The 100 is becoming unwatchable

Trigger warning: sexual assault

Let’s imagine a scenario.

A powerful man has a powerless woman chained up. She is unequivocally his prisoner. He has physically injured her and she cannot leave. He tells her to have sex with him; when she says that she has someone else, he asks if that person can kill her for saying no, implicitly threatening to do just that to her if she refuses. She then has sex with him.

If you read that scenario and said “That’s rape,” you would be 100% right. But last night on The 100, the situation was gender flipped with a powerful woman ordering a helpless man to have sex with her. But because he wasn’t obviously cowering in fear or violently forced into her bed, it’s somehow being read as “okay.” The male character, Murphy, quipped, “The things I do to survive,” and smirked as he walked towards his captor, Ontari. So obviously he consented and it wasn’t rape, right?

There is so much wrong with this situation that it’s beyond upsetting.

First, Murphy was a prisoner. He was directly told that if he said no, he would die. There is no ability to give consent in that situation. If “no” is not an option, then “yes” means nothing. Just because Murphy seemed to accept his situation doesn’t mean that it was acceptable.

Second, this scene directly reinforces the idea that men cannot be raped, especially not by women. Heterosexual men are supposed to enjoy all sex, all the time, no matter the female partner. This is just another way of telling men that they can’t say “no,” that their actual desires and any reservations they might have about sex are irrelevant. It’s as limiting as it is dangerous and it’s a part of a toxic culture that prevents male victims of sexual assault from speaking up or seeking help. Just because it’s a woman doing it to a man, that doesn’t mean it’s not rape.

At this point The 100 is unwatchable. They’ve killed off a queer woman and a man of color and villainized all the powerful men of color. They’ve played the sexual assault of a male character as an amusing beat and piled garbage heaps of suffering on everyone, creating a suffocatingly hopeless atmosphere. The show is nothing but misery porn, attempting to showcase “shocking” moments of brutality as it chases critical acclaim for being willing to Go There. It’s dark for darkness’ sake with no overarching redeeming value. It’s not even successfully exploring its previous quandaries about the morality of survival as a primary goal or value, instead simply resorting to stark images of senseless murder in order to fulfill some kind of grimdark quota.

It seems to me that as this show started receiving more and more praise for its willingness to explore the moral dilemmas of operating in a post-apocalyptic world, its showrunner Jason Rothenberg got it in his head that meant he needed to make increasingly awful situations play out on screen, including a bloodstained woman holding up a child’s severed head, then kicking a bag full of more children’s severed heads down some steps. It was tasteless and served no purpose except to tell us this woman was Very Bad, something that a good writer should be able to do without resorting to “bag of severed children’s heads.”

Some people may be able to watch a show where people simply endure suffering for an hour, but I can’t. Life is hard enough. The 100 at least used to have its characters grope towards the concept that “life should be about more than just surviving.” But now it doesn’t even have that. Everyone is in pain, happiness is fleeting at best, and goodness only comes with the most extreme costs, if it comes at all. No thanks.