For The Love of Fandom: Two Years Later
Sometime during the Spring of 2015 I fell hard for a lovely sci-fi show called The 100. To this day, The 100 remains one of the only shows on television with a bi lead. In the time since, it has also become the show that sparked a queer revolution.
Lead character Clarke Griffin’s bisexuality is the (at times derided) foundation of a dedicated, fervent queer The 100 fandom. Some among it have long dedicated themselves to one of two “ships”: Clarke’s smoldering, long standing bond with Bellamy Blake, a fellow member of the original hundred (Bellarke), or her hard-won and deeply built bridge with Heda Lexa, commander of the twelve clans (Clexa).
Lexa’s season three death was the mightiest among an avalanche that took out an immense number of queer women characters that season. The movement that arose from Lexa’s ashes almost immediately channeled #LGBTFansDeserveBetter into support, raising donations for The Trevor Project in the name of Lexa and those impacted by the Bury Your Queers trope. The movement lives on today: LGBT Fans Deserve Better went from hashtag to 501(c)(3), and ClexaCon, a convention for queer women named in honor of the ship that fell with the commander, is planning its third year.
My glowing take on the show, my first published review, came online March 4, 2016—the morning after episode 307 and Lexa’s unceremonious death. A second piece followed not long after, diving deep into my experiences and observations as a bi woman in the after. The consequences of the treatment of The 100’s queer characters impacted bi fans in many ways. And as with many challenges for the LGBTQ community, bi voices have often been lost in the public narrative. Two years and some months on, I reached out for the stories of bi folks in The 100 fandom. Here’s some of what was shared.
“Seeing Clarke Griffin on my tv felt amazing. I feel less weird about coming out because of Clarke– she’s just out living her life. It was just a part of her. Like being blonde or from space.” – Amy
“She’s smart, she’s determined, she’s stubborn and vengeful and angry and also deeply compassionate and loves with her whole heart and oh, is also bisexual.” – Meg
“Just looking at her and knowing in some shape or form that we relate in [bisexuality], and that it didn’t affect her leadership in any capacity allowed me to—okay. I can be steadfast and strong in my leadership position and not have to worry about whether people will judge me for my sexuality just as long as I’m doing my job as a leader and being effective in that way. She was really empowering in that sense.” – Amanda
The Aftermath of Lexa’s death
“Being a queer member of The 100 fandom meant being sad that a powerful, meaningful queer character had been killed off in such an ugly, ignorant way. It also meant processing those emotions alone or with other non-Clexa affiliated fans because…if you didn’t ship it, you were on the outside.” – Meg
“When Lexa was killed off, it was really confusing to be in the fandom. After her death, if we didn’t like Lexa/Clexa we’d be called homophobes and fake bis. It was a really tough time in the fandom I think, all sexualities included.” – Lisa
“I just don’t trust the show after 307. So much good has come from it but it’s still traumatizing.” – Evan
“There will be queer people in writing rooms, and it’ll all chalk back to Clexa. It’s just amazing to me that that one moment, that gross moment has changed so much for queer rep. The biggest takeaway, aside from the pain of that moment, is knowing that it really does matter what you put on screen and there are real live consequences to it.” – Amanda
“I’ve seen the Clexa fandom referenced as ‘the queer fandom’ numerous times. It’s a pervasive attitude that breaks my heart a little every time because that kind of labeling feels rooted in a shipwar…and because it excludes so many queer fans who aren’t ‘the right kind of queer.’” – Meg
“A lot of people in the fandom say that Bellarke fans only claim they’re bisexual and are lying about their sexuality. It’s definitely calmed down a lot…but you still get the occasional person who wants to…tell you that you’re not bisexual and that you’re homophobic simply for shipping a m/f ship.” – Lisa
“Clarke being bisexual is rep no matter who she is or isn’t dating. She’s still bisexual right now and she’s dating no one.” – Emily
Biphobia in The 100 fandom
“The dismissiveness of Clarke’s bisexuality, that it was a one-off, that it wasn’t real.” – Evan
“An endless parade of people misunderstanding/misrepresenting bisexuality in their rush to use it as a weapon in a ship war…it’s exhausting.” – Meg
“I’ve been called a fake bisexual and told I’m doing it for attention. Someone told me I was invalidating the LGBT+ community…as if I’m not in it.” – Emily
“I definitely saw comments online that erased [Clarke’s bisexual] identity and questioned her identity. It frustrated me, for sure. Sometimes I feel like we’re not straight enough for the straights, we’re not gay enough for the gays, and it made me revisit those feelings.” – Amanda
“A bulk of the conversation around Clarke’s sexuality rests on her relationships which to me, is bierasure because bisexuality has absolutely nothing to do with who you’re dating or hooking up with at a given time. It’s a part of who you are.” – Meg
“I love the work that LGBT Fans Deserve Better set out to do and the success of ClexaCon makes me incredibly happy but at the same time, neither thing feel like they’re for me. Both orgs were founded by groups of people that, whether or not they intended to, founded their movements in ships over queer identity. Knowing that history, they aren’t something I’m comfortable engaging with.” – Meg
“The name did turn me off because I associate [the Clexa] fandom with massive biphobia.” – Alex
“Based on the name I’d never go. I do like a lot of the actors who attend but I know I wouldn’t fit in there.” – Emily
“I came back to the bi identity based on the people I met at ClexaCon. Being with a group of people that kind of have the same heart and are accepting of different people and different experiences helped me feel empowered.” – Evan
“It’s been a wonderful experience. Just positive experiences to take away from ClexaCon.” – Amanda
On empowerment and togetherness
“There have been some really generous bisexual authors and fans in the fandom that have shared their experiences through fan works that have been incredible to read.” – Amy
“This was a big call to action. I’m just glad that people are emboldened to put queer content out. Interesting storylines where we’re at the helm, and know that it’s not going to end in death. I think we’re going to be much more responsible with our stories than we have seen thusfar.” – Amanda
“The friends I’ve made through the show have been my first experience having a predominantly queer/specifically bi social circle which has been a really wonderful experience.” – Meg
“It’s incredible to see how the bisexual community in the fandom comes together and supports each other. I’ve made so many friends through this fandom who are bisexual and it’s truly a wonderful feeling to know that I’m not alone out there.” – Lisa
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.