Nuclear Fallout in The 100

The 100 is a post-apocalyptic drama currently airing weekly on the CW Network.  The CW Network is known for television shows like The Vampire Diaries, Smalllville, and Gossip Girl.  The target audience for this program is one that network built for itself for having similar shows in it’s lineup. Their target is the young adult and adolescent television viewer between the ages of 13 to 23. 

The advertisements shown along with an episode of The 100 reflect the target audience because they include products like acne wash, popular clothes store H&M, and cell phones which are all applicable to adolescents and young adults.  The content that The 100 has is geared towards said target audience because it has similar story lines of excitement and romance that have proven successful with the target audience.  The 100 is accessed is a myriad of ways including: regular television broadcast, streaming service like Hulu or Netflix, and through the CW Network’s website where full episodes can be watched (Rothenburg, 2014).

The overall goal, as with any television show, is profit but I believe there is a secondary goal of environmental awareness.  The 100 is adapted from a novel of the same name by Kass Morgan. The novel goes into more detail on the landscape of a earth that was ravaged by nuclear war.  I believe Morgan

The book series by Kass Morgan

wished to touch on the harmful environmental effects of war in his novel and in turn his goals translated over to the television adaption.  I believe the series achieves both goals touched upon.  The first goal of profit is achieved because the series has become a hit show for the CW and continues to garner revenue.  The second goal of environmental awareness has been achieved because those who now watch the series are exposed to what possibly could happen if there was another nuclear war.  This television can be thought of as covertly persuasive because it’s goals are an afterthought to the audience who are initially watching to enjoy the story.

The funding that The 100 receives is based on the revenue generated by advertisements.  Due to the fact that this television drama can be found through so many different distribution platforms there are many opportunities for advertisements.  I believe there is no impact to the content of The 100 due to the CW’s choice of advertisements.  Due to the setting of the series there is no chance for product placements which results in no influence on the content of the story from advertising companies.

The 100 touches on the environmental themes of nuclear fallout, pollution, environmental health, and environmental issues resulting from war.  The series occurs 97 years after a world wide nuclear war that wiped out the majority of the population.  Those who survived did so by fleeing under ground or up in space on “The Ark”.  The Ark is a massive orbiting

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The orbiting home of thousands on The 100 called The Ark

space station that housed over 2,500 humans. Resources were very scarce on The Ark.  Crimes committed by adults were punishable by being “floated” or being forced to go into space where they would die from lack of oxygen and negative space.  Due to the fact that resources were becoming so scarce, The Ark’s government decided to spend 100 adolescents who were charged of a crime down to earth to see if it was livable.  These teens were thought of as expendable due to their crimes so the adults didn’t think twice about if they were sending them to their death sentence. 

Once the 100 teens arrive on earth they discover that earth is in fact habitable and they proceed to establish  a community but not without some opposition from the locals who survived the nuclear radiation.  Earth itself is unrecognizable because wild life has been able to grow rampantly.  Trees and flora cover once notable landmarks like the statue of liberty. Nuclear fallout is the residual material propelled into the air after a nuclear explosion.  This fallout is a starting point for all of the other environmental issues.  The characters encounter mutated animals who were effected by the radiation like two headed deer and luminous butterflies who glow in the dark.  This speaks to how severe the aftermath of radiation was.

Those 100 adolescents are able to survive life on the ground because they were exposed to large amounts of radiation in space as they grew up on The Ark.  Those who did not escape to space and fled underground were not as fortunate.  Mount Weather houses those

The entrance of Mount Weather

humans who cannot go outside due to the high radiation levels.  Conflict arises when the people of Mount Weather begin to hold members of the 100 hostage because their blood can cure them of their immunity to radiation with bone marrow transfusions.  The environmental health issue plays into this as some people are immune to the radiation while others are not.  Those who are not immune can only survive a few minutes in the open air before they are in serious pain due to radiation.  Pollution is also a factor.  The inhabitants of Mount Weather have created their own defense system which is an acid fog to protect against the hostile natives called the grounders.  This acid fog is a poison gas that has harmful residual effects on the wildlife.  It not only harms humans but also kills plants because it is so harsh. Essentially all of these environmental issues are result of the war that happened 97 years prior.

