‘The 100’ showrunner apologizes to fans for controversy over beloved gay character’s death
Jason Rothenberg, showrunner of The CW’s “The 100,” apologized to fans of the show in the wake of controversy that arose from the death of key supporting character (and lesbian) Lexa (Alycia Debnam-Carey) after a tender moment with protagonist Clarke (Eliza Taylor) in “Thirteen,” an episode of the series that aired March 3.
Warning: “The 100" spoilers ahead.
Lexa’s death sparked fury within the fanbase, not only for the loss of a beloved character but because Clarke, who is bisexual, and Lexa’s relationship was oft celebrated for its nuanced and diverse depiction of sexuality.
The love scene between the two characters was a slow boil for the audience. And shortly after the two consumated their affection physically, Lexa was killed by a stray bullet. The shocking twist was met with horror from fans who felt that the storytelling choice played into the unpleasant TV trope of “Bury Your Gays,” which often has gay characters end up dead, in lieu of being allowed the happy endings afforded to so many other characters. Paired with the fact that the marketing for the series had been hyping up the love connection between the two roles.
Rothenberg, who had been largely silent on the matter in the weeks after the episode aired, took to Medium to post an open letter addressing how the decision to kill Lexa had come about and how the show’s audience helped him to realize that TV does not exist in a vacuum and must consider the real-world elements at play during consumption.
“The thinking behind having the ultimate tragedy follow the ultimate joy was to heighten the drama and underscore the universal fragility of life. But the end result became something else entirely — the perpetuation of the disturbing “Bury Your Gays” trope,” Rothenberg wrote.
The executive producer went on to explain that it was never the show’s intention to hurt its viewers and that the intent of the scene was to depict the fragility of life, not an act of intentional cruelty, before clearly stating, “Despite my reasons, I still write and produce television for the real world where negative and hurtful tropes exist. And I am very sorry for not recognizing this as fully as I should have. Knowing everything I know now, Lexa’s death would have played out differently.”
Lexa’s fate was always going to be a difficult road for the series to navigate, given how foundational her relationship with Clarke was to the show and complicated by the fact that Debnam-Carey had found a full-time role on “Fear the Walking Dead.”
It’s also safe to say that outside circumstances only served to exacerbate the situation “The 100” faced, when “The Walking Dead” also violently killed off a lesbian character in a recent episode.
Though Lexa may be gone and Rothenberg apologetic, it’s unclear where “The 100” goes from here, though Rothenberg assures fans that, “‘The 100’ is a show where people don’t get over things quickly.”
“My sincerest hope is that any of our fans who saw a part of themselves in the relationship between Clarke and Lexa can take some small comfort in knowing that their love was beautiful and real,” Rothenberg’s post concludes.
“The 100” will air the penultimate episode of its third season at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 24, on the CW.
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