NOTE: This post has been succeeded by a second edition.
Earlier this year there was a lot of fan outcry over the seemingly disproportionate rate of death for wlw (women-loving women) characters on TV, sparked by the death of Lexa on The 100. I think most of the outcry was justified, but I also saw a few attempts at quantitative analysis of wlw character death that used bad numbers or comparisons. This inspired me to look into diversity in The 100 and examine the relationship between character demographics and character death on the show. I’ve had the bulk of this post sitting in my Tumblr drafts since May, but never got around to posting it, so I figured I might as well put it here.
I used IMDB’s page listing actors who have appeared in The 100 and used named characters who have appeared in four or more episodes for my analysis. I chose to make four episodes a minimum to ensure that characters on the list had significant screentime (as it would be unfair to compare a character who appeared in a single scene to a character who appeared in dozens of episodes). Also note that I used seasons one through three for my analysis.
Once I had gathered my list, I categorized the 46 characters on the following attributes: male/female; white/black/Latinx/Asian; and straight/gay or bisexual. I then determined the percentages of each demographic in the categories of: total; regular; recurring; dead; and alive. (This post focuses on total and dead characters, as the other categories had largely insignificant variation.)
There were some characters whose actors appeared racially ambiguous and for whom I couldn’t find concrete information on how they identified; in these cases, I used my judgment to make a subjective determination that may have been incorrect. These characters, along with a few exceptions and other notable categorizations, are noted at the end of this post.
Before I get into my findings, I want to stress that while I focus on percentages in my analysis, a sample size of 46 is not very large and so percentages may not always be an optimal measure. Keep in mind the sum totals in the charts before making assumptions based on the percentages.
63% of The 100′s characters are male, while 37% are female.
According to GLAAD’s “Where We Are on TV” for the 2015-2016 season, 57% of regular characters on broadcast* television were male and 43% were female. This means that The 100′s characters are somewhat less gender-balanced compared to the broadcast television average and quite unbalanced compared to real-life statistics (where women are around 50% of the population).
Since the GLAAD percentages are for regular characters specifically, it’s worth noting that 67% of regular characters on The 100 are male and only 33% are female. Counting only regular characters who are alive, the split is 60/40 in favor of male characters.
*Broadcast television is defined here as NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and the CW.
Sticking the rest of this post under a read more since it’s quite long.
61% of The 100′s characters are white, 17% are black, 2% are Latinx, and 20% are Asian.
According to the aforementioned GLAAD report, 66% of regular characters on broadcast television were white, 16% were black, 7% were Latinx, and 6% were Asian. This means that overall, The 100 is slightly more racially diverse compared to the broadcast television average.
Since the GLAAD percentages are for regular characters specifically, it’s worth noting that Latinx characters make up a higher percentage of The 100′s regular characters (8%) while white and Asian characters make up a smaller percentage (58% and 17%, respectively) compared to the show’s overall statistics. Counting only regular characters who are alive, white characters increase to 60%, black characters decrease to 10%, Latinx characters increase to 10%, and Asian characters increase to 20%.
91% of The 100′s characters are straight, while 9% are gay/bisexual. (None are trans.)
According to the GLAAD report, 96% of regular characters on broadcast television were straight, while 4% were LGB (there were no trans characters). This means that The 100 is slightly more diverse when it comes to sexuality compared to the broadcast television average.
Since the GLAAD percentages are for regular characters specifically, it’s worth noting that 8% of regular characters on The 100 are gay/bisexual. Counting only regular characters who are alive, gay/bisexual characters increase to 10%.
62% of dead characters on The 100 are male (with a mortality rate* of 55%), while 38% are female (with a mortality rate of 59%).
The overall mortality rate in The 100 is 57% (with 26 out of 46 characters dead), so there appears to be a slight gendered bias when it comes to character death on The 100, with female characters being slightly more likely to die. Given the sample size, however, the difference is probably insignificant.
*“Mortality rate” refers to what percentage of characters of a given demographic are dead.
65% of dead characters on The 100 are white (with a mortality rate of 61%), 15% are black (with a mortality rate of 50%), 0% are Latinx, and 19% are Asian (with a mortality rate of 56%). (Note: percentages were rounded down from ~65.38%, ~15.38%, and ~19.23%, respectively, so they add up to 99% rather than 100%.)
Given The 100′s overall mortality rate of 57%, there appears to be a slight racial bias with white characters being more likely to die and characters of color being less likely to die, but only by a small degree. (Note that since there’s only one Latinx character, the 0% death rate is not a meaningful statistic.)
96% of dead characters on The 100 are straight (with a mortality rate of 61%), while 4% are gay/bisexual (with a mortality rate of 25%).
Given The 100′s overall mortality rate of 57%, it’s clear that gay/bisexual characters are far less likely to die than straight characters. Looking at wlw characters specifically, they have a 50% mortality rate, which is still moderately lower than the overall. However, with only four gay/bisexual characters, their mortality rate is not very statistically meaningful.
I want to reiterate that the percentages are not the full story here. It may be true that wlw characters are statistically less likely to die than straight characters, but there are only two of them in total. This means that each wlw character, and therefore each wlw character’s death, means a lot more.
Consider: when 50% of wlw characters die, you’re left with only one character, but if 50% of straight characters died, there would still be 21 left over. Lexa’s death doesn’t appear to represent bias on the part of the writers, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a significant loss of representation.
Additionally, quantity of representation does not necessarily equal quality of representation. The 100 might have more people of color than the average television show, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that its representation of people of color doesn’t perpetuate racist ideas or that its characters of color are given equal prominence and screentime compared to their white counterparts.
I made two lists to create this post. The first listed each character and noted their demographics, and can be found here. The second listed overall demographics for different categories, and can be found here. I welcome any corrections or questions about these lists. (NOTE: These lists are now out of date for this post as they were updated to include data for season four.)
Some notes on exceptions or notable categorizations:
- I counted Bellamy as Asian because the actor’s mother is Filipino.
- I counted Sinclair as Asian because the actor’s mother is Asian (I believe Chinese).
- I counted Alie as a character. Whether or not she truly counts as such is arguable, as the show indicated that she did not have sentience, but since she was given a human appearance and played a major role I decided to count her.
- Though Wells is counted as a regular character on Wikipedia, I decided not to count him as such because he only appeared as a series regular in three episodes; his fourth appearance was as a guest star, where his character was a hallucination.
- Callie “Cece” Cartwig is also counted as a regular character on Wikipedia, but only appeared in the pilot so I decided not to count her at all.
- I counted Emori as Asian because Wikipedia lists the actress’s background as partially south Asian.
- I counted Ontari as dead, although it appears that technically her body is alive (she’s braindead). Since the show expressed the philosophy that the death of a person’s brain is the same as their death, and her character will likely be, or be treated as, dead in season four, I decided to count her as such.
- The character Jones is listed on IMDB as appearing in four episodes, but as the fourth appearance was as a minor character in a flashback and his character was minor in his previous appearances, I chose not to count him.