A few months ago, my husband and I ran out of episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond and Criminal Minds on Netflix and we gazed at each other with bewilderment for a few minutes while we wondered — What now? (The pathetic-ness of this situation is TBA — to be addressed — in a later post.)
After some hem-hawing and a five-minute exchange with my siblings via group iMessage, we settled on The 100, at my eldest brother’s recommendation.
The show’s premise: Earth is in a post-apocalyptic state of sorts, as a result of a nuclear Armageddon. Several hundred people live on “the Ark,” a space station floating about in the great expanse that is our galaxy. On this ship, people can be “floated” (tossed out into the great unknown) as a form of punishment for unforgivable crimes; one of which is, understandably, the theft of precious resources like extra oxygen or food. However, if an individual commits a crime and is not of age (18), they are imprisoned within the bowels of the Ark to be tried for their crimes on the day of their 18th birthday. The Ark is running low on oxygen, though, and people will die slowly together, unless a solution is found.
What does the reigning group of mature adult administrators decide to do? Ship their underage prisoners to Earth in a shuttle to see whether or not the nuclear energy-infected environment will be safe to inhabit. Also, conveniently, there are exactly 100 prisoners aboard this ship.
Despite numerous gaping plot holes (I mean, really — how is it that their fashion is so…forward? And the space funeral? I can’t be the only one with serious doubts about the visibility of hundreds of bodies floating toward the earth…), the show does have a somewhat addictive quality.
Z. and I watched both seasons on Netflix in binge-worthy fashion: fewer than three weeks. And while we were both obviously willing to overlook the plot holes (and mock the show relentlessly, while simultaneously savoring the more juicy components of the story,) something a bit more significant bothered me; like a soft niggle at the back of my brain as we watched:
These teens are being dumped on Earth, forced to find a way to survive, and they’re having adequate amounts of casual sex.
Yes, I know; this isn’t the first tv show to portray lusty teen hormones at maximum capacity; however, I was taken aback by the nonchalance of the implied (and directly portrayed) teen sex. For starters, we must assume that each of the 100 on the ground are under the age of 18. Some are as young as 12. And while it’s true the show didn’t portray any 12-year-olds as prowling sex-addicts, it’s equally true that several lead characters (in the 16-18 range) are undeniably having lots of un-awkward sex. (Yet another plot hole…is there such a thing as un-awkward “first time” [or fifth or sixth time] teenage intercourse?)
As I watched, a few general questions (for myself and others) came to mind.
- As a culture, are we really at complete ease with moving beyond “looking the other way” from teen sex, to openly showing it and making it seem like a positive activity on prime-time television?
- If we’re not 100% gravy with promoting casual sex between teens…why is it showcased in such a positive light on television shows and movies?
- Should we continue to watch television shows that don’t align with our morals, dismissing those moral conflicts as irrelevant?
I think the last question is toughest for me to answer. It’s ultimately a matter of being fully honest with myself and my values. I know I’m not alone in thinking things like, “I really think teen sex is a God-awful idea and it should definitely not be promoted in any positive way since all teenagers I know are ill-equipped (mentally, emotionally, & physically) to raise babies BUT I’m gonna go ahead and watch this show anyway, for the sake of entertainment.”
So, are we bigots/hypocrites/a**holes for believing the things we believe about what is morally right and good but watching television shows that use those moral shortcomings as entertainment? And just how good have we gotten at justifying less-than-exemplary behavior? I think I know the answer, but I’m not sure I want to admit it.
*For the record, I am not some rabid anti-sex proponent; I just think there are so many other constructive ways for teens to spend their time (that don’t result in unwanted pregnancies and/or venereal diseases). That’s all.