“The 100”: The Death Knell of the Teenage Dystopian Fad

The CW's new series based on the Kass Morgan novel is...well...a dead paradigm. (Image courtesy the CW)
The CW’s new series based on the Kass Morgan novel is…well…a dead paradigm. (Image courtesy the CW)

Yesterday I noticed that the CW was airing a new series titled The 100, a dystopian/post-apocalyptic science fiction story based on the novel of the same name by Kass Morgan.  I don’t get very good reception on my HD antenna, so I waited until today to watch it on Hulu.

After 15 minutes in, the cringing began.

Is it just me, or is the dystopian teenage sci-fi story beginning to fade into mediocrity and journey down the path of passé?  The premise of this series (and the novel it is based upon), is that over 90 years ago the earth suffered a nuclear holocaust and the survivors live in a space station floating in orbit.  Any crime is punishable by death, so they use this excuse to exile 100 of their teenagers down the the planet, but it is really an attempt to see if the planet is habitable again.  Is this not what the citizens of Panem do to their children in The Hunger Games?  Is this not what the dystopian future of Defiant does to it’s teens, only wrapped up in a different dystopian package?  (A package, by the way, that is robbed directly from Battle Royale by Botaru Rowaiaru.) The main reason I cringed after 15 minutes of The 100 is because when they finally land on earth and pop the hatch, emerging into a lush forest, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons begins to play, a song (while by a decent band) receives ad nauseam airplay.  It was like the CW was trying to say “Look, kids!  Watch this show because we have hip music.  Come join the lazy trope party!”

Apparently, it’s not just me.

Michael Comeau reports that Divergent is really bad, and probably won’t make enough to garner a sequel, not to mention it’s murder of Lion’s Gate’s stock.  Also, Esther Zuckerman at The Wire reports that the critical reviews are not very promising, wondering if it will hurt the box office hopes.  I usually check out Rotten Tomatoes before seeing a film, and even though 96% of people want to see it, only 31% of critics gave it a positive rating.

Everybody remember The Host, hack Stephanie Meyer’s attempt to give us dystopia?  Many of us would like to forget…and have.  The same thing happened with Twilight, at once the most popular books and films in the world, but now we have a string of weak vampire shows on the CW (where genres go to die) and yet they (being Hollywood) keep churning out this drek for us to consume.  Is it me, or do all of these films have the same cover, just with different people standing on their mark?

Perhaps the dystopia (at least the teenage one) may be on it’s way out.  I have a sort of dystopian novel planned for release sometime next year, and this leads me to think that I should not include any teenage characters.  I’m 43, and writing about people my own age might be fun.  I also work with teens, and have written teenage characters in my last two novels.  Teens are fun to write about because they are seeing an adult world through fresh eyes, and often point out the stodgy nature of our broken world systems…namely what’s wrong with the dystopian worlds they live in.

The point, when writing teen characters, is not to make them cliche, but to make them interesting, not to make them boyfriend/girlfriend of the week like on the CW.  In the first episode of The 100, the main character, a female, is already falling for a bad boy with no rules, a geek is falling for the troubled beauty (which gets him killed) and a scary older teen is gaining power by using ruthless lackeys ala Lord of the Flies.

Predictable.  Sing the ode, kids.  Teen Dystopia is dead.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

One thought on ““The 100”: The Death Knell of the Teenage Dystopian Fad

  1. Teen Dystopia is dead. I agree, or at least I hope it is! And I think it was bound to happen sooner or later. Someone writes a bestseller, it gets made into a movie, it becomes a trend. And anyone who writes a book or makes a movie (or TV show) because of a trend is writing for the wrong reasons. The Hunger Games worked because of Katniss Everdeen, and because Suzanne Collins was focused on writing a good story instead of trying to keep up with the latest fad. But anyone trying to imitate The Hunger Games is bound to fail. I did… my novel for NaNoWriMo a couple years ago turned out sounding like an underdeveloped Hunger Games ripoff, and I’m still trying to turn that mess into something more worth reading.
    Well, at any rate, I think a dystopian novel featuring older characters would be a fresh change. I’m not a huge fan of dystopia in general, but if it has characters that interest me I can get into it.

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