Sacrificed for drama and the male agenda: underrated female characters on The 100. Harper McIntyre Edition.
by Gabby F. @nightxcourt on Twitter.
I would like to make it clear before delving in to the discussion, that this is not a criticism on Chelsey’s Reist’s acting or Harper, but rather the poor and problematic material giving to Reist. Additionally, this post is not an attack on the male characters of the series – particularly Jasper and Monty, who I love dearly – but, as stated above, the shoddy writing. I hope this is clear throughout the post.
Harper McIntyre, played by the terrific Chelsey Reist, was a regular character on the CW’s The 100 for the first, second, third, fourth and fifth seasons. Harper was one of the 100 delinquents sent to Earth (102, if we’re counting Bellamy and Raven) to see if it was survivable.
From the beginning, Harper had the promise of being a formidable character. She was a young woman, sent down to Earth, fighting for her survival. Yet, as early as her first appearance in season 1, episode 10, ‘I Am Become Death’, she is there to prop up the male ego. In a scene with Jasper, she asks him:
“Jasper, tell us again, how did you stay so calm? I would have been terrified!” to which Jasper, seeing the opportunity, cockily replies, “Fear is only a problem if you let it stop you, right?”
Harper then later follows Jasper into his tent, flirting with him. Jasper denies her, because he’s high on his new level of notoriety, and Harper sulks off. Last week I ranted – sorry, calmly discussed – how Jason Rothenberg, the producer of the show, insists that the show never has been, or never will be, about ships. (No, I will not get over this anytime soon. Thanks for asking.) Then tell me, Jason, what was the point of introducing Harper?
Sure, Harper serves more purpose than this in the first season. She also works as a gunner, defending the Dropship. As do a ton of others, unnamed women. My issue with how they’ve written Harper – throughout the series, not just in season 1 – is that it is inconsistent. Harper being a survivor, a fighter, and a loving girlfriend? Sure. I stan. But The 100 fails to write her as all three, all the time.
Moreover, if the show is about survival and not about ships, why introduce Harper in the backend of season 1 to immediately act as a love interest to Jasper, and later, Monty?
Let’s not mention how later on, as Harper is guarding the Dropship from the grounder attacks, she runs out of bullets. She tells this to Jasper, who has the epiphany that this has to be a trap. Once again, Harper has been used to push the male character in to the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jasper, and yes, Harper was a side-character, but moments like this from the first series built the foundation that the rest of Harper’s character was built on.
Later on in season 2, Harper started to become more of her own character, voicing her opinions. She tells Jasper no, when he asks her – and the rest of the 47 – to participate in the treatments. Seeing Harper take a step from that girl in season one who fawned over Jasper, to taking a firm stance was wonderful. And later, she takes her place among Miller, Monty and Jasper conspiring and planning for their freedom. She later assists Monty on disabling the door to the presidents office, although I do note that Jasper a) only congratulates Monty (yes, he did most of the disabling – but really) and then puts her on lookout duty because he’s the ‘mastermind’, Miller ‘the thief’ and Monty is ‘good with computers.’
Throughout the rest of season two, Harper is subjected to the treatments – torture – and is placed in a cell next to Monty’s. When Monty is captured and begins asking her what happened, she tells him that they built ’47 [cages] . . . one for each of us.’
It is then, during one of Harper’s treatment sessions that the camera pans to Monty, as he begs for the doctor to stop. The president then comes in, demanding the doctor ‘step away from that girl.’
And for me, this is where it becomes complicated. Like okay, this is Harper’s storyline – it is about her trying to survive in Mount Weather against the brutality of the Mountain Men, and this season does begin to flesh out her relationships with the rest of the 47 and Harper’s personality. And yes, she is a side character, so not much screen time is devoted to her because ultimately, this is not her story.
But then, on the other hand, how is it the show manages to write her so inconsistently within a short space of time? This is not me attacking female characters being in relationships, or lusting after boys – not at all. It is me being irritated, and upset, that the only thing the writers could do consistently was use Harper for the sake of drama. The consequence of this is that to me, she never felt multifaceted, or realistic, but simply . . . just there.
After this, the moment which the President storms in to stop the treatment and Monty was begging for it to stop, things change. Monty and Harper become more romantic. So it seemed that the writers decided to switch Harper from being Jaspers follower, to Monty’s.
And that sounds insulting to say. Because in many ways, Harper stands on her own as a character. But mostly, she’s there for Monty’s sake.
Again, this is where the conversation on side and recurring characters comes in. Monty is one of the main characters, so he has more of his own plot and storyline, which Harper is a part of. However, is this really an excuse for letting Harper seem like her only point on the show is to serve Monty, the male? Is this what we want to see represented on our tv screens? And while I will not be discussing it explicitly in this post (maybe a later one), part the issue with the storytelling of The 100 as a whole and Harper’s characterisation, is the fact that The 100 has too many characters, too many storylines, and too little time which results in so many elements being written poorly.
(Also don’t you just love it when shows always have gratuitous violence against women.)
(I also particulary love the moment when Miller, whose had just as much experience as Harper with guns, tells her to be careful when shooting it. I don’t think she’s that dumb, Miller.)
