Saturday, 18 October 2014

Feminism and The 100 - part one

The 100 - a teen drama full of gorgeous people, carefully crafted settings, a lot of drama, and a good dash of romance? Well, yes. But somewhere along the way, as I watched season one of The 100, I realised it's also something more.

Somehow, The 100 went from being a piece of dystopian fun (I use the word fun loosely) to being a teen show that totally rocks it on gender equality and its presentation of females. Not only does The 100 present women as powerful, it also presents them as equal, and that, my friends, is what feminism is all about.

Feminism is often misunderstood, with people thinking that it's about women wanting to supersede men, to somehow be better than them, and for men to be under their command. But it's not, or at least not for me, and I think not for The 100. Feminism is about equality, about men and women being treated the same, offered the same opportunities, and criticised in the same way.

Season two of The 100 is about to hit our screens, so here's a quick look at how this seemingly popcorn show is one of the most gender balanced, feminist programmes currently on television (in my opinion), which is all down to the writers, directors and so on. Warning, I'm not a scholar of feminism, so these are just my opinions. And another warning, spoilers for season one ahead...

Leading the way
Where better to start for The 100 when it comes to feminism than with its leaders?

The Ark is officially ruled by a male, Counsellor Jaha, and his deputy is also a male, Kane. But while these two men are the current figureheads on the Ark, there are plenty of women who are equal in stature to them, even if they don't hold official titles.

Firstly there is Abby. She takes on the role of healer, but her brand of healing is highly scientific, and she is the brains on the Ark. She is logical, respected, daring and honourable - all qualities needed in a leader. It is Abby who many people on the Ark look to for help, including both Jaha and Kane. Abby holds power in her hands constantly throughout The 100 - one of the first times we see her is when she is literally holding power in her hands as she saves Jaha's life. Kane and Jaha are both in charge, but each throughout the show turn to Abby for help and advice. I think there's an argument that Kane and Jaha both see Abby as their leader, after all, she's the only one who had complete faith in The 100. And, as if you needed any more confirmation that Abby is both first woman and leader of the Ark, take a look at her final scenes - of the "adults" to land on the earth in the final episode, it is Abby who is first to step out of the ship and "onto" earth, she is Adam, while Kane, who follows her up, is Eve.

Then there is former chancellor Diana, who leads us to discover that the Ark is not a patriarchal society. She is powerful in a different way to Abby, commanding an army of rebels, and acting like a military leader. She's ultimately tougher than both Kane and Jaha, who are, I think, intimidated by her because she has the ear of the people. I've previously spoken about how I think Diana is named after the Roman goddess of childbirth, nature and fertility - her followers are her children (more on motherhood later), they increase as more people on the Ark become dissatisfied with their way of life, and she will lead them out of the steel and science of the Ark and back to the natural earth.
And on the Ark, Abby, while not being the elected leader, clearly has the ear of her peers. Her motherhood is celebrated, and her emotions and passion lead her to make good decisions, they're not something to be ashamed of. Dodgy Diana is slightly more of a typical female villain, cold and calculating and hard-nosed, but even she has layers. Also, note how all Dodgy Diana's acolytes are men. There's an argument here for Dodgy Diana being named after Diana, the Roman goddess of childbirth, nature and fertility - after all, Dodgy Diana's aim in the time we've known her has been to lead a crew of people down to earth (nature) to repopulate and resettle. And she's always referred to her crew as "my people" - does she see them as children of a sort? Diana was also the moon-goddess, and, well, Dodgy Diana lives on a space station above earth, a bit like the moon. - See more at: http://girlreporter.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=diana+goddess#sthash.LlnbENOB.dpuf
And on the Ark, Abby, while not being the elected leader, clearly has the ear of her peers. Her motherhood is celebrated, and her emotions and passion lead her to make good decisions, they're not something to be ashamed of. Dodgy Diana is slightly more of a typical female villain, cold and calculating and hard-nosed, but even she has layers. Also, note how all Dodgy Diana's acolytes are men. There's an argument here for Dodgy Diana being named after Diana, the Roman goddess of childbirth, nature and fertility - after all, Dodgy Diana's aim in the time we've known her has been to lead a crew of people down to earth (nature) to repopulate and resettle. And she's always referred to her crew as "my people" - does she see them as children of a sort? Diana was also the moon-goddess, and, well, Dodgy Diana lives on a space station above earth, a bit like the moon. - See more at: http://girlreporter.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=diana+goddess#sthash.LlnbENOB.dpuf

