Further thoughts on The 100

The 100 is a tv series, now in its second season. The premise is that, some time after a nuclear conflict makes Earth uninhabitable, the orbiting station containing the last of humanity is failing. The adults on the station send one hundred teenage criminals and political prisoners to Earth to see if the planet can now sustain life.

Hijinx ensue.

I mostly like this show. It’s a CW show, so everyone is unbelievably pretty and nearly every conversation is held in urgent hushed tones. There are factions and conspiracies and secrets and shifting allegiances, and it’s all INTENSELY melodramatic. (I happen to adore the CW’s commitment to its niche. It knows what it has going for it and it COMMITS. I admire that.) I appreciate the way the characters actually grow and change and adapt to new situations. I appreciate the set and costume design a great deal. I truly admire whoever is responsible for Wound and Gore Continuity, because that person is kept busy.

I have a couple of quibbles.

1. These kids, these teenagers, they are third generation space-bred, at least. Yes, artificial gravity, sure. But these kids are RIPPED. They are thick with muscle. How? Why? What are they eating, up on the Ark? We are told, repeatedly, that the Ark is short of absolutely everything. Everything is rationed. No one can be born without someone else dying, essentially. How do they all get to be so gorgeously fit, with no nutritional deficiencies?

2. These kids, the get to the ground and suddenly they know how to DO all these outdoorsy skills. Now, I spent a certain amount of my childhood wilderness camping. I *know* how hard it is to get firewood all day, to keep anything dry or clean. I know how tricky it is to find food, to prepare edible things from just-barely-not-alive foods. You can read about it all you like, but that still doesn’t mean you can DO the thing. Reading about juggling does not make you a juggler. Practice does. Reading about fire-starting does not give you a fire. Practice does. These kids, they can ride HORSES, dammit.

3. Why are they not all getting pregnant? You cannot expect me to believe that these incredibly healthy kids, upon being freed from parental and societal constraints, are not having a LOT of sex. A. Lot. Of. Sex. And they have no forms of birth control that we are told about. Now, it’s possible that they all have some sort of science-y reversible sterilization, chemical or surgical, that was done as a matter of course up on the Ark. But if so, I would like to hear someone MENTION it. Make it a plot point! Like, later on, the tools for reversing it are no longer available, and the Sky People are all sterile. Or, make it a plot point that the chemical birth control starts failing. Something, people! Give me something!

4. All these people — Sky People, Grounders, Mountain Men — ALL of them are wasteful of irreplaceable resources. They cut ropes instead of untying them. They tear things, throw things away. This makes no kind of sense, especially when we see Grounders homes and villages and clothing — they ostensibly re-use everything. So why are they dramatically cutting ropes? Why are they not reacting in horror when the Sky People throw something away? And why would the Sky People throw ANYTHING away in the first place? We are told that absolutely everything on the Ark was recycled. These people, adults and teens, would all be relentless reclaimers and recyclers. Their very existence has depended on reuse for generations.

***

Quibbles aside, I do enjoy this show. I very much appreciate that the teens are mostly portrayed as serious adult characters. With different experiences than their parents, sure, but competent and capable.

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3 Responses

  1. I’m obsessively watching my way through The 100 atm, started 10 days ago and I’m up to 2.12. And I’m spending a lot of time trying to analyse why it’s working so well on me. Yeah, my genres, and yeah, I often love YA, and yeah what you said about it being a CW show and all that means.

    I have a mental “X doesn’t work that way” list going on, which includes gravity, mutation, cultural change, language*, radiation (OMG radiation DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY), evolution, blood transfusions, head injuries, and plenty more.

    Also I’m not sure using mind controlled cannibalistic drug addicts is a very effective way to collect prisoners, but whatever.

    I’m also having al sorts of thoughts about the demographics on the ARK. 97 years is not long. You don’t go from 400 to 2400 by starting with a one child policy, so presumably the first couple of generations born up there had a bunch of siblings (we’re the last people left alive, we need more people if we’re going to survive), so while everyone is in a one child nuclear family now, there should be some interesting kinship networks based on having had a lot of great uncles and aunts and singleton second and third cousins – it’s a similar change that much of western society has gone through recently – my grandmother was one of ten but my mother and I are only children, I have no siblings and cousins but a bunch of more removed cousins. But the only time we’ve heard a reference to kinship other than parent-child (and Bellamy and Octavia) has been to Monty’s family running the hydroponics giving him both horticulture knowledge and computer skills.

    That one child policy makes the 100 incredibly precious, so I have trouble believing they managed to lock so many of them up, let alone the secretly shipping them to earth, but repressive regime run by seemingly enlightened, liberal valued councilors, check. Not so different to current governments, and Clarke ad Wells aside it was mostly the working class kids getting locked up.

