In a recent episode of The 100, there was an inteeeeense slow mooootion scene in which Clarke walked through some double doors to the sound of a woman singing a mournful, minor-key song in a made-up language. As this happened, I whispered “Game of Thrones!” to myself. The entire scene, and frankly, many of the happenings in Polis (which may or may not be a postapocalyptic Annapolis, MD) have a very Game of Thrones aesthetic.
But the resemblance between the HBO prestige drama and The CW teen drama are more than just cosmetic. At their core, both shows are about the human struggle to survive during wartime and the beautiful and monstrous things we are all capable of in the very worst situations. But here’s the thing: the more I watch, the more I feel that The 100, Silly Teen Girl Drama that it is, is doing a lot of the stuff that Game of Thrones is trying to do and doing them better.
Outlook on Humanity
I started watching Game of Thrones about five years ago. Initially, I was a huge, huge fan. Nowadays, not so much. One of the things that consistently bugs me about Game of Thrones is the fact that it doesn’t just explore the human potential for evil; it kind of seems to revel is showcasing horrible shit happening to people.
This is a show that wallows in human misery and seems to enjoy it. And can we talk, for a minute, about constantly murdering your main characters? I know that once upon a time, this was a bold and fresh decision. But at this point, suddenly and brutally killing off a beloved main character to be “dark and edgy” is boring. It’s predictable. It’s been done to death. I would rather watch a show in which the main characters live to struggle and compromise and make difficult, painful choices.
The 100, meanwhile, does not wallow in misery or enjoy making its characters suffer. It takes a hard, unflinching look at the things humans are capable of in terrible situations. But The 100 looks at its characters, and humanity, through a much more empathetic lens than GoT. This is a show that successfully shows us the worst aspects of the most sympathetic characters (Clarke) and the sympathetic acts of the worst characters (Murphy). And for the most part, when characters die, it is genuinely shocking and feels much more earned than most of the deaths on GoT.
I was genuinely speechless when Finn died. I did not see that one coming because, you know, it’s The CW and Finn was Clarke’s handsome white male love interest. And it was genuinely shocking (in a good way) that neither Lexa nor the show was willing to let the handsome white male love interest off the hook for, you know, murdering unarmed civilians. (I was not particularly fond of Finn. But his death was a genuine shock.)
A lot of my queer/feminist lady friends have (understandably) ragequit GoT on account of there is just way too goddamn much sexual assault on that show. After eight seasons, it seems that the ratio of consensual sex scenes to rape scenes is about 1:1.
the only remotely sexual scene between two women that weren’t prostitutes
And look: Sexual assault is something that absolutely should be at the forefront of our collective consciousness. Stories about survivors of sexual assault need to be told, and there are many works of fiction that do so thoughtfully and compassionately. But GoT kind of eschews thought and compassion in favor of lots and lots of gratuitous, upsetting, and completely unnecessary rape scenes. There are a lot of works of fiction that use rape scenes as a quick fix to prove how dark and edgy they are and at this point, it seems that GoT is, unfortunately, one of them.
But that silly teen girl drama, The 100 does something else with its portrayals of sex and sexuality, something far more rare. It portrays teen girls having sex, enjoying it, and not being punished for it. The 100 is sex positive in a way that very few tv shows are. This first became apparent to me in Season 1, Episode 9, when Octavia has sex with Lincoln. The most awesome thing about their sex scene, to me, was how Octavia clearly felt happy and fulfilled and empowered by the sex.
And this uniquely awesome pattern of teen girls having consensual, enjoyable sex and feeling good about it continued in the first episode of this season. Clarke has a one-night-stand with beautiful, sympathetic Niylah, allowing her to let go and enjoy herself and forget her troubles for the first time in months.
Of course, not all the sex is as awesome as Lincoln/Octavia or Clarke/Niylah. In the first season, Raven sleeps with Bellamy in an effort to feel better after her breakup with Finn. Afterward, she does not feel better. Sleeping with Bellamy was a mistake, but it was also absolutely Raven’s choice. And Raven is not scorned or shamed for making that mistake. The show departs radically from the usual “dark and edgy” formula by allowing its female characters to decide where and when and with whom they want to have sex. And guess what? The show is still just as dark and complex and GoT. Imagine that.
GoT has had three canonically queer characters all of them men. Two of them were killed off after an aggregate of half an hour of screentime apiece. One of them is currently in jail for sleeping with other men. GoT fills out its character roster in a predictable way: The main characters are straight. The secondary characters are straight, or at least never explicitly stated to be otherwise. A few tertiary characters, AKA the people who get killed off quickly and unceremoniously for the sake of plot development, are allowed to be queer.
And look: I know it’s Game of Thrones. I know everyone dies on that show. And those facts do nothing to diminish the fact that burying your queer characters (especially after a grand total of half an hour of screentime) is a harmful, tired cliché. (Apparently George RR Martin was once questioned about the lack of queer sex scenes in his book which features a multitude of graphic, detailed heterosexual sex scenes as well as a multitude of graphic, detailed and COMPLETELY GRATUITOUS rape scenes. He responded that he was not going to include gay sex scenes “just for the sake of it.” Let me tell you how hard I rolled my eyes when I read that.)
In addition to Miller and his boyfriend, The 100 has Lexa, the queer commander of the Grounders and also OF OUR HEARTS, and Clarke, the CANONICALLY BISEXUAL MAIN CHARACTER. Because I am a denizen of the queer internet, I saw screencaps and gifs of Clarke and Lexa kissing long before I started watching the show. And when I saw those screencaps and gifs, I kind of assumed that Clarke and Lexa were minor ensemble characters. Imagine my surprise, then, when I started watching and discovered that Clarke was the main character of the show. As it stands right now, Miller (who I hope we see more of) has been reunited with his boyfriend, and Clarke and Lexa are deep into a sensual, slow-burning romance which will, God willing, turn into a five-alarm fire before the season is over.
Oh, and before reuniting with the Commander, Clarke had an awesome, hot queer sex scene with a beautiful grounder. Just for the sake of it.
So what’s the upshot here? That Game of Thrones is terrible and also you are terrible if you like it? No. There is still a lot to like about Game of Thrones. Daenerys alone is worth the price of admission. (If you ask me, Khaleesi and Wanheda have a lot in common.) One is a prestige drama on HBO that is near-universally loved and has a ton of awards to its name; the other is a teen drama on The CW that will never get any love from the Emmys. And yet, The 100 has managed to be just as dark and complex as Game of Thrones. It portrays the lives and thoughts and desires and beliefs of teen girls in a thoughtful, respectful way. And it does so with the unabashed, unapologetic enthusiasm of all the best shows on The CW. And it just seems to get better with each season.
So I am here for everything you have to offer, The 100. I am rooting for you. Just please, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not kill off Lexa or Lincoln.