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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Woman of the Month: Lexa


Lexa from The 100
I recently reblogged a Tumblr post that simply stated: "Y'all want complex female characters until you actually GET them."
It neatly sums up fandom's response to Lexa, the young Commander of the Grounder tribes who is either a heartbroken racoon or a manipulative bitch depending on who you think Clarke Griffin should be shipped with. As it always does, the truth to her characterization lies somewhere in the middle of these extremes, and it's the pity the ongoing shipping wars are undermining what is one of the most fascinating female characters on television in recent years.
Lexa has been groomed since childhood as the future leader of her people, and since ascending to that role has managed to unite all twelve clans into an unprecedented Coalition – and that's before the audience even meets her. We first see Lexa when she's pretending to be a meek and mild servant girl, integrating herself among two potential enemies to gather information about what their true intentions are, and when her true identity is revealed we're left just as flummoxed as her prisoners.
From that point on we see her as a competent and even brutal leader, though her softer side is explored at the same time her sexuality is introduced: in a conversation with Clarke she discloses her personal history with a girl called Costia, captured and killed by the Ice Nation. It's a backstory which neatly explains her "love is a weakness" mentality, but also serves as a starting point for her walls to start coming down ... at least until her duty to her people once again takes precedence.
It's this ongoing tension within Lexa between her head and heart that makes her so compelling, and her relationship with Clarke so volatile. A lot of this is down to Alycia Debnam-Carey's incredible performance as a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders, her expressive eyes the only window into what she's actually feeling at any given moment: steely resolve or desperate vulnerability.
I know very well that she's a controversial character in fandom, but screw it – I think she's one of the show's best characters. The scenes in which she drops her stoic fa├žade and expresses genuine emotion are riveting, as are the scenes in which she's in full-blown Commander-mode, glaring out at the world through war-painted eyes. Though I certainly don't want the rest of the cast to be short-changed, I also dare to hope that somehow the show finds a way to upgrade her from guest star to regular.

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