Joanie Hutchinson-Ross and Rosie Rhodes discuss how E4’s latest futuristic offering, The 100, represents its female characters in a way that impresses on all levels. Available in the UK on E4 or online through 40D, the show is an exciting post-apocalyptic drama depicting the lives of 100 criminal teens tasked to find out whether the Earth is inhabitable for future generations of humanity.
Since The 100 first premiered in March 2014, the show has taken both America and the UK by storm, racking up over 2.5 million viewers in its first season. Now having just been renewed for its third season, what started off as a little show with the potential to fall on its face now stands as one of primetime’s current most successful TV shows. But what is it that makes The 100 stand out amongst the rest? Take a look at the list of TV shows undoubtedly piling up on your Netflix queue: what’s the one thing they all seem to be missing? Strong, fully fleshed-out, real leading females.
The 100’s character list consists of various different people of a range of ethnicities, sexualities and non-conforming gender roles, but one of the most striking things about the show is the sheer amount of powerful, kickass women. The 100 passes the Bechdel Test with unquestionable certainty, and boasts probably the largest cast of central female characters that the CW and E4 have ever seen. Here are just a few examples:
Let’s start with Clarke. Aside from Bo in Lost Girl (which you should totally also watch), Clarke Griffin is one of the only canonically bisexual female leads in the history of primetime television – this in itself is nothing short of revolutionary. To top this off, the strong leadership role that Clarke takes on throughout the series does not lessen her femininity; similarly, her long blonde hair and- let’s be honest- general hotness do not make her any less of a badass. No stranger to pain and grief, Clarke is anything but weakened by the tragic events that have coloured her life, and we see her lead the ‘Sky People’ fearlessly against both the ‘Grounders’ and the ‘Mountain Men’. Her love interests, both male and female – thank god for some actual bisexual representation – do not define her as a character, but do mark her as one of greatest female leads of all time.
When the viewer first meets Lexa, the writers cleverly play on the audience’s stereotypes of women by having her appear as a servant girl. They then shatter this completely by revealing her true identity: the commander of the Grounders. Essentially the Grounder equivalent of Clarke, Lexa takes command of all twelve tribes (including Tondc, whose leader Indra is yet another fierce female): she does so with power and force, but never sacrifices her femininity. Lexa is another canonically queer character, but she refuses to let this- or her emotions- define her, once again defying female stereotypes. Plus, she’s super hot.
The youngest and best mechanic on the ‘Ark’, Raven’s gender is never made an issue, even with her stereotypically masculine job. The only thing that could ever potentially stop her from completing her job is a heart murmur, and she doesn’t let that get in her way. Raven experiences horrific pain and loss, probably the most of all the characters, throughout the course of the two seasons: yet she continues to show no weakness in the face of it. One of the most intriguing things about Raven is her complex relationship with Clarke; thankfully, this is not marred by what the writers could have easily made into just another messy love triangle.
That character development, man. Having been locked under the floor for 17 years, and starting out in the series as ‘Bellamy’s little sister’, Octavia emerges from her older brother’s shadow to become one of the only Sky People truly respected by the Grounders. Initially beaten and ridiculed by Grounder tribe members, Octavia refuses to stand down and quickly becomes Indra’s second in command. Though Octavia’s love story with Lincoln is poignant and important, it is more of a vehicle for the alliance between the Grounders and the Ark than a predictable, female-driven love story.
These four characters are the tip of the iceberg for female empowerment in The 100, but amongst the Ark, the Grounders and the Mountain Men, there is an abundance of kickass women standing out as powerful, intelligent individuals alongside the men of the show.
More than just an example of great TV and incredible writing, The 100 is the embodiment of how representation in the media should and can be – quite frankly, the basis for all others to follow.