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06 May 2014 @ 11:36 am
YA and violence  
So, a friend of mine told me to check out the show on the the CW called The 100. In some ways it is your typical CW YA show - beautiful young people interacting amidst a dramatic SF backdrop. In other ways, however, it introduces a lot of adult themes and darker material. It does a lot of questioning about morality, both among the younger characters on Earth, and the adult characters up on the Ark. It deals with things like post traumatic stress, bullying, and murder. The same themes run through both storylines, but are perhaps even darker or more immediate among the younger crowd, because they are younger.

I just finished episode 3, for example, and a 13 year-old-girl just committed out and out murder. She was having nightmares, because she watched her parents get "floated" (a euphemism for throwing them out an airlock up on the Ark) and she can't stop seeing the face of the man who ordered it to happen (the Chancellor). Every crime, nor matter how small, is a capital crime on the Ark, because they have limited space, limited air supply, and they need it to last long enough for the Earth to become habitable again. So there are no exceptions: commit a crime, and you die. If you are younger than 18, you get put in a cell until you are 18, and thus old enough to float without eating too much at the morals of those making these decisions. Population control is paramount. Each family is allowed only one child. One of the characters was a second child, a girl her family hid beneath the floorboards of their living quarters until she was discovered, and her mother was floated for disobeying the law, while she was thrown in juvie jail until she could grow old enough to turn 18 so TPTB could correct the mistake of her birth.

So this is a pretty harsh place to grow up. I think every single character has some form of PTSD. The kids have been sent to Earth because they were all doomed to die when they turned 18 anyway, and the Ark is running out of air. They need to test the surface and find out if radiation levels are still lethal, so they take 100 juvenile prisoners and send them to the surface in a dropship that is almost 100 years old. These are people for whom callous and cold have become standard operating procedure, by necessity of survival.

Anyway, back to Charlotte, the 13 year-old-girl who committed murder. The son of the man who ordered her parents' deaths is planet side with her. And when she wakes up from nightmares every time she falls asleep, a well meaning member of the older crowd tells her she can stop the nightmares if she slays her demons while she's awake. Unfortunately, Charlotte takes this literally. She also witnesses a mercy killing that same day. One of the kids gets eaten by acid fog and is dying painfully. He begs for someone to put him out his misery, and the girl acting as the resident doctor (her mother actually is one) sings to him and mercifully stabs him in the neck with a knife to end his suffering.

Later, Charlotte does the same thing to the son of the man who killed her parents. It is a horrifying moment, and is meant to be. It is also just one among many. Perhaps the worst I have seen thus far, but we're only 3 episodes in! It really makes me think. YA books and shows seem to be getting darker. More adult, both in graphic content and themes. It makes me wonder if this is necessarily a good thing, or if it is simply a product of the times, in which kids and teens have access to whatever they want online, and products aimed at them are becoming increasingly adult.

kistha on May 7th, 2014 01:18 am (UTC)
Good question, and I'm not sure I have an answer. Also have to run to dance class....
KayJayUUkayjayuu on May 7th, 2014 04:51 am (UTC)
You know, once upon a time this would have bothered me. I mean, I wouldn't want my child watching something like that, and I'm not sure I would watch it either.

But I think about those two hundred school girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria and... well. If the CW is the worst of our parental concerns in certain neighborhoods, we've got it pretty smooth. I'll stop short of saying FWP, but the rest of the world is still a very rough place to grow up, including much of our own country.

But yeah, not sure it has to be glorified. We should strive to be better.