Today is Bisexual Visibility Day, which means we get to celebrate one of the best bisexual fictional characters of all time: The 100‘s Clarke Griffin.
Clarke Griffin, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. (Cue obnoxious “11 times Clarke was THE GREATEST” post, amIrite?)
Because one of the many ways in which The 100 is effortlessly (yup, effortlessly. Just ask the writers. Absolutely no effort whatsoever. The words just flow like magic, no all-nighters required) pushing the boundaries of small-screen storytelling is by casually introducing a female love interest for its lead character, making Clarke Griffin not only bisexual*, but proving that her sexuality makes absolutely no difference to her character.
*To the best of our knowledge. Allow me to celebrate Clarke Griffin today, despite the fact that The 100 does not explicitly label her — nor should it. She still serves as a great role model and example of bi visibility on television.
A small recap: In season 1, Clarke found herself in an awkward semi-love triangle with Finn and Raven, which was finally resolved in season 2 when Finn went crazy and slaughtered a bunch of Grounders (which I still say is totally normal behavior, all things considered), and Clarke was forced to kill him, sparing him from the pain he would have endured at the Grounders’ hands.
(This, by the way, was one of the best episodes of television ever, but I’ll sing a heartbroken ballad about the tragedy of Finn Collins some other time.)
Meanwhile, Clarke had developed an intense and complicated relationship with Lexa, the Commander of the Grounders — and, incidentally, the person who condemned Finn to death.
Lexa is a fantastic character in her own right, clearly working to suppress her compassion at every turn, and making hard choices in order to hold onto the alliance she has somehow managed to form with the other Grounder tribes. And no more apparent was Lexa’s struggle than in the season 2 finale, where she betrayed Clarke and her people in order to save her own. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Lexa, clearly, was all about Clarke. She revealed halfway through the season that she’d had a female lover (“Her name was Costia, and she was mine”), and proceeded to make heart eyes at her new best friend — but why should we assume that Clarke would return her feelings? After all, television has traditionally been a heteronormative medium. We are conditioned to consider characters straight unless they are explicitly stated to be otherwise.
And it’s so, so easy for TV shows wishing to be more inclusive, without taking any risks that may affect their ratings, to stop at the implication of queerness. It’s not dangerous for characters to throw loving looks at each other or to make “gay jokes,” as long as they don’t follow through.
For networks (who, bottom line, mainly care about advertisers), it’s the perfect middle ground: slash shippers get material for their fanvids and continue to promote the show on social media (shippers are generally the most active online, after all), and the increasingly extinct “general audience” can rest easy knowing that the heteronormative, #nohomo media model is still working for them. It’s a tried and tested formula.
But not The 100, because its writers DGAF about the media’s weird fear of alienating the CIS white guy audience. Either Jason Rothenberg is pulling a Bellamy and doing whatever the hell he wants, or it really is that easy for a mainstream network show to introduce a new aspect of an established character’s sexuality (in which case: challenge extended, Supernatural).
Enter Clarke Griffin: The 100‘s main character, a wonderfully flawed, strong, kind, ruthless, emotional and compassionate leader. Considered straight only by heteronormative assumption. She falls for Finn, Finn turns out to have an awesome girlfriend already, Finn dies. She grows closer to Lexa, Lexa kisses her, and Clarke kisses her back.
And when Clarke tells Lexa she is not ready for a relationship, the moment is loaded with so many things: Our people are kind of at war, which should really put a damper on any budding romance. You forced me to kill my boyfriend, also kind of a sticking point. And the big one: I don’t know if I can trust you.
The one thing that was not an issue? The fact that they’re both women.
It’s not revolutionary for Clarke to be bisexual (although it is refreshing, as television has traditionally drawn a line between gay and straight, ignoring all other possibilities in fear of confusing the audience), but it’s revolutionary for it not to be a big deal.
In a media landscape where you have the Once Upon a Time creators declaring that they’re thinking about introducing a LGBTQ+ relationship in the fifth season of their show, and the Marvel president telling us to expect a non-straight character in the MCU within the next 10 years, it’s refreshing for a show like The 100 to just flat-out introduce bisexuality as a normal, non-noteworthy thing, and then carry on with the story they’re trying to tell.
What The 100 understands better than almost all other shows on TV today is that sexuality should not be your defining characteristic. Unless you yourself draw attention to it, it shouldn’t even be one of your defining characteristics.
Clarke Griffin is a fantastic character. Her sexuality has nothing to do with that. The reason I applaud The 100 isn’t because they “made Clarke bi,” but because they allowed her to follow her heart, wherever it took her, without fanfare.
Literally every other director and/or showrunner, take note please. This is how it’s done.