At a time when the divide between the generations has arguably never been greater, The 100 encapsulates the struggle of millennials more than any other current show.
This article was submitted by Hypable reader Stephanie Farnsworth.
The media churns out article after article about the laziness of millennials, and then complains about how we work too hard. Millennials are branded “snowflakes” even as we struggle to pay rent and bear the consequences of the economic fall-out that we didn’t cause.
The CW drama The 100, which is entering its fourth season in February, rather bluntly captures that sense of young people paying the price of previous generations; at the beginning of the series, a council of adult politicians literally sent teenagers to a radiation-soaked earth to try to save their own society.
The pilot episode revealed the extent of the power imbalance between the generations that reflects our society today: Chancellor Jaha presented the project of ‘the hundred’ as a way for young delinquents to fulfil their duty and gain redemption, even if it cost them their lives. They were even expected to be grateful, because they’d been judged as criminals and would have been executed anyway, even for relatively petty crimes.
And as The 100 season 4 approaches, the adults’ attitudes towards the kids haven’t changed that much from the show’s premiere.
Generational conflict and tension has remained at the heart of the show throughout the series. The generational focus has not been diluted even as the world has expanded to reveal far more of the culture of the Grounders; in fact, this has only given rise to more conflict as the older members of Skaikru have struggled to accept not only the Grounders’ belief system, but the young age of their Commanders.
As the figurehead for all of the delinquents, lead character Clarke has been undermined and derided at every turn. In season 2, her own mother scoffed at the idea that Clarke and Lexa could lead their people to safety, mocking the Grounder Commander’s age and commenting, “They’re being led by a child.” It was up to Kane to point out that Skaikru were, too, because none of the adults had managed to think of a solution, and it was up to Clarke to save them.
Both Abby and Kane’s attitudes play into the infantilising of the millennial generation. Neither Clarke nor Lexa were children. They were young adults, and they were working towards making a better society where all of their people could survive while the adults were focused on internal power plays. Jaha was ready to leave the young adults in Mount Weather to die, but that’s no surprise; he’d made that decision before.
Abby couldn’t bear losing power to her own daughter, to the extent that it culminated in a scene where she assaulted Raven. The young mechanic was cool and composed in her response, pointing out that Clarke stopped being a child when Abby signed off on her daughter being sent to Earth to die.
Raven’s positioning was clear: Although not condemned by any crimes (even if she had committed the crime that Finn was convicted of), she chose to align herself with the hundred and was the one who chose to come to Earth simply to help. The younger generation, in short, pulled together, and when the older generation landed they brought down their old rules and oppression.
The consequences were overwhelming for the younger characters. They were tasked with saving everyone at the expense of any peace to their own souls. Clarke demonstrated this more than any other character and she ended up fleeing her people, unable to carry the burden of expectation they all had for her. It’s something she wrestled with throughout season 3, and with Earth facing a nuclear apocalypse again, Clarke will have to make peace — not with herself, but with how everyone else sees her if she is to survive.
Bellamy, too, will have to find his own identity. Last season, he effectively turned his back on the hundred to win the praise of Pike, and Bellamy upheld and supported his bigotry.
His part in slaughtering the Ark survivors’ 300 Grounder allies will not be easily forgotten. Bellamy wanted to be the hero. He wanted to protect people (specifically the women in his life) who never asked for that, and he wanted to be a part of the establishment.
If The 100 presents a metaphor for the real-life relationship between millennials and Gen X, Bellamy is the one wearing the rose-tinted glasses that younger people are supposed to wear when viewing an establishment that has been willing to regularly criticise later generations.
He had longed to be part of the Guard since he was a boy, and he saw a way to fulfil that old dream and become part of an order that had caused his entire family so much suffering. Bellamy was never quite the hundred: He was older, and his sole concern initially had been protecting his sister. It was easier for him to flit between the different groups within Skaikru than it was for any of the rest of the hundred.
After the events of last season, however, Bellamy now knows the pain he’s caused by his choices. And in season 4, he will have to choose exactly who to put his faith in: Clarke or the old order?
But maybe, in light of the external threat that now threatens humanity’s survival, the two generations will finally be able to pull together. There have been many hints that Clarke and Jaha will find some common ground this season due to the pressures they are facing, and Jaha knows well the cost of leading. Through Clarke, we will see whether lessons can be learned from the mistakes of the generation before.
Octavia once accused Clarke of being just like the council by deciding who was worthy of life. Clarke now must show whether she will follow that path or whether she can be better. The millennial dream of whether we can learn from the repression and conservatism of the past will be on trial in The 100 season 4, as we see just how Clarke plans to lead her friends into this new battle.