Monday, March 7, 2016

The 100: An Open Letter To Jason Rothenberg


Dear Mr. Rothenberg,

Recently, I put out my list of the top 5 of everything of 2015, and The 100 (which holds the additional distinction of being the first and only CW show my dad will watch with me, which speaks volumes about its widespread crossover appeal) had no problem making the list. Unfortunately, I've fallen behind by two episodes, but because of the recent internet explosion revolving around last week's episode, I've been completely, utterly unable to avoid the spoilers, so I'm now painfully aware that a favorite character of mine is now dead.

Now, because The 100 has such a dedicated fan base, this isn't my first time getting key plot developments spoiled for me. As such, I'm not as mad about it as I perhaps ought to be. All the madness I've seen appears to be concentrated in other fans and their considerable outrage over Lexa's death.

The purpose of this letter is not to join their ranks and criticize this particular storytelling decision, however. Instead, I'd like to empathize with you and all your writers. I know you probably don't need anyone to come to your defense, but I'd just like to offer my thoughts all the same.

The main objection to Lexa's death, as far as I can see, is that it constitutes an example of not only the infamous "stuffed in the fridge" trope, but also "Bury Your Gays." Yes, those are some pretty unfortunate implications. But as a fan who's really come to appreciate The 100 for its remarkable progressivism, I believe that being a member of a minority shouldn't guarantee a character's survival just because certain people would see it as sexist, homophobic, racist, etc. All over the internet, I've seen people place the message "Gender Doesn't Matter" on their profiles. If that's the case, then it also shouldn't matter whether a dead character is straight, gay, bi, or anywhere in between. If a character's death has a profound impact on not only the fans, but also on that character's loved ones in-universe, then it was written in the best possible way - never mind that there really shouldn't be a "best" way to write a death.

In my own writing, I've killed off several characters myself. Some of these have been women, and some have been LGBT. And yet, so far, I've received little to no backlash about it. It could be that I'm just not high-profile enough for such backlash, or it could be that my works tend to treat death as an extension of life, in much the same way as the TV series Dead Like Me deals with the Mundane Fantastic adventures of its undead reapers, so "dead" characters continue to interact with the living and be vital to the plot.

In any case, the reaction from my readers on my books, Red Rain, Blue Monday, and White Shadows, has been not outrage over "targeting" minorities, but rather grief over the deaths of favorite characters, with their gender, race, and sexual orientation hardly figuring in at all. They understand that it's far less about sinking into any kind of cheap, unjust trope than it is about the fact that these deaths hurt my hero the most, and take him to dark places from which he must fight to return.

One day, I'll publish Red Rain and its sequels, and based on the example I've seen from The 100 (as well as, for instance, the death of Sara Lance on Arrow), I accept that the deaths in this series, once they reach a wider audience, will meet with disgust and disdain from certain pockets of the internet. But I cannot, and will not, change the story just to stave off this kind of negative reaction. I'd like to think my story has teeth, and I will not remove them - because part of creating great works involves sharing our emotions with our readers, viewers, etc. That, of course, includes the grief we experience when popular characters (and products of our fruitful imaginations) die.

Looking forward to catching up on The 100,

Ricky Pine

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