To avoid being here forever, I won’t deep dive in to every scene of every season that Harper is in. What is notable for me from season three, is that Harper becomes one of the guards for Arkadia, along with characters such as Bellamy and Lincoln. I loved this. I was afraid, after the events of season one and two, that they were going to side-line Harper to nothing more than Monty’s girlfriend who occasionally appears to give him reassurance (season 5, I’m coming for you).
Harper showed more of her rebellious side in season three, actively taking sides in the internal conflict between SkyKru, choosing to side against Kane and Bellamy (and Monty), and instead with Kane. She voices that they should ‘shock-lash Pike’s fascist ass’, serving her own interests in her community. Finally. (I love that she plays a part in the surveillance and scheming, like yes girl.)
What I also appreciate is that season 3 explores multiple sides of Harper’s personality. I think, out of all seasons, it is the best written for her character. She’s a rebel – standing up for what she believes in. She has her own plotline aside from her romance, voicing her own political opinions. We see Harper be caring, as she is supportive of all her friends, as a confidante. And eventually, her relationship with Monty comes to fruition.
Harper remains strong in season four, once again, siding against Monty. He wants so save the machine from the Ice Nation, whereas Harper favours saving the slaves. To me, this was an indicator that the show was moving in the right direction regarding Harper’s characterisation: just because she was in a relationship with Monty now, does not mean she has to sacrifice her own belief.
However, while in this instance she was not sacrificed to the male agenda, was she to the dramatic plot line? Once again, I echo back to my sentiments last week and the show not being about ships (specifically, romance). Yet, the show seems to constantly be focusing mostly on Harper’s (and other side characters, ahem, Raven, ahem, Emori) love life for her main plot line. Which, cool. But how come the male characters, side characters or not, are allowed more than one plot point at a time? And why are their sole plot lines never about romance?
I think season 4, while still criminally underrating Harper, continued with her legacy of a headstrong, yet loving, caring friend and person. I feel like, as the continuation from season three, she finally began to feel like her own character.
I feel like the poor handling to the end of her season four arc, with wanting to die in Praimfaya, should be in another post. It is not that I want to avoid the conversation, but The 100 mishandles mental illness in so many ways and I feel like a whole post should be dedicated to discussing the harmful representation and impact that has on audiences as it simply can’t be summed up within a few paragraphs.
Harper does change her mind and decides to go with Monty, instead of staying behind at Arkadia and waiting out the death wave. Again, this is a whole other conversation to explore, but ultimately instead of choosing to die Harper’s love for Monty encourages her to live.
While Harper has never had much screen time, even as her position as a side-character, she has been on the show consistently for four years. Yet, in season five, her screen time is minimal. And the time she did have? It made me question what was the point of her character. And look, I really liked Harper, but throughout each and every episode I began to question her purpose. She did not add anything that one of the many other characters (also with lacking plot-lines) could have added. While I think Harper being caring and loving is a great and admirable trait in anyone which shouldn’t be diminished, they ultimately made her extremely passive, to, once again, feed the male agenda. This time? So that at the end of the season, she could become the perfect little wife-y Eve to Monty’s Adam.
Honestly, pretty much every episode I cheered when Harper had a line. It felt like an amazing achievement. Once again, too many characters . . . not enough time. Maybe I should rename this article the ‘characters that were sacrificed to poor plot structure’??
Harper states to Monty in season five that:
“Everyone dies Monty, let’s show them how to live.”
And Monty echoes this statement in his final scenes, telling Bellamy and Clarke, and the rest of the survivors to,
And guess what? Bellamy, Clarke, the rest of SpaceKru take this on board. They talk about Monty and how he wanted them to do better. Never Harper. Never Harper who also survived the grounders, the moutain men, lived with them in space for nearly seven years, who dedicated her life to Monty and seeing that their friends – people she classed as family – found a place to call home. Heck, most of the characters never even mention her. Maybe she was a side-character to us, but in show canon, and from what the writers like to tell us, this people had a close bond.
So where is that evident?
It’s not. Harper lived and her legacy died with Monty. While Monty’s lived on. And that’s an injustice.
Harper McIntyre deserved better.
So, in conclusion:
The show isn’t about ships, unless you’re Harper. And then really, your only use is to serve a romantic plot line or to prop up your male counterparts. Additionally, because the show has too many characters, too many plots, and too little time, what little screen time Harper had was minimal and did nothing to develop her backstory/character as much as it could’ve, if the show only decided to spend time on already established characters etc.
Harper’s characterisation is often centred solely around the male agenda and scarifying her for the drama, mostly because the show has too many characters and too little time.
Harper McIntyre and Chelsey Reist deserved better. (I mean, really Jason?? You couldn’t even tell her she was being killed off of the show to her face?)
That concludes todays blog post. Harper McIntyre, you were criminally underrated. You deserved your own storyline as much as the rest.
(Once again, I am posting this at 3.30 in the morning. This is unedited. I’ll probably disagree with myself tomorrow. But yes. I love Harper and thought she could’ve been such an amazing complex female character but ultimately the writers did not care about her).