution.

We’re proud to be fans of The 100, not only because it features talented cast members, riveting storylines, and a writing team just as passionate, if not more than we are, but because it sheds light on the normalization of diverse groups in a society that has seemingly lost its way. They’re not only encouraging the network to accept that it’s okay to cast diverse actors, but it’s okay to create characters that are special in their own way; yet not have their storylines revolve around what makes them unique. They just are. They are encouraging the audience to realize that it’s normal to have characters that feel like home because they look like them and identify with their trials and tribulations. This is no small feat and is an extremely significant mission the show has accomplished and continues to tackle as the seasons progress– the importance of The 100 is so much more than what’s on the surface, and we offer the whole production kudos for their achievements.

Now onto the nitty and the gritty…

Normalizing Diversity

From the first moment we laid eyes on The 100, we have praised the show for the amazing job it does when it comes to representation on television. It’s been refreshing, how much visibility it has given us and keeps on giving us. But more than singing its praise, we are constantly seeing that engagement with the writing team is at an all-time high. Social media is a beauty (and a bitch sometimes) isn’t it? The majority of the audience of this series is not only enjoying the show but are sending thanks to Creator/Executive Producer Jason Rothenberg and rest of the incredible team for finally giving them role models that they can look up. We know this thought process sounds crazy, considering the nature of The 100— post apocalypse where leaders are forced to massacre hundreds in order to survive, and try to remain unaffected by their actions. Tall order, huh? The characters are flawed, we will give you that, but that’s what makes them so special, that’s what allows the audience to relate so wholeheartedly to them. The relationships they’ve built, platonically or romantically within the show are universal, and we thank those who made it possible to portray such complicated dynamics that at times, seems to feel almost as real as our own lives.

In The 100, every connection between the characters that we see is extremely relevant to the viewers for many different reasons. The depth of loyalty, love and respect found in the friendship between Bellamy and Clarke is gratifying, and one that is constantly evolving. The sort of strained yet healing relationship between Abby and Clarke hits very close to home for many. The complicated yet fierce love always present whenever Octavia and Bellamy go the necessary lengths to protect each other is remarkable. The undeniable support and understanding between Clarke and Lexa, two forthcoming and resilient leaders that are burdened with such a weight on their shoulders, one couldn’t possibly comprehend, have provided us with a force that inspires every single viewer to persevere and perhaps even pursue their dreams. The way these characters connect with each other strongly resonates with the audience because, at the end of the day, those are the kind of bumpy yet gratifying relationships that we encounter in our everyday life.

The fact that no encounter is overly romanticized and that no mistake is easily forgiven makes the show stand out, as well. Who else is doing that on TV today? No one. All these characters are deeply layered; they are extremely complex individuals and they make human mistakes. Their grey morality is alluring, and their different perspectives when approaching any issue is what makes them controversial, but definitely not unimportant. Seeing Clarke Griffin, the lead female character of the show not being defined by her sexuality is just as unprecedented as seeing Raven, a strong female character that wrestles with her own disability, but who against all odds refuses to succumb to societies erroneous labels. This can be said for Octavia as well, who we witnessed come into her birthright and become a great warrior on the ground and one of the strongest women to look up to on the series. Aren’t we all struggling to find who we are and where we belong? And doesn’t it feel a little less lonely knowing that a show we choose to escape life with can champion us through these dark times? The 100 does an unfathomably spectacular job when it comes to representation, but more than that, they are pioneers when it comes to normalizing diversity on the small screen.

People should be able to see themselves represented on TV and have it not be considered revolutionary. It’s about damn time. We have reached an era in our society where a huge part of the audience that enjoys entertainment should be able to see a character or couple that portrays them and have it be a normal experience because these characters and these couples are as common on TV as they are in our reality. Clarke is bisexual, Monty is Asian, Raven has a disability, Jaha is black, Lexa is a lesbian, Lincoln and Octavia are a biracial couple… aside from its incredible writing, these are some of the very important aspects that help define this show and each aspect matters. They really do.

Clarke and Lexa’s pairing has lent a helping hand to normalize television. Who would have thought in 2016 we would even need to be discussing sexuality, but the truth is it’s still not mainstream. Queer couples are common in real life and people should be able to see themselves on TV and not have it be revolutionary or glamorized. It’s real life. What do you mean it’s ground-breaking? But with that said, we must keep in mind that the idea of wanting to see yourself represented and having your fantasies satiated are two different things, though. But more on that later.

The Importance of Clarke and Lexa’s Relationship

A crucial storyline transpiring in season 3 has revolved around events involving Clarke and Lexa in Polis, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about its exploration. The relationship between these two women has impacted many viewers, and garnered attention from critics, in a very positive way. Simply: they are making history, on and off-screen. And we’re not only talking about girl on girl love, we’re talking about bringing the grounders and sky people together and finally putting an end to this war. We hope, anyway. They are two strong, fierce and independent women that are working together, despite their differences in order to build peace in a world that knows nothing but violence. But they are also two incredible women that slowly fell for each other and that are currently navigating through the debris of the wreckage caused by Lexa’s betrayal in the season 2 finale. Talk about extreme relationship building. The “Clexa” ship, as the fandom has dubbed them, is as remarkable to the show as it is to the viewers. The chemistry, although seemingly subtle at first between these characters is explosive, real and flawed; not to mention has given Eliza Taylor and Alycia Debnam-Carey the freedom to exhibit their sheer talent on-screen.

Clarke and Lexa matter a great deal to the audience because their journey to healing has been nothing short of heartwarming and because they are one of the very few queer couples that are treated with the kind of respect that the community deserves; but mostly, Clexa is important because, for the viewers, it means something to them.