There are a host of smaller female characters on the Ark who are no less important than Abby and Diana - Kane's mother, Vera, who acts as Kane's conscience, and whose death propels Kane to become a much better person; Raven, who I'll discuss more later; and Nigel, who obviously has what we consider to be a man's name and is clearly the leader of the Ark's version of the mafia/underworld, a role in any other show which would have gone to a male.

On the ground, of course there is Clarke. She is the female leader of The 100, while Bellamy is the male leader, but it's not a case of a king whose queen sits at his right hand, or the other way round. Clarke is a leader in every sense of the word, and is more than a match for Bellamy. The two share equal footing, although it is Clarke that acts rationally and with caution, while Bellamy often acts emotionally - a switch from the usual male/female power dynamic. While there are people who don't like Clarke, it's rarely shown to be because of her gender - those of The 100 who resent having a woman boss them around more than get their comeuppance (alright, Murphy). There'll be more on Clarke later, and on Anya, who is our other main female leader on the ground, although her situation is quite different to Clarke's.

The triumverate
A triumverate is a group of three powerful or notable people. The first triumverate was the unofficial coalition between Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. In The 100, the triumverate is definitely seen most on the ground, and it's Clarke, Raven and Octavia, three women who bring something different to their unofficial coalition (and who could kick the backsides of Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus).

Clarke is the leader, as I've already mentioned. It is Clarke who has to make sure The 100 remain calm, and it is Clarke who provides the group as a whole with courage. She is the one in the final episodes who persuades them they need to leave to stop the Grounders attacking them, but when this fails she makes sure they stand their ground. Clarke is outwardly unafraid and inwardly cautious, making her a much more reliable leader than Bellamy, who, as previously said, is all emotion - if he's not being led by his anger, it's by his concern about Octavia (which often manifests itself as anger) or by his guilt over Octavia, his mother, or his own actions.

The problem solver of the group is Raven. She is the brains, as it were, although all three of the women are clever. From building radios to aid communication, to creating bombs and figuring out how to get Bellamy free, there is seemingly nothing Raven cannot do. There are clever men among The 100 - namely Monty and Jasper, who are book clever, and Finn and Bellamy, who are people/social clever - but Raven combines both. She is both likeable, good with people, and has scientific and book cleverness down. Raven is easily the most powerful woman on The 100, and perhaps the only one who is superior to the men (even though I maintain that The 100 is mostly about gender equality, not female superiority). Her power can be seen early on, in what seems like an innocuous scene, but actually offers us an insightful look into gender dynamics. Having arrived on earth and been reunited with her (cheating) boyfriend, Raven then proceeds to cut Finn's hair. And from then on, Finn loses arguments, only manages to hurt both Raven and Clarke, and gets kidnapped and almost killed, before finally perhaps dying in the season finale. Raven literally cuts the power out of Finn as she cuts his hair - she is Delilah and he is Samson.

And then we have Octavia, who is the heart of our triumverate. She is, like her brother Bellamy, led by her emotions and is impulsive, but unlike Bellamy, she's successful in using her emotions for the better. Octavia's heart leads her to Lincoln, and her lack of fear over falling in love ultimately saves her and The 100 - Lincoln rescues Finn multiple times, and Clarke at least once, and helps the whole of The 100 on a number of occasions. It is also Octavia's heart that causes Bellamy to be so protective over her, and while his actions are often misguided, he's doing it for all the right reasons.

Courage, brains and heart - The 100's three main female characters have them in droves, making them powerful, and essential to the survival of The 100.


In part two - motherhood, sexuality and violence.

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