5 YA Dystopian Tropes It Uses (& 5 It Avoids)


As a dystopian future series, it was inevitable that The 100 would use some well-known tropes. The show is based on one, a world that has been destroyed in some way. The hundred are sent to Earth to see if the ground is survivable, and since they were delinquents anyway, their Chancellor determined they were disposable. The tropes the series manages to evade make the series refreshing, as it focuses more on survival, morals, and ethics.

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Still, the show wasn’t able to avoid every dystopian YA trope. The 100 uses plenty of them as plot devices to advance the plot or as a catalyst for some parts of the story. Time jumps, which are a common factor in sci-fi, are used several times throughout the series in spans of months and years.

10 Uses: Cryosleep


In season five, cryosleep is used in two main ways. The first is to explain the Eligius Prisoners’ appearance on Earth after a hundred years. When Diyoza and her crew land, they return to a far different environment than when they left. Cryosleep is later used because Earth is not meant to be habitable again for years.

The strategy allows for one of the biggest plot twists of the show, jumping 125 years instead of ten. Monty and Harper had stayed awake, living in peace and searching for a new habitable planet for their friends, while their son Jordan grew up to want to join everyone else for their next adventure.

9 Avoids: Central Love Triangle

The 100 Raven Season 1, Finn Season 2, Clarke Season 1

While there is a brief romantic tension between Clarke, Finn, and Raven in the first season, it is quickly pushed to the side. Survival was everyone’s priority, meaning that the budding romantic conflicts would be ignored in favor of the bigger picture.

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The storyline is shut down quickly after Clarke learns the truth about Raven. While romances are a part of the show, there is never a love triangle that takes priority, if there are any.

8 Uses: AI Technology

The technology used on the series is already advanced. Still, season three kicks it up a notch by introducing A.L.I.E. An AI invented by scientist Becca, A.L.I.E  continued to exist in Becca’s mansion for years after the bombs and uses Jaha at her disposal. The journey to make everyone enter the City of Light plays a massive role in advanced technology.

While there aren’t robots trying to take over the world, A.L.I.E holds a similar threat. A.L.I.E was the reason for the first apocalypse, believing that overpopulation caused so many problems on Earth, so she released bombs to kill billions.

7 Avoids: Zombies

Zombies are a common trope in an apocalypse story. Often, they are treated as the reason the world became an apocalyptic place. Movies like Zombieland or television shows like The Walking Dead have shown versions of what zombies can be and how they are dangerous to the remaining human population.

On The 100, zombies are not involved. Early episodes portray animals affected by radiation, while season two shows drug-addicted Grounders, referred to as Reapers, created by the Mountain Men. With all the trouble that happens on Earth, zombies, luckily, were not on the list of villains.

6 Uses: Coming Of Age Story

The 100 Clarke and Bellamy Season 1

The 100 can be thought of as a coming of age story. As most of the hundred are seventeen and younger when they land on Earth, much of their journey surrounds adapting and evolving. They are not kids anymore, and instead are adults in a terrifying and new world. Bellamy and Raven, who are slightly older, mature mentally, and emotionally when placed in the midst of war.

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While Bellamy and Clarke may be the Dropship leaders, The 100 shows plenty of the main delinquents grow from wide-eyed, excited kids to young adults prepared to take on the world.

5 Avoids: Plagues

There is only one storyline that actively shows illness. In season one, the delinquents are infected with a virus Murphy brought back to camp. However, the virus is not meant to kill all of the hundred, even though a few do die.

Instead, it is meant to weaken the group. However, once the virus leaves the system, no one catches it or any other form of plague again. Some do get radiation sickness as Praimfaya approaches, but nothing is massive enough to be considered a plague throughout the series.

4 Uses: Dead/Missing Parent

The 100 Aurora Blake and Jake Griffin

One of the most common tropes is the protagonist has a dead or missing parent. In part, it is likely meant to justify the main character’s actions, attitude, or perspective on the world.

On the Ark, it was not rare to have one, or both parents floated. Murphy’s father had been floated for stealing medicine, and Murphy had been arrested for getting revenge. Bellamy and Octavia struggled after their mother died. Clarke is angry about her father’s death toward Wells until realizing that her mother had reported him.

3 Avoids: Evil Government

Alycia Debnam-Carey As Lexa In The 100

Even though the government on the Ark is nowhere near perfect, it was not designed to be evil. Like plenty of other controversial governing styles in the series, its purpose was created out of the desire to survive. The one-child law was meant to conserve oxygen and space. Adults were floated for breaking the law to clear for more room. It was not a brilliant system, and nearly everyone was hurt in some way because of it.

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On the ground, while the rules are vastly different than the Ark, the government was not intended to be evil either. The rules were created out of the will to survive. They have rules that are meant to sustain the environment the world has become after the bombs. It is the Commander’s job to keep the peace between the clans.

2 Uses: Post Apocalypse

The 100 Blood Must Have Blood Part 2 S2E16

This may be the most obvious one on the list, as the entire series is built around a destroyed Earth. The bombs had destroyed many buildings and roads.

A hundred years later, Earth is filled with woods. But that isn’t where the details end. A new society was born by the bomb survivors, including a new language, fighting styles, laws, and beliefs. The delinquents land in the middle of Trikru territory, and throughout the seasons, they learn the ways of the Grounders.

1 Avoids: The Chosen One

There is no “Chosen One” in The 100. Clarke may be a leader that holds plenty of influence, but she was not destined or fated to become who she was.

No prophecy foretold the hundred’s arrival. Everyone has a role to play, and nearly everyone is significant to the many’s overall survival. Even in the final season, when it is hinted that Clarke is the key to saving the human race, that is not how the Disciples meant it. The Disciples were actually referring to the Flame, which they believed was still in Clarke’s head.

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Updated: November 26, 2020 — 3:30 pm

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