Friday, August 14, 2015

Character Appreciation Post: Raven Reyes ("The 100") [Guest Poster: Isabella]

For me, Raven Reyes is the definition of a strong female character. And no, I don't mean Hulk-like, scary-thick-muscles-strong. I mean a female character that has had to face so much and despite all of it (which I will get to in a little bit) she emerges stronger emotionally.

I was scared with how the audience would perceive Raven when she was first introduced to the Ground. On the Ark in Season 1, she was simply a mechanic doing her work, helping Abby try to reach Clarke on the Ground. It wasn't until she touched the small origami necklace Finn had made her that a little trepidation seeped in. Ah, yes. The dreaded love triangle. Let me preface and say that not all love triangles are bad; I like my fair share of them if they're treated correctly. But because this is a CW show and The CW has failed me before as a young'un, I didn't know what to expect (curse you, Gossip Girl for ruining me emotionally). Love triangle aside, Raven herself ends up fixing a small dropship that she intends to get to the Ground in. (Don't even get me started on how intelligent she is; this is just the beginning.)

So when Raven came down and kissed Finn in front of Clarke, my heart froze. I was truly terrified that people were going to hate Raven because she was getting in the way of the Flarke ship (which, for the record, is incredibly messed up to hate the character that has no idea that her boyfriend was even cheating on her in the first place.) Luckily for me, there seemed to be a consensus among the audience to dislike FINN and to actually appreciate Raven as a character for the good she could do around camp, all the while hoping that she and Clarke would develop a friendship. (Granted, there are a few people that still hate Raven for getting in the way of their ship, which I will never understand.)

The Clarke/Raven relationship has been a slightly rocky, complicated one that's been growing and developing for a solid two seasons now. Although this show subverts that typical "rival relationship between two girls who are going after the same guy," trope, it sort of begins that way. 

And you know... I don't think that's a bad thing at all. In fact, wouldn't you be sort of pissed off that your boyfriend was sleeping around with someone else after only a few days of being without you? And what I like so much about Raven is that she automatically figures out that there's something amiss when Clarke begins to avoid her. Raven actively goes out of her way to try to make friends with Clarke just because she wants to be. So when Clarke seems to be off-put by the idea of a friendship, Raven makes it her mission to find out what's wrong. And find out she does.

When Raven confronts Clarke about sleeping with her boyfriend, that's when her vulnerabilities are on full display. Because despite being a character who brings the sass and fierceness when she needs to (like when Bellamy drops their only form of communication into the river), Raven is still emotional. And what I love most of all is that there is absolutely no shame in her in showing her emotions. She doesn't feel the need to put up a "mean" guard in front of Clarke when she's asking about Finn, but rather, she asks her straightforward, with tears in her eyes, if Clarke loves him. Now, this is what I mean about strong female characters. 

Jenn brought it up very beautifully in her character appreciation post on Felicity: "A strong woman simply means a layered and flawed woman." This is where we're finally starting to see the cracks in Raven's exterior. If The 100 had continued to show her as only the sassy intelligent girl who fixes things when they need fixing, there wouldn't be much substance to that. We need more.

And so, in a very understandable way, Raven tries her best to get Finn to love her back again, like he used to. This is where her stubbornness kicks in because all she's known her entire life has been to be #1 at practically anything. Raven said, "I used to be picked first for everything. Earth skills. Zero-G mech course. First... every time." So when she isn't picked first by Finn, she still tries her hardest to be picked by him. It's a very frustrating situation for her to not be able to succeed, but she perseveres. And even then, she knows when to give up and care for herself. Raven never once retaliates at Clarke because she understands that the situation they're in is not Clarke's fault. She knows that even after Clarke and Finn have separated and aren't a couple anymore, Clarke can't control what Finn feels for her. 

This is what threw me for a loop and made me so grateful for a show like The 100. You expect the girls to "catfight" it out over a man, because that's how the trope ordinarily resolves. But instead of that, a true friendship blossomed. Although Finn didn't pick Raven first, Clarke would.


As for season 2, the appreciation and care Raven and Clarke have for each other is tested when Clarke has to make the difficult decision to kill Finn. Even though Finn did cheat on Raven, that in no way lessens her now-familial feelings for him. In a flashback depicting Raven as the true spacewalker, we get a glimpse into how Finn sacrificed himself so that Raven could enjoy some spacewalking. The flashback also depicted their lives before the Ground and how Finn truly is Raven's only family.

So when Clarke kills Finn even after telling Raven nothing would happen to him, it's a huge blow for Raven. Her reaction and her screams when she sees that Finn is dead actually made me --  definitely not a Finn enthusiast -- pity the fact that he was dead for the entirety of that scene. This broke Raven. We thought we'd seen her break down when she confronted Clarke about Finn in season one, but that was minuscule compared to this. 

I also really have to give credit to Lindsey Morgan, who I haven't even mentioned for her performance until now. Forgive me. Her acting was just absolutely incredible in this scene and just further emphasized how much she makes me love Raven. Through everything Raven is, she still feels so much for so many people. Her first solitary "No" scream completely cut through me. It gave me chills. It's still very haunting to listen to and think about.