The series does not present a blatant solution to the environmental effects of war because it is a show made for entertainment rather than education.  I believe the solution is to stray away form war because that is the things that started the issues on the show.  The solution is deeply embedded in the entertainment aspect.  There is this constant push and pull between the characters from space and the characters from the ground.  The two factions are at war and nothing good comes out of it.  One could relate the faction’s war to the previous nuclear war and how it produces an anti-war message.

The values that The 100 presents include justice, teamwork, and safety. The fact that the 100 adolescents had to construct a working society structure shows how they value

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The teens must work together to survive the ground

teamwork because they all had to work together.  Safety is highly valued because the character’s chief concern is weather or not they will get attacked in the woods.  Lastly, justice very important because the characters believe in holding people accountable for their actions.  This resulted in a few deaths and exiles of their members when they committed crimes.  These values are associated with the environmental themes because they are both inter woven in the story’s plot.  The experts in the show are the scientists who were studying the earth from space on The Ark.  They can be thought of as credible because they conducted a multitude of experiments to determine if the earth was livable.  Those scientists also stated various radiation levels and and other factors that are associated with the conditions of earth.

After watching The 100 on a weekly basis and focusing on the episode “Blood Must Have Blood: Part 1” I believe that this media piece does have a persuasive element to it.  The framing theory and the theory of fear appeals help to examine the persuasion that is present.  The framing theory states that we process media in different frames, or schema, that tell us how different concepts and emotions fit together.  Essentially media focuses attention on certain events and then the viewer places then within a frame which is known from prior experiences.  There are two types of frames that a media piece can fall into: episodic frames and thematic frames.  The 100 falls into the category of thematic framing.  It is classified as thematic because there is an overarching theme of war and all of the environmental effects that were previously stated stem from war.  Also the solution does not just fall on the individual but a collective community to be anti-war (Perloff, 2010).

The other theory that can be found in The 100 is the theory of fear appeals.  The theory of fear appeals is a persuasion technique that tries to “scare people into changing a dysfunctional attitude or behavior” (Perloff, 2010, pg. 195).  The post apocalyptic earth that is shown in The 100 can be thought of as an appeal to the fear of a person because it is scary to think that the world could possibly turn out ravaged by radioactivity in the future.  This theory is found subliminally because the show is peripheral channel of the elaboration likelihood model.  The peripheral channel is promotes temporary changes and relies on the watchability of the media to keep it’s audience (Perloff, 2010).  This means that people who watch The 100 do not intend to watch it for environmental reasons.  The audience will only stay for the message if the show grabs their attention which this drama does. 

In conclusion, I found that The 100 is an environmentally persuasive media piece that has a heavy focus on entertainment.  Personally, I have watched The 100 since it began airing in 2014 and throughly enjoyed the bleak future that it displayed.  After reflecting on the series and the specific episode I was able to realize that entertainment can be used as persuasion because it worked on me.  I had to dig pretty deep for the persuasion aspects but they were there thanks to the fear I felt for a ravaged and barren earth.  It made me relate the character’s problems with radiation back to real world problems with global warming and the serious drought that California is facing.  There is the potential for climate change to negatively affect the earth like radiation affected the people in The 100.

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Marchant, J. (Producer). (2014-2015). Science fiction thriller [The 100]. Burbank, California: The CW Television Network.

Perloff, M. (2010). The dynamics of persuasion communications and attitudes in the 21st century. New York, NY: Routledge.

Rothenburg, J., Morgan, K. (Writer), & Madha, O. (Director). (March 4, 2015). Blood Must Have Blood: Part 1 [The 100]. Marchant, J. (Producer). Burbank, California: Bonanza Productions.


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