‘The 100’: Xenophobia, discrimination & planned mass-murder: is humanity worth saving?

hakeldama1We’re getting some massively shifting perspective on The 100 – and it’s not for everyone

NB: This seems to be something I wrote a after 3×04, when I stopped watching the show. So it’s probably hugely inaccurate. Dug it up and I thought I might as well chuckle at what I thought would happen on the show, at least.

‘Watch The Thrones’, penned by Dorothy Fortenberry, is a rollercoaster—the kind that makes you puke afterwards. This is simply taking one aspect from the storyline and questioning it. The 100’s moral greyness is undoubted—it’s been drilled into our heads. Good characters do bad things and vice versa; maybe “there are no good guys”. But Pike and Bellamy in this episode and the Hakeldama trailer really pushed boundaries, and it was a shame—and definitely not Ms. Fortenberry’s fault, for the plot-line—that it over-shadowed some truly epic scenes in Polis.

With the episode and trailer shown, plus Mo Ryan’s interview released, social media notably latched onto the 9/11 comparisons—understandably still a tender subject. Introducing a man of colour who preaches xenophobia and comparing that to 9/11 is a dangerous line to walk. I’m not an American, nor am I Muslim: I can’t tell anyone how to feel when they read pieces like that and interpret and feel the way they do. I do believe Jason Rothenberg had good intentions in writing this storyline, but at the end of the Variety interview, when it seems like he’s justifying the atrocities Bellamy and Pike commit after he’s just paralleled it to 9/11, it was a bitter pill to swallow. Even if the mass-murder benefits Arkadia somehow, it’s still mass-murder.

If anyone’s angered, upset, or feel misrepresented, I can’t tell you to quell that because it’s simply not my position. I have the utmost respect for the diverse viewers of The 100, and I won’t dictate how you should or shouldn’t feel, or to stop you from expressing it. It is important that The 100 is trying to weave in topical issues, but it’s equally important that if the audience take offence to such issues, that it’s spoken, made heard, understood and for the higher-ups to learn from that. But is it so hard to comprehend that despite ‘progression’ in our society, Muslims are discriminated against, subject to suspicion and attack?

hakeldama2Pike: Xenophobic, manipulative and a fear-mongerer…the ideal leader.

On The 100, Pike (Michael Beach) continues to spread his toxic, xenophobic slurs with ferocity and pride. He’s inherently unlikeable yet exudes charisma—the kind plenty of hero-worshipped dictators did (Mao, Hitler, Mussolini…). It makes sense Pike is devastated by the Ice Nation’s actions—but experience cannot justify his widespread racial intolerance, discrimination and hate-preaching that. Ever since he proudly uttered the phrase “Grounder killers”, yelled at Indra to “speak English” on her own territory, and in the iTunes trailer, declares “This land is OURS now! Resist and you will be greeted by death.” (Does it suddenly reek of imperialism in here, or is it just me? Or maybe it’s tyranny…either way, it’s a stench), he was going to be divisive to say the least. Who crash-landed on the Grounders’ territory and made settlements there? Back in the day, they’d call that an invasion and thus an act of war (so why’s anyone surprised when the commander of that territory sent warriors to retaliate?). Who blew up the bridge, produced a ring of fire; whose unhinged boy murdered eighteen innocent villagers? Hint: it wasn’t the Grounders.

Pike: “Anger is our policy! Now, if [the Grounders] are here to ‘defend us’, as you say, then tell them: TO – GO – HOME!”

Humans excel at fear. When we’re scared, we spurt out irrational thoughts; we make terrible decisions. Adrenaline pushes us to ‘fight or flight’. Pike isn’t scared of the Grounders. He wants to attack. So he uses the Sky People’s vulnerable position and fears to drag them towards his xenophobic and dichotomous philosophy. The fact is, Pike’s ordering a mass-murder of innocents sent to protect them, knowing via Kane they’re from outlier villages, knowing the Ice Nation are solely responsible for Mount Weather—yet he plows ahead with his revolting xenophobia.

That’s like generalizing all German civilians as Nazis; generalizing all Muslims as terrorists. It’s repulsive and reductive. Pike’s lost people to the Grounders; Bellamy’s also lost people to the Grounders, and Gina. But Clarke’s lost Wells, Finn and her dad. Lexa and Indra lost 250 of their people at TonDC—and Lexa has lost 300 of her warriors twice, now, by Skaikru hand. Lexa lost Costia. None of them consequentially generalized populations and painted them as terrorists, to be used as a scapegoat—and that’s exactly what Pike’s doing. Why? Because Pike’s a douche? Or because Farm Station still aren’t telling the full story of how they survived up North…?

hakeldama3Bellamy: An enforcer and now a committer of treason.