Back to Raven's relationship with Clarke, though: due to her shock and sadness, she couldn't see that what Clarke did for Finn was better than him having to endure a slow and more painful death at the hands of the Grounders. She spends a few episodes quite angry over what Clarke's done, but eventually realizes that Clarke made it easier for Finn because she cared about him. One of the characteristics I love most about Raven is the fact that she has such a warm and caring heart for everyone, especially Clarke -- especially the girl that Finn chose over her. Her ability to not let that fact affect her feelings for Clarke is so telling. Raven understands that Clarke's doing her best as a person and a leader, just like everyone else is. I mean, Raven stayed up all night outside of the med tent as soon as she heard Clarke had made it back to Camp Jaha. If that isn't love and devotion and friendship, then I don't know what is.

Once again, #LadiesSupportingLadies

Now let's talk about how smart and inventive Raven is because... let's be real, without Raven, most of the people who survived probably would not have. Here is a list of the few things Raven helped out with:

  • She gives Abby hope in going down to the Ground by telling her that the 100 aren't dying off, but they're taking their wristbands off.
  • She re-built the little ship, out of spare scraps I might add, that she took to the Ground.
  • She fixed the radio for Clarke to get in contact with Abby, thus saving Finn's life.
  • She sent a message to the Ark using crazy rockets that essentially said that the Ark didn't have to kill people to preserve oxygen, but instead, could just send everyone else on the Ground to party with the remaining teenage delinquents.
  • She blew up the bridge so that the Grounders wouldn't attack (while the rest of the 100 are throwing up blood).
  • She got the dropship to open and saved Bellamy from Murphy, while getting injured herself.
  • She's the one who devised the explosion in the season 1 finale that burned all the Grounders during the attack.
  • She came up with the idea and helped create the floating balloon at the start of season two, so Clarke could use it as a way to get back to Camp Jaha.
  • She once again used her radio communication skills to get in contact with Bellamy while he was inside of Mount Weather.
  • She, with the help of Wick, was able to both turn off the acid fog and get the door open to Mount Weather even with her injury (which I'll also touch on in a little bit).
I mean, can you imagine if Raven hadn't made it down to the Ground? So many more people would be dead if it weren't for her. There's also this gem of a quote:

She makes my heart go boom.

Apart from kicking ass and making explosions go off, Raven has a new issue she has to deal with in season 2: a disability. Following the gunshot wound Murphy inflicted as she was trying to help Bellamy escape, Raven found out that the bullet was lodged in her spine and the only way to get it out was through surgery... without the use of anesthesia. Raven doesn't even hesitate when she gives the "okay" that they can proceed with the surgery. Even after the doctors and Abby tell her that she'll be in a lot of pain, she continues to agree. She wants to have the surgery, no matter what. When it comes time to actually perform the surgery, with Finn there at her side, Raven lets her insecurities show. Once again, this show is unapologetic when it comes to feelings. The writers are realistic about them (who wouldn't cry before facing this kind of surgery?). They even encourage feelings (i.e. the entire Lexa and Clarke storyline about how "love is weakness" is false and it's okay to display emotion because it makes you human). Once again, Lindsey does such a phenomenal job as Raven that as soon as she started to cry, I did too.

Despite the pain, Raven gets through the surgery. Granted, she's terrified and she lets Finn know this, but she's resilient. She's brave. Because if she can get through it, then she can get through anything.

Now what Raven has to deal with in the aftermath of the surgery is her disability (one of her legs is completely paralyzed). She can slowly but surely walk by using a brace, but she's still understandably frustrated. Raven is angry that her body's betrayed her, even after the surgery which was meant to heal her. I feel like I can't speak on behalf of someone with a disability because I don't have one, but I did go to the San Diego Comic-Con 2015 panel in which a fan with a disability went up to the microphone and thanked Lindsey Morgan for doing such a great job at portraying someone who is crippled. I knew that Lindsey had done her fair share of research for this particular part of the role because she wanted to get it right; and in my opinion, she did. I'm particularly happy that the show was able to display both the progression of her anger regarding her body, and the commitment she has to not giving up, as shown in these two GIFs:


Although Raven Reyes continues to experience pain and brokenness, she remains resilient. She nearly gives up on herself until Wick tries to get her to believe again. She has hope. Despite everything, she still has hope. That's what's so beautiful about Raven. She takes something that she thought would be a huge hindrance to her life, something that could halt it entirely, and turns it into something that she just has to learn with. She doesn't let it consume her. She doesn't let it define who she is. She grows from her pain. When Finn is in a difficult position later in the series, she tells him, "We all have battle scars, Finn. Suck it up and build a brace for yours," which is exactly what she did and will continue to do.

Sometimes I look at Raven and think, "I have never loved a character more." She's just so incredible to me. When I mentioned strong female characters earlier, I think there are some people with the perception that opposing characteristics don't belong in one character. For example, the idea that a strong character can't be a vulnerable one. I completely disagree. It's through her emotions and intellect that Raven displays her true strength. What she does -- executing all those explosions and fixing all those radios -- isn't simply done because she can, but because she wants to: she wants to help her friends. She acts out of love for her them. Whether it's retrieving Jasper's goggles from the dropship or understanding Clarke can only do so much as their leader, Raven shows she cares. 

Raven Reyes is so many things. She is intelligent, emotional, strong, vulnerable, compassionate, and stubborn, all packaged in a girl who just wants to help.

... And, okay, maybe make things go "boom" every once in a while.


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