Toxic Fandoms, The 100 and How Lexa’s Legacy Isn’t All that Empowering

One of the greatest characters in history is facing a destroyed legacy because of the toxicity of fandoms.

Two years on and the debate around The 100 and Lexa’s death needs to shift. It is perhaps one of the most well known deaths in TV history. Just as Clarke and Lexa finally got together, Lexa took a bullet to the gut and died in Clarke’s arms. The gay character was buried while the trope lived on.

It was a horrific moment of TV for several reasons. The producer seemed to imply (by Twitter) in the run up to the episode that Lexa was safe. Many characters had suffered far worse injuries but had managed to survive. In one case, Indra was in the middle of an explosion and then shot by a sniper but still marched off to lead an army to war the next morning. And to make it even worse, literally the scene before, Clarke and Lexa had finally confirmed their feelings for one another and melted queer hearts everywhere by getting together. The execution of the storyline was as painful as the decision to kill Lexa herself (although given that Alycia Debnam-Carey was also starring on another show that filmed at the same time, the decision itself was hardly surprising).

The response was quick from fans – and loud. Thousands of dollars were raised for an LGBT youth charity (The Trevor Project). There’s even still to this day an annual con held in Lexa’s name. These are both wonderful acts that have risen from the ashes of a painful and bitter storyline. So, what then is the problem?

The show is still surrounded by bitterness two years on. While many fans have made their empowering messages known and have chosen to understandably switch off, many have stuck around to drag the cast and try to get the show cancelled. Cancelling a show is an absolutely major thing to call for because the producer is pretty bad. It’s not just he who loses his job but everyone on the production team, many of whom won’t be earning the wages of the main cast. Eliza Taylor who plays Clarke has been beset by bimisia (as has her character). There has been endless trolling and harassment online. It also ignores the current legacy on The 100 because it is a show that is delivering diversity unlike most other shows right now.

Killing off gay characters was a horrific trope at a time when that was the only queer content we got. The 100 still has a plethora of queer characters. Clarke has subsequently been in a relationship with another women, Niylah and both of them are alive. Clarke is the only bisexual woman to lead a network show. Miller and Jackson also provide representation for men who love men who love men. And that’s the second queer relationship between men, and Miller was previously with the now absent Bryan (who presumably was simply dropped for being a bit bland as we’ve never seen his death or heard from him since). This show is still seeping in queer content – as it should be. Lexa’s story was not the end of that. It was an utterly poor and shoddy mistake that caused a lot of harm, but there is still a story here.

“Killing off gay characters was a horrific trope at a time when that was the only queer content we got”

Furthermore, other marginalised people shouldn’t be sold out or trampled upon by toxic elements of one fandom because this is the only show right now accurately portraying chronic pain. In the cast right now: there are two black women, two older women (one of whom is black), the main star plays a bisexual woman, the other main is of Filipino descent, there is an Asian actor, a black man and one Latinx woman and Luisa D’Oliveira is of South Asian and Portuguese descent. Actually, the main stories are pretty much dominated by women.

The 100 has had problems with tropes from the beginning. It’s utterly nonsensical to call out one death while ignoring the fact the first major character murdered was a young black man or that there have been several people of colour killed off since then. Is The 100 conforming to tropes or when it’s cast still remains one of the most diverse out there and its content still remains queer, is it trying (sometimes clumsily) to subvert these tropes? It was feared after all, that Lexa was killed off simply so Clarke could end up with Bellamy. Bellamy and Clarke weren’t even on the same planet for six years and Bellamy has fallen completely in love with Echo in that time.

In comparison, after Lexa’s death many fans understandably flocked to Alycia Debnam-Carey’s ‘other’ show, Fear the Walking Dead. But let’s take a look at that show. In the same year as Lexa’s death, Fear killed off the only gay character there was and left the only bisexual character (who had been in a relationship with him) alive. It was the exact same plot only worse because Strand watched his lover die almost as soon as they were reunited after so much time apart. We didn’t even get to enjoy them as a couple. Fear has also come into huge criticism of late for killing off the only older woman on the cast. The show has also been a hub of problematic content; killing off characters of colour far more quickly than white characters (one of whom was kept alive long enough simply to die in her father’s arms) and using Native American history and oppression simply as a plot-device.

Nobody is saying the criticisms of The 100 aren’t valid (nor that the so-called ‘Bellarke’ quarter are any better) but after so much time it is important to re-evaluate whether there has been progression and whether the criticism is fair when compared to the reception of other shows. The 100 faces daily trolling. In fact, if someone wants to study the toxicity of fandom then they should look to Gamergate, the reception to Lost’s ending, how BioWare changed Mass Effect 3’s ending, Star Wars and also The 100 and how one movement that started with the best intentions and still does good work to this day, also has its fair share of toxicity. It demonstrates how fans can love content but then seek to control it when things don’t go their way, only to ultimately want to destroy the original franchise.

Fandoms are being hijacked by toxic people screaming online, harassing cast members and other fans and ultimately dragging down their own community who actually want to empower people and share their passions. Fandoms as a whole are an absolute mess, and that includes queer ones. Only by addressing this can we make fandoms accessible and safe spaces for all queer people – including queer people of colour and including bi and pan people. It’s not just about the white Nazis, although they are certainly the worst, but it’s about a much wider symptom of fandom of wanting to control a franchise and its creators. Not everyone who wanted Mass Effect 3’s ending changed was an alt-right, in fact, that wasn’t even a debate about political ideology. It’s about the undercurrents in fandom which can allow toxic cultures to flourish and see targeted harassment by a loud minority of fans. If we want to tackle it then we even have to look at the best fandom movements, because they still have those same problems. The question now is, what do we do about it?

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