More often than not, the main character of a television show isn’t the fan-favorite.
If you look at some of the most popular teen shows of the past decade, the character that got the most media attention and had the biggest fan base is never the protagonist. Elena Gilbert and Scott Mccall from The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf, respectively, were overshadowed by characters like Damon Salvatore and Stiles Stilinski. Viewers tend to place certain standards on the main character of a show that snarky, secondary characters can avoid. Their actions aren’t constantly critiqued the same way. Ensemble cast members often become more popular with the audience than the lead due to the amount of time we spend with them and their overall importance to the narrative. It’s much easier to get sick of the character with the most screentime, especially if you don’t find their storylines as compelling as others. One notable case study of what is dubbed as “designated protagonist syndrome” is the leading lady of The 100, Clarke Griffin.
Clarke Griffin is the first character we’re introduced to in the pilot of The 100, yet in my years as a fan of this show, I’ve seen more critiques of her than I have of nearly any other character on the show (male lead, Bellamy Blake gets his own fair share of undeserved hate, but that’s another story).
If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of The 100, it’s a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series on The CW. The CW is known for young adult shows usually characterized by cheesy romances and ridiculously attractive 20-year-olds trying to pass for teenagers. The 100 is definitely a sucker for both of those things, but it also created a revolutionary character in Clarke.
Clarke is one of the most multi-faceted female characters I’ve seen not only on The CW but on television in general. Most of the time teenage girl characters only have storylines centered around male characters and aren’t given the space to develop into their own person. On the other side of the spectrum, you have female characters whose only given attribute is that they’re “tough” and never allowed to show any emotion or empathy. When I started watching The 100 as a young fourteen-year-old girl, Clarke was a breath of fresh air.
I had never gotten to see a character like her before. She became the leader of her people, not through force, but through earned respect. People trusted her because she was honest and kind. However, she wasn’t just some sweet girl that they could walk all over. Clarke’s ultimate goal was always to protect the people she cares about and do things for the greater good, yet she wasn’t afraid to be ruthless to do so.
The 100 is heavily laced with themes of morality and difficult choices, yet seeing a young woman having all this power to make life or death decisions was incredibly empowering. Throughout the series we see Clarke commit unspeakable acts and we watch her deal with the consequences. Because most of the big decisions lay on her shoulders, she receives the brunt of the blame in the show and in the fandom.
She gets labeled as “Wanheda”, which means “the commander of death” in the show’s fictional language. In the show, the term is thrown at her constantly to remind her of all the deaths she has caused. In the fandom, she’s consistently labeled selfish or presumptuous.
I’d like to argue that while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, that a lot of the hate Clarke receives has to do with the fact that she is the main character of the show, and is mostly unfounded.
Clarke’s actions throughout the show typically have the most repercussions because she’s the lead. She’s had the most opportunities to cause destruction and usually faces more obstacles than most of the ensemble cast does. She never actively chose to be a leader, but she was forced into it by her circumstances in the show. And yet somehow when things go wrong, all the blame automatically falls on her. Of course, that’s the normal struggle of a leader, but when you’re just a young girl forced into the role it seems to be a bit of harsh judgment.
As seasons progress, more and more people abandon Clarke. A lot of this has to do with several plotlines separating Clarke from the rest of the main cast for extended periods of time, but the ultimate theme the show seems to be reinforcing over and over again is that “leadership is a lonely pursuit”. Her love interests die while most of her friends have decided that she’s no longer apart of their so-called “family”.
As a dedicated fan for years, the constant critiquing and isolation of the main character gets old. In the most recent season of The 100, John Murphy, a fan-favorite character, actively put Clarke’s life in danger and was ready to let her die for his own selfish reasons. Murphy has been on the show since the beginning and has gained a cult following because of his quick remarks and sharp one-liners. I never had much of a problem with him until this past season.
He spends the first two episodes complaining to the rest of the ensemble cast about how Clarke is selfish, makes bad choices and is dangerous. However, when you fast forward to the middle of the season, he is completely capable of saving Clarke from a life or death scenario and chooses not to for a chance at immortality. This is far from the first time Clarke has ever been in danger on this show, yet I found this betrayal especially cutting. Clarke and Murphy had never really been friends, but always kept each other alive when they could. Now, it’s been shown that nearly everyone Clarke has had any kind of relationship with on the show considers her to be disposable.
Frankly, Clarke Griffin deserves better. She’s called selfish when time after time she has sacrificed herself and her happiness for the safety of others, even leaving herself to what she believed would be certain death in the finale of season 4. Her former friends and allies treat her with no respect and no gratitude for saving their asses multiple times. The fandom still complains that she’s annoying or hypocritical when all she’s done is try her best to keep the most people alive that she can.
Clarke is such a complex, enjoyable character that I find it so hard to believe so many people don’t like her. She cares deeply about the people she loves and isn’t afraid to go to bat for them. She’s incredibly intelligent and diplomatic, helping create essential alliances that no other character in the show could have achieved. Whenever there are brief moments of happiness on The 100 we get a glimpse at her fun side, who’s able to relax and enjoy herself with the people she loves. Yet almost immediately, that glimpse of happiness and hope always slips through her fingers.
Unfortunately, Clarke doesn’t always get back what she puts out into the world. She does have a few strong relationships still, but she has by far experienced the most loss on this show and been given the least amount of time to grieve. She’s lost her best friend from childhood, her parents, two romantic partners, and several other friends. Yet somehow she’s still supposed to be an all-knowing leader who never makes any mistakes.