Bob Morley’s portrayal of Bellamy has been consistently well-acted, but his character’s lurch into his season one mentality is giving me whiplash. It’s without doubt Bellamy can do morally questionable things (like selfishly smashing Raven’s radio upon finding her)—but in season two, Bellamy was an excellent soldier. He was honourable, brave and kickass. Morley says in an IGN interview that Bellamy is an enforcer—not a leader. Yet Octavia, his beloved sister, was there to stop him from at the gates and he still didn’t listen. He didn’t listen to Kane. He’s been utterly sucked in by Pike’s words.

But Bellamy’s suffered a lot, too. Betrayed by Lexa at Mount Weather, Clarke leaving Camp Jaha, Octavia wanting to leave Arkadia, Gina’s death (RIP Gina, for you were unfairly fridged) and the feeling of responsibility in getting tricked by Echo, leading to Mount Weather’s destruction—it’s a heavy weight to bear. At the beginning of the episode, Bellamy tearfully hands in his guard jacket because he couldn’t save lives. But by the end of the same episode, Bellamy suddenly wants to massacre every peacekeeping Grounder outside their gates.

What?! This is the same Bellamy who was present at the initiation ceremony, and heard Ice Nation claim responsibility for Mount Weather—yet these 300 non-Ice Nation warriors, from nearby villages, are sent to protect Arkadia. He knows this, and I desperately want to sympathize with Bellamy, but this is where one of The 100’s strength falls short: its fast pace. It makes for an adrenaline-fuelled journey, but it also robs us of Bellamy’s emotional exploration (hasn’t he known Pike for like, an hour?) as well as offering is rushed redemption arcs, devoid of emotional impact.

hakeldama4Ignorance can be a cause of death.

What I find most disgusting about Team Pike is that Pike ignores Kane stating Indra had assured them they were there to protect Arkadia. A fact. He continues with his dense assumption that these Grounders are here to attack the newest clan of the coalition. Pike…Do you know what a coalition means? Pike, who led a team and stormed Polis with weapons, interrupted a ceremony, and was still mercifully pardoned by the Grounder commander. The commander sends 300 people to protect Arkadia and Pike, who should’ve been killed on the spot by at the ceremony because weaponry in Polis is illegal, still thinks all Grounders are the same? One of the Arkers even has the gall to say Kane’s brand on his arm is like branding for livestock, and the look of shameful disgust on Kane’s face mirrored my own. Pike’s narrow-minded followers have no respect for Grounder culture and spiritualism. They’re ignorant and discriminatory, and sad reflections of issues that still occur in daily life—where ignorance truly is one of the vilest sins.

I ask, if this were a nameless situation and non-show related: would you redeem a tyrant manipulating a population’s fear into killing 300 innocent people, based on assumption and the omission of fact? Would you redeem every participant in Pike’s attack? When has this ever happened before? Clarke’s genocide was because she had no choice and she had to save her people. Whoever can argue Lexa and Clarke’s sacrifice at Tondc is quite frankly ridiculous because they didn’t fire the missile (i.e. issue the attack); they immediately felt remorse; it was a decision made in war; they actually saved Bellamy’s cover and life; and ultimately, they didn’t personally attack (well, they didn’t attack at all) out of sheer, disgusting xenophobia. That was Mount Weather’s attack.

In all fairness, we’re only on episode four and there are still twelve episodes left to clear the mess. And with The 100 raising issues and debates like this—it really does show the importance of xenophobia, even though so far it’s handling it quite atrociously. We’ve only seen a trailer. Maybe there are external factors that contribute to Pike and Bellamy’s actions. Trailers can be misleading—maybe ALIE’s drones killed the Grounders. Maybe the Ice Nation did in retaliation. But from Kane’s horrified “you killed an army? Sent to protect us?” to Bellamy in the trailer and Bellamy confessing they’d gone “too far”, it’s easy to conclude that they really did carry out the massacre.

hakeldama5Genocide versus Massacre

I just can’t mentally compute any justification for a planned massacre: personally and objectively, from any ethical standpoint. It’s mass-murder. Even worse: it’s planned, xenophobic mass-murder. It’s horrors that have occurred in the past, such as the WWII, the Sino-Japanese wars, the Crusades—and still happen today, with ISIL and Boko Haram. Taking a still-tender case: Would you redeem the radicalized Jihadists responsible for the Paris attacks? Because they were Muslim, would you generalize all Muslims as terrorists who should be killed? Of course not. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in this world. To generalize a terrorist attack engineered by a small militia of violent monsters is ignorant and unjust—and that’s what Pike and his followers are doing, by using the Ice Nation’s brutality as an scapegoat for ‘all Grounders are evil’.

By definition, Pike & co’s attack on the peacekeeping grounders is an act of terrorism. When Clarke committed genocide after having no choice at Mount Weather, she couldn’t (and still can’t) forgive herself; it haunts her. By definition, Pike and his followers also commit genocide—a mass-killing of people for particular beliefs and differences to them. Genocide doesn’t equate to the eradication of an entire race. History has shown this. Hitler committed genocide—but he didn’t kill all Jews. So how can Pike and his followers, committing a planned genocide of innocents, ever be forgiven? They’re driven by xenophobia, anger and spite—and as seen in the trailer, the results are monstrous, and Octavia, Lexa and Clarke are horrified. Just look at Lexa’s face—this is so different to TonDC. She specifically sent 300 grounders to protect Arkadia—and it’s resulted in their mass-murder. No matter what happens in the future of The 100 that may somehow benefit Pike slaughtering 300 innocent Grounders—the fact remains that he still did it. They still committed an act of genocide.

