Raven Reyes: Dealing With Disability

Warning: This post contains SPOILERS for season one of The 100 and the first few episodes of season two. It also contains lots of screaming and fangirling over the most badass lady from the Ark: Raven Reyes.

When we first meet Raven, she is floating through space to repair some vital part of the spaceship she calls home. That’s right: Raven Reyes is amongst the most talented mechanics on the Ark: busting stereotypes since 2148.

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In fact, Raven is such an amazing mechanic that she gets a 130 year old escape pod to launch her down to earth to check up on her boyfriend Finn. By the time she gets down there, Finn is already getting it on with Clarke, which sucks. But unlike the stereotypical victim of the teenager love triangle, Raven doesn’t declare war on Clarke. Thank God, because I have never seen anything as immature as the Edward/Jacob pissing contest in Twilight. Instead, she breaks up with Finn and proves herself to be a fierce, independent woman.

But because life isn’t fair, that isn’t the last of the setbacks Raven has to deal with: she gets a bullet lodged in her spine and loses the use of one of her legs. It’s terrible. Sure, it’s better than dying. It’s better than losing both your legs. It’s better than a lot of things, but for Raven, it is the worst.

I have written before on fictional characters with disabilities. In my last post on this subject I have mostly focussed on a toxic portrayal of the disabled, a.k.a  Will Traynor. Raven is the exact opposite. Of course, when she loses the use of her leg it’s a terrible blow. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have enjoyed a fully functional body your whole life and then to suddenly have to face a disability.

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The suffering is what The 100 gets exactly right. They show their audience that coming to terms with the limitations of your body is a terrible thing to have to do. Raven is bitter, at first, and it makes perfect sense: under her circumstances, she deserves to be bitter. She wallows, childishly and extensively. It’s a perfectly understandable reaction.

 

After the wallowing, after physical therapy and after  a very hot guy builds her a leg brace,  Raven rediscovers the powerful force of her spirit. Within the limitations of her new body, she continues to kick some ass. This is the kind of representation I, as a disabled person, would love to see more of on TV and in media as a whole. I know The 100, as a show, has its flaws, but they got this particular aspect exactly right. Chapeau.

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