One important aspect that cannot go unmentioned when talking about Clarke Griffin is the groundbreaking representation she provides. In season 2 of the show, it was revealed that Clarke is bisexual. This shocked viewers, specifically fans of the book series the show was based on since she wasn’t bisexual in the novels. However, the choice to include this aspect of her in the show lead to one of the best examples of a bisexual woman on television. She became the first LGBTQ+ lead on The CW network and the first bisexual lead on major network television. How can people not love someone breaking down boundaries for bisexuals everywhere?
Fans have expressed how Clarke’s bisexuality on-screen has helped them figure out their own sexualities. Although The 100 is guilty of falling into problematic LGBTQ+ tropes on television with the infamous death of the character Lexa, Clarke and the representation she provides has always been a bright spot in the show.
Clarke Griffin is a dynamic character who makes hard choices and will always do what needs to be done to protect her people. She’s committed unspeakable acts and she owns that. But she’s also the person who sacrifices herself to save her friends on more than one occasion. She’s also the girl who stepped up to take care of a group of 100 teenagers when they were dropped on a new planet. She’s the girl who took in a six-year-old girl to raise when she was still a kid herself. Impossible choices are forced onto her and no matter how she handles it, she’s always the one blamed in the end, on the show and off.
I don’t know why Clarke isn’t a fan-favorite character. Usually, the Designated Protagonist Syndrome occurs when the ensemble cast is made up of such captivating characters that you get sick of the main one you’re forced to spend the most time with. But from my perspective, there would be no The 100 without Clarke. She has the most interesting storylines (besides that long stretch in season three when the whole show hit a rut), has the most compelling relationships, and has had a real-world impact on LGBTQ+ viewers. Clarke Griffin has been carrying this show since it premiered in 2014.
QUIZ: How Well Do You Remember Season 1 of ‘The 100’?
Quiz: Which ‘The 100’ Character Are You?
Will Bellamy Blake Die In The 100’s Final Season?
It was the video heard round the world.
On March 5th 2020, Bob Morley sent The 100 fandom into a frenzy with one simple tweet.
The support has been overwhelming and humbling. Lots of love!
— Bob Morley (@WildpipM) March 6, 2020
At first glance, it’s just a sweet video thanking fans for their donations to Bob and Eliza’s t-shirt campaign to fund Australia’s fire relief, but upon closer inspection, fans realized Bob might’ve given something away about The 100’s final season.
Currently, we know The 100 is filming its series finale in Vancouver, Canada. However, Bob’s video reveals he’s not in Canada at all, he’s in L.A.
Day 1 of shooting #the100 SERIES FINALE is tomorrow. Episode 100 and my 1st as director. I’m so grateful to so many people for so many things, but especially YOU, the fans of the show. As our rockstar crew carries me to the finish line, we know that you carry us all. #ThankYou
— Jason Rothenberg (@JRothenbergTV) March 4, 2020
— the worms eating bellamy’s thiqué ass (@captaindaddykru) March 6, 2020
If this video wasn’t pre-recorded, it’s safe to assume that this means Bellamy won’t be appearing in the series finale, which hints that he will most likely meet his end before the final episode of the show.
Bellamy has been a fan-favorite character since the show’s first season, so fans are heartbroken over the possibility.
I CANT QUIT CRYING pic.twitter.com/zjgFcywXO4
— the worms eating bellamy’s thiqué ass (@captaindaddykru) March 6, 2020
the idea of clarke ending the series without bellamy actually makes me so fucking sick this is a nightmare
— elizabeth (@beIIamycIarke) March 6, 2020
— khaleesi hefdong (@shadyboyband) March 6, 2020
Unfortunately, there’s more evidence than just one video supporting the theory of Bellamy’s death earlier in the season.
On February 25th, 2020, Bob Morley tweeted something that sounds a lot like a goodbye message. He’s looking back on his experience on the show and expressing his gratitude for it.
When something is coming to an end, it can be hard to derive meaning clearly. The why, the message, the lesson? At this point in time can only look back and thank it for the ride. Battered, bruised and somewhat wiser as I human. I am grateful.
Be well, be kind.
— Bob Morley (@WildpipM) February 25, 2020
Would he express that sentiment if he still had several days of filming left?
Additionally, fans noticed that Bob unfollowed the executive producer of The 100, Jason Rothenberg, on Twitter. Fans hypothesize that there might be some bad blood between the two over Bellamy’s early departure.
JASON AND BOB UNFOLLOWED EACH OTHER ????? PERFECT TIMING ITS OVER PACK UP
— a celebration of life: bellamy blake (@saoirsce) March 6, 2020
i literally made this meme today i’m SICK pic.twitter.com/sXzPAsrpFw
— hannah (@hannahjaneface) March 6, 2020
We know Bob’s always loved Bellamy and has been very vocal about his hopes for him in the future, so this wouldn’t be much of a stretch.
Nothing’s certain, but things aren’t looking too good for Bellamy Blake going into this season. The 100’s proven before that they’re not afraid to kill off beloved characters, so Bellamy’s not the only one on the chopping block.
We’ll have to tune in when season 7 begins on May 20th to see what will happen to our favorite characters. Catch the season premiere at 8/7c on The CW.
Let us know what you think happens to Bellamy in the comments!
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