We asked a handful (or two) of The 100 fans to reply to a tweet: “why is Clexa important to you?” and their responses made us swell with joy. Seeing so many young girls and boys, and those of all ages thankful for being exposed to a show that understands and promotes representation as flawlessly as The 100 does, now that’s noteworthy. Here are some of the answers that were submitted:

The idea of these two finding love within each other is a sore subject for half of The 100 fandom, but we respectfully challenge any Bellarker reading this article to stick with us, we only aim to neutralize this feud that has been going on for far too long in an atmosphere that should be full of understanding, support and hardcore fangirling. Come on, how amazing is this show? We can agree that it’s the bomb dot com. Of course there are many valid points that go against the pairing of Clarke and Lexa on The 100, they have definitely had their ups and downs– almost lovers wrapped up in betrayal, politics, murder and overall madness in a war that when you really think about it, pre-dates their existence. But despite their history, these two have an attraction that no one can deny. They are much more alike than many of us choose to acknowledge and their relationship, no matter how volatile you may perceive it to be, is important. For the storyline, for the people who watch the show, and for the way entertainment evolves as time goes on.

We could sit here and argue for the next 17 pages that Clarke and Lexa are not the only ‘ship on The 100 that have succumbed to ‘abusive’ tendencies. Kane sentenced Abby to death on more than one occasion, he ordered the guard to lash her for her disobedience within Camp Jaha, yet many of you still root for these two, don’t question their motives or manipulative tactics and are overall eager for their upcoming lip lock as the season 3 trailer suggests. To hold these characters to a different set of standards than Clarke and Lexa is blatant prejudice.

Do you not want to live in a world where girls can rule armies and love each other while doing it? And if not, then what are we teaching our youth. What are we teaching ourselves? Just because we don’t see ourselves in Bellamy, doesn’t mean that the impression he’s left on us as a viewer is any less impactful. To say Raven’s pain is not our own because we are not confined to a leg brace or the loss of family and loved ones is completely close-minded. That brings us to our final chapter in this trilogy of realization…

Expectation Vs. Reality

Expectations can be deadly. Especially when you mix an extremely passionate fan base with a show they love. We all cling to a reality of seeing OUR story up on the small screen, that we often forget that the writers have a story of their own to tell. In the case of The 100, this struggle between the two becomes all too real, where the audience is driven to demand an endgame that might not be in the cards long term no matter how ground-breaking, normalizing or innovative it may be. Shipping wars solve nothing. They only divide us as a fandom and serve no real purpose. Now, shipping aside, a great example of presenting real internal conflict to the viewers would be the Pike and Bellamy storyline. Fans of Bellamy were outraged to find that their reformed delinquent sided with such a monster and aided in the massacre of 300 warriors sent there to protect the people of Arkadia. Some say he was out of character, some say his actions are justified because of what he’s been through over the course of three seasons… we say this storyline has just begun– we are not jumping to conclusions and launching spears at the writers for “breaking our hearts” when we have no clue how this will play out. Don’t the writers deserve a chance to explain themselves, to give them our time, attention and patience in order for them to show us what drove these characters to do the things that they do?

Now, it’s naive to say that it’s unrealistic to have any type of expectations while watching The 100, sure, we’d love for Clarke and Lexa to ride happily into the sunset with a satchel full of candles in tow and a stack of books to curl up to on those long chilling evenings– but will that happen? Should that happen? Probably not. Where’s the conflict? Where’s the angst? And where’s the fun in happy endings? Of course, we want what we haven’t seen on TV, to see ourselves in someone, or something on-screen, that perhaps we’ve been longing for. That representation is so important to us all and there will always be a part of us that wants to be validated in who we are and the life we’re living. But it’s not The 100’s job to bear the weight of a distressed world on their shoulders. It’s their job to entertain us, and they’re doing a damn fine job of that already.

TV should not be fan service. The 100 has never been nor will it ever be fan service, and the writers aren’t pushing their own agenda as many fellow critics suggest. To say that would be a slap in the face to Jason Rothenberg and the rest of the team for all the hard work they put into this series. They are not pandering to the audience, they are not sinking your ship for shits and giggles. Much like The 100, entertainment is ruthless and they’re expected to concoct the best, often outrageously amazing content in order to keep the audience enthralled and fending for their next fix. An action this show is all too well at doing. Most of us are adults here, and throwing a toddler-sized tantrum when things don’t pan out the way we hoped they would, doesn’t get you anywhere. Perhaps blocked. But you sure as hell aren’t going to get your way by insulting the staff. We are at the mercy of the writing team– and thank goodness for that. Who would want to deal with the constant badgering and questioning of every little decision you make when writing a show… talk about pressure! But The 100 does an exceptional job of balancing expectation vs. reality and maybe other shows should take a page (or two) out of their notebooks.

Remember this: When you threaten to boycott a program just because you haven’t gotten your way, it only hurts the show, and, in turn, yourself because you care so deeply about said show. So what, two characters didn’t get together this season, so what if a character you love did something you might not agree with, there’s an overall story being told and we get snippets of it each week. If/when Bellamy and Clarke have their moment of passion, we will still be here watching. Cheering on the writers for evoking emotion and igniting something in us that we never knew we could tap into. They’re making us feel something, isn’t that the point? We’ve entrusted our time to the writers, let’s give them the opportunity to tell the story as it was intended. The writing team isn’t the enemy. We are our own worst enemies and there’s not point in being divided when our common goal is the longevity of seeing “our people” on screen. The people of The 100. Think about that the next time you start a war you don’t know how to end. Ditch those pesky expectations, the ride is much more pleasant without the squabbles of “are we there yet?” 

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