There are few things that make me squee like a little girl and raise my fist in the air yelling “HASHTAG FEMINISM” at the same time. The CW’s fledgling show, the 100, directed by Jason Rothenberg and based off a novel by Kass Morgan, is one of them.
Season 1 trailer
The premise of the 100 is simple: a century after the Earth is rendered inhospitable and humans are forced to live in a giant space station, 100 juvenile delinquents are sent down to Earth on a dangerous mission to determine if its survivable.
Sounds like generic teenage dystopia, right? Kinda, yeah, down to the cute guys and impeccably made-up girls, but scratch beneath the surface and the show is a lot more than that. Here are three big reasons why you should watch the 100:
1. The society depicted is one where sexism, racism, and homophobia is irrelevant.
This alone makes the 100 one of the more progressive shows I’ve watched. In a future where survival is top priority, no one gives a damn about nationalities, genders, and whatnot. You need anyone and everyone of every skill to help the group survive. Of course, there is conflict between the different civilizations trying to make post-nuclear war Earth their exclusive home: namely – the Skypeople, Grounders, and Mountain Men. But within each of these societies, racism, sexism, and homophobia are irrelevant. Especially sexism.
Powerful leaders and driving characters from each group of people include many women whose gender is never brought into question. Yes, leaders are questioned for the quality of their leadership, but gender is never the reason for anyone’s weakness. Race and ethnicity is never mentioned as a thing, and there is a diverse cast including East Asians, Latinos, blacks, whites, etc.
Perhaps one of my favourite scenes is when Lexa, Commander of the Grounders, tells the protagonist, Clarke Griffin, a story about her deceased lover, who happens to be of the same sex. Clarke, who has also recently lost a lover, doesn’t show any discernible reaction. The focus of the scene is not on the Commander “coming out” (if it can even be called that), but on the two characters’ shared experience of losing someone important to them.
2. Female leads aren’t strong because they’re buff, they’re strong because they’re smart.
My favourite character is the female protagonist, Clarke Griffin. Yes, she’s tough. Yes, she can hold a gun, aim, and fire. Just like your typical female video game character. But what sets Clarke apart is that she’s cool not because of buff kung-fu skills; she’s cool because she’s smart.
In fact, most of the series explores Clarke’s growth as a leader and the tough decisions she has to make as one. Along with that, she’s always portrayed as an intelligent person (a doctor-in-training, actually) who manages to get out of tricky situations not because she can high-kick people in the face, but because she can think things through and use logic and creativity.
Other strong female characters include the young mechanic Raven Reyes. Although she tends to let her emotions run over her logic, she’s well-respected as the youngest zero-G mechanic in 52 years. No one ever comments on her talent in science and technology in relation to her gender. She’s not “smart for a girl,” she’s just smart. And oftentimes cheeky.
(In fact her cheekiness deserves its own music video…)
Of course, there are also “buff” female characters. Octavia Blake starts out as a bit of a princess in need of her brother’s protection, but in Season 2 breaks out of this. She is determined to train as a Grounder warrior even though the process is painful and humiliating. The female Grounder Commander, Lexa, is also known for both her deft physical skills (namely knife-throwing accuracy) and leadership style based on reason rather than intimidation. There is also an interesting conflict between Clarke and her mother Abby, who is a well-respected physician and acting chancellor. Their contrasting leadership styles and decisions contribute to an interesting parent-child dynamic.
3. No black-and-white morality.
The show is set in a state of war. In Season 1, the Skypeople are at war with the Grounders, a Stone-Age style group of natives who don’t want them on their land. In Season 2, the Skypeople are challenged to forge a reluctant alliance with the Grounders to topple the Mountain Men, survivors of the nuclear apocalypse who experiment on and kill kidnapped victims from both groups.
As the story progresses, there is a theme of ethics. While the Mountain Men are portrayed as the chief antagonists, their only goal is to enable their people to survive outside their bunker in the polluted air. This is why they harvest the blood and bone marrow of Skypeople and Grounders, who have developed immunity to the pollution in their genes. While this process is cruel, they are merely doing whatever it takes to help their own people. During the war between the Grounders and the Skypeople, there are also other ethical questions such as the legitimacy of wartime murder that come to haunt the groups when an alliance is necessary to topple their common enemy.
Now, I’m not going to lie: this is a show that elicits eye-rolling for its teenagery-ness (and also ridiculously faulty science). To the eye-rollers, I say: This show was meant for a young audience, so watch it like so. I have to admit, the first season is a little awkward, childish, and slow, but the second season really picks up and the themes and tropes that develop are worth the watch.