Clarke Griffin, Bisexual: CW’s The 100 and Dystopian Future at Its Finest
In the spring of 2014 an unassuming CW pilot ran shoulder to shoulder with a cavalcade of similarly-cast new and returning shows. While many networks’ series continued along the same path or were mercifully pulled from the schedule, the little engine that is The 100 slowly, thoughtfully broke out of its teen drama mold and pulled ahead. Don’t be fooled by the first few formulaic episodes—this show has bite. And oh yea, the lead character is Bisexual.
Set a century and a half in the future and lead by a somewhat racially diverse cast of thin yet muscular, attractive young adults, The 100 tells the story of a post-nuclear humanity. What the show does fantastically well and what differentiates it from many of the ilk are both the problems it confronts and the way it confronts them. When a character is between a rock and a hard place the writers do not just move the rock at the last moment—they bear down and take us through the excruciating consequences of the choices the characters must make to survive. The 100’s universe allows its residents to develop and change, exploring how the end of life as we know it can alter our worldviews and impact our decision-making.
One such resident is the lead, Clarke Griffin, a teen with preternatural leadership skills, a tragic past, and a future you can’t stop tuning in for. After more than one romantic dalliance, fans of the show realized what we were (hopefully) looking at—the first Bisexual lead on a CW show, one of the first Bisexual leads on network television. Although showrunner Jason Rothenberg previously addressed Clarke’s bisexuality via social media, there were still some with doubts. Rothenberg quashed these uncertainties in a January 2016 interview with Variety’s Chief TV Critic Maureen Ryan, stating without a shadow of a doubt that Clarke Griffin is Bisexual (link includes spoilers through the season three premiere.) This stable sexuality is occurring in a pop culture landscape where we are so accustomed to the temporary titillating queerness of sweeps week, so often confined to the purpose of getting ratings as opposed to genuine character shaping. This is also is the same landscape where opportunities and are so frequently squandered (potential Walking Dead spoilers at the link.)
In modern pop culture the only indicator of bisexuality is behavior. Beyond even that, we can’t assume the character will stay that way. In reality we know bisexuality is in and of itself valid and not a phase, but personally it is hard for me to get excited about a queer character without some serious fandom (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), an outspoken showrunner, (Grey’s Anatomy) or getting it in writing (Archie). Add to that bisexuality is often treated as a plot twist or a shocking reveal. The 100 never narrows Clarke’s bisexuality to a twist, surprise, phase, or titillation. We can easily believe that her bisexuality has always been a part of her, even before her actions made it apparent. The team behind and in front of the show do more than create a realistic fictional world, they create a world in which we as an often overlooked and misrepresented group can see our realities—a precious and unfortunately rare commodity.
And for my dear fellow scifi brethren, there are some definite casting treats—more than one Battlestar Galactica alumni pop up along the way (just in case you miss seeing Gaeta on the bridge) as well as actors from Lost and Continuum (including out Bisexual Luvia Petersen), to name a few. It should be noted that a more controversial casting choice is found in Isaiah Washington. Separating the art from the artist, Washington’s performance in particular nearing the end of Season One is exceptional.
As much as I like the character of Clarke Griffin, I can’t wait until we have more representations of dystopian-future bisexuality than an allosexual (unconfirmed) cisgender able-bodied white teen. I look forward to the day when pop culture reflects back the great spectrum of us. But at least in Clarke Griffin we have one of what we so desperately need—a strong, searching, learning, loving, tender, bold, mold-breaking Bisexual on a well-written, exciting show. I know I’m paying attention—it just might be our future.
The 100 airs on the CW and is made available on hulu the day after. Previous seasons are available for streaming on Netflix and the author is available for talking about The 100 on Twitter @cosmostep. Her husband and cats would very much appreciate it if you took her up on that.