I sympathize with how they all feel following Mount Weather and their losses, but I cannot accept the humanity of a cold-blooded mass-murder. That’s inhumanity. This isn’t the murder of Grounders based on the fact they’ll attack: it’s based on the assumption they’ll attack, because Grounders are all the same to Pike. Does this sound topical? That’s because it is—because racial profiling and discrimination is still rife in this world. People still assume others of certain races or religions are antagonistic and they are unfairly demonized for it.

Kane: “You attacked an army? That was there to help us?”

A thought to ponder on: how has your perspective, as a viewer, changed since season one? Do you still see the Grounders as savages, after seeing Polis and their political system and democracy? Do you still see the Arkers as the heroes? Consider this: a radical commander forming a coalition in which she accepts clans from all cultures; in which a city is formed where people from all walks of life can live—whilst Charles Pike exerts violent tyranny as chancellor of the Ark and executes 300 innocent protectors. Now who are the savages?

 

hakeldama6ALIE and humanity: is humanity worth saving after all?

I argued in a previous post, humanity, I believe, is worth saving. Pike’s bigoted and disrespectful but that’s exactly it: humanity can be hateful, disgusting and brutal. We can’t generalize Pike’s xenophobia onto everyone—look at how accepting Kane, Abby, Octavia and Clarke are. If we generalize Pike’s behaviour onto all humans, aren’t we just sinking to his level?

On the flipside, Clarke shows that humanity can also love. Though ALIE may grow increasingly self-aware and independent, we don’t know if Rebecca or the programmers taught ALIE human morality—to act with the people’s best interests at heart. Judging by the apocalypse, she’s a highly-advanced AI (perhaps even an ASI) who saw a quick, efficient solution out of her root problem—but humanity’s cruelty is increasingly exposed by mass-murders, prejudice, and war. To ALIE, it’s ridiculous. Why don’t these idiots just stop fighting and live in the City of Light?

Interestingly, the next episode is ‘Hakeldama’, a Biblical term that’s now commonly known as the Field of Blood.

The passage from the NAS95S’s Acts 1:18-19 reads: (“Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.”)

We must note that traditionally, Hebrews interpreted blood differently as we do today: they believed it was the very soul of a person, quite often associated with desire too. So perhaps ‘Hakeldama’ plays more into its Field of Blood reputation—the loss of so many souls—rather than the site of Judas Iscariot’s suicide there (I suppose one could argue that in betraying the Grounders in such horrific fashion, like Judas did to Jesus, there are similarities).

Lexa: “How do we best lead as Commanders?”

Nightblood: “By serving our people. Each life is valuable, and we suffer every loss as our own.”

For the ugliness of humanity The 100 is showcasing this season I do believe that humanity will conquer all. It must. For example, for Clarke and Lexa, who dream of lasting peace and no wars (especially Lexa, who tried to build a peaceful utopia via the coalition only for it to fall)—they have to accept humanity’s crimes as part of just who humans are. They have to accept that humanity is humanity’s right, not an AI’s—and that’s why I think no matter how powerful the AI, humanity will prevail. Love is the greatest weapon after all, isn’t it? (Link to Aaron Ginsburg’s tweet) Love cost Costia’s life. Love cost Finn’s life. Abby by law had to betray Jake, whom she loved. Lexa sacrificed Clarke for the love she holds for her people. It’s a deadly weapon to be struck by—but a weapon means you can strike back too.

I don’t believe ALIE has been programmed to recognize the importance of love. AIs can self-learn, but they respond ultimately to an ongoing core command. It’s almost cliché to say that love will defeat the ‘villain’—but these characters have an overwhelming amount of love. Bellamy loved Gina. Raven loved Finn. Octavia loves Lincoln. Clarke loves Abby—and even Lexa, possibly, as the season unravels. Lexa is perhaps the most altruistic of the lot: everything she does, she does for her people—including sacrificing her personal love (twice, with Costia and Clarke) for the greater good, yet her ardency for Clarke is undeniable.

You could even argue that in creating peace in a completely unjust world, Lexa’s been saving humanity all along—because humanity includes her entire people. The 100 world can get ugly, and sometimes irredeemable, but I think whoever ends up saving humanity from ALIE, it’ll be surely love that breaks through. And you know, sometimes humanity is undeserving of that. But humans make mistakes; they’re flawed, selfish and greedy. But they love, they care, they are kind. If anyone should get to decide whether or not humanity can be salvaged, it should be humanity itself. They can choose right, or they can self-destruct.

Judging by Pike and Bellamy’s mass-murder, they’re on course for the latter.

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