    But to have 100 13-17 year olds in lock up (did they build that prison? Surely they’d have only had small brigs on any 20-80 people space stations,so likely they were quarters on one station, maybe for workers building part of a space station or doing whatever work had developed that was best done in space? Which makes conversion into a prison interesting – it’s presumably fairly easy to make space station rooms lockable from outside only, but making the systems inside the rooms non-tamperable could conceivably be harder, lots of room for fic about prison life on the Ark), presumably only a percentage of all the 13-17 year olds on the Ark, you kind of need to be having short generations and you get a strong suggestion that there aren’t many elderly people on the Ark for the demographics to work. This is supported by central casting and the tendency for any woman over 40 to be old in Hollywood terms (and more so in CW terms, because anyone over 30 is old when your a teen anyway, so they might as well use photogenic 40 year olds for anyone who is in a parental generation or older?) And I’m overstating here, because I just went and checked IMDB and the council members on the Ark are played by actors in their 50s uniformly, male and female. But I’m pretty sure Kane’s mother is the only person we’ve seen older than that, I’m really inclined to headcanon that they float most of the elderly or strongly encourage them to stop using resources. (why float people, wasting oxygen, clothing and the organics of their bodies, surely better recycled into the systems!?!) Alternatively space is hard on bodies and they just don’t tend to survive that long. Obviously future earth had solved the gravity problem, seemingly by rotating space stations, but was it full gravity? Was it the same everywhere on all the stations? Or only where people mostly lived and worked, were there places where you weren’t in gravity as you moved between them? But all we saw was gravity inside and non gravity outside when space walking. And we’re back to your question about where those teens from space got those ripped bodies from, especially after being confined in cells for a year or so. (it also helps to have a 25 year old body not a 16 year old body of course). I think when the kids reach Mt Weather they actually talk about having been constantly on food restriction, especially while imprisoned. I’d expect these space kids to have either small stature from general food restriction, or obesity from carbs maybe being easier to grow in space than protein, or as you said some unusual deficiencies because the stations ran out of certain elements to add to the growth cycles for the hydroponics. It would have been lovely to see little touches of how the station prevented these – the exercise routines for small spaces, the sameness of the food being broken up be particular additions to prevent things.

    Also culture and language.You’ve got people from 12 countries who think they are the last of their people left. While there’s probably plenty of standardisation in their approach to science and spacefaring and other tech, and we’re obviously going to go with English as the shared language for this audience, you’d still think there’d be some fairly fierce attempts to hold onto language and culture and beliefs drilled into their offspring even if subsequent generations saw it as less important.But all we get is a white woman with a bonsai tree and some new agey proclamations about returning to Earth.

    And absolutely everything you said about wasting stuff. It’s not just the kids of the 100, who might be rebellious over being locked up for wasting stuff, when the guard member ripped Abby’s shirt so she could “lash” her with the cattle prod, I was “Whhhyyyy?” It’s a miracle they still had mass manufactured clothes on the Ark, I can’t believe they’d tear anything.

    So why am I loving it so much? Mostly the female characters – what they are doing with Clarke is really working for me, and Octavia and Raven too. The CW’s created a world where women are just as valid as leaders as men (possibly more so – are the Grounder reincarnated leaders always women? we see Grounder men leading smaller groups but I after Anya and Indra I was not surprised when Lexa turned out to be the Commander (although I did already know she was story important, because femslash fandom). If the Grounder conception of a leader is a young, battle tempered woman, then it’s not surprising they’re were prepared to see Clarke as the 100 leader, and the men from the Ark as envoys not leaders) and I’ve loved seeing the people from the Ark starting to realise whose actually leading them too.

    I initially found the level of violence and high stakes difficult, it’s Walking Dead level of survival violence without the conveniently mindless foes, but the growing conversation it’s having with itself about killing to survive and ingroup and outgroup and who you try to save versus sacrifice is sometimes very well done. And there’s been virtually no sexual violence, the Octavia kidnapping thing had some moments ( I saw someone refer to it as Stockholm Syndrome) but although I know the universality of rape in war I much prefer not to have to keep seeing it the way TV usually portrays it.

    Even some of the racially problematic things seem less so than to start with. I’ll accept the racial make up of the grounders vs mountainmen as a commentary on who near DC was left to survive outside vs who got to go into bunkers, though the deaths of young black males in the100 seems tv supporting character business as usual.

    Anyway, sorry for dumping this huge screed in your blog, my brain has been chewing away a lot this week.

    *I did read the wiki about the decisions made for why and how the grounders quickly developed a slang based language the mountainmen wouldn’t be able to understand,and I’m actually prepared to give them that one.

  2. AHHHHH THANK YOU.

    Yes yes yes a thousand times yes.

    Those are ALL things I ponder while I watch this show, and now I’m entirely caught up and YES.

    I especially agree with you about cultural expectations of leadership. The Grounders expect women to be leaders. And the Grounder healer is a GUY. How interesting! The Mountain Men expect old white men to be leaders. The Sky People expect middle-aged people to be leaders. It’s interesting!

  3. There’s so much to ponder!

    I also have thoughts on Grounder demographics (very high birth rate, not that they’ve shown enough village life to back that up) and education systems on the Ark too (combination modern curriculum, possibly given in a more home school/small class manner and maybe computer mediated, alongside an apprentice system for the jobs on the Ark – hence why Clarke already has some medical skills before being imprisoned, and Raven is already a skilled mechanic applying for next level training at age 18.

    Just watched 2.14, now wondering if we get underwater cities next.

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