In honor of Bi Visibility Week, I’m co-opting a piece I sent out as a newsletter during Pride Month. This one’s all about Clarke Griffin, the seemingly fearless protagonist of The 100. For anyone who might not know, Clarke is canonically bisexual, and that means this is her week!
Clarke experiences romantic and sexual attraction to Finn Collins in S01-S02, and Commander Lexa in S02-S03. She also has a casual, sexual relationship with Niylah in S03-S04. I’ve written about some of the issues with how Clarke is portrayed on the show, including her martyrdom and her magical, savage-taming vagina.
In general, Clarke’s character progression has been messy. The repeated theme of settler colonialism in how she behaves is disturbing. She makes decisions that often aren’t earned for the sake of “plot progression” without any emotional ramifications or weight. I love her, fiercely and forever, but I also wish she had better stories written for her.
For example: although Clarke has canonical relationships with men and women, she never identifies as bisexual. Show creator Jason Rothenberg stated once in a tweet that she is a bisexual character, but that she doesn’t “label herself” because it apparently doesn’t matter in The Future.
Unfortunately, as an audience, we aren’t living in The Future. Media doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And Clarke Griffin openly identifying as bisexual would be huge. So few protagonists in popular media are bisexual, and even fewer of them actually say the term on screen. That’s got to change. Who’s to say Clarke can’t lead the charge?
Although I don’t agree with everything stated in this piece on The Mary Sue (specifically the stuff about Willow Rosenberg), it does mention a number of shows where characters have relationships with men and women but are never canonically identified as bisexual. The list includes: The Good Wife, Torchwood, and Orange Is the New Black. I’d also include Game of Thrones and The O.C., and would even include Captain America.
Writers or actors talking about how characters are bisexual on their social media or in interviews doesn’t make the label canon. We’ve all been through the horror of reading J.K. Rowling’s Headcanons about what didn’t happen in the Harry Potter series and debated the death of the author. It’s important to remember that when it comes to issues of representation, too.
Just because Jason Rothenberg says Clarke is bisexual, that doesn’t make it so. A creator’s word is not the same as canon.
There is also a misconception in The 100 fandom that Clarke expressing interest in women means she can now only be with women. Nope. If she’s a bisexual character, then she can have relationships with people of any gender, something the writers would do well to remember. Thanks.
Opting to avoid the word “bisexual” is bi erasure and contributes to biphobic rhetoric. Target carried pronoun buttons and bi pride flags for Pride this year. Awesome! Conversations surrounding bi identity are still problematic as hell.
So as much as I want to praise Clarke Griffin as super positive bisexual representation, I can’t. I think we desperately need more characters like Clarke — characters who are openly bisexual, that is — but she and her counterparts need to talk about that and embrace their identity. Labels aren’t inherently toxic. And claiming that something is post-labels probably says more about the person making the claim than the labels themselves.