TV dramas decieve teen audiences

Gaby Yap, asst.features editor

High schoolers partying all year, the lack of rigorous academics, and the casting of full-grown adults as “teens” are all characteristics that make up hit teen shows. Although these teen dramas are designed to entertain, their unrealistic portrayal of the high school experience leaves a negative impression on teen audiences. 

There is a blatant disconnect between the writers of teen characters and actual teens today, which bleeds into how stories and characters are written. Certain problems portrayed on T.V. are accurately portrayed, but the way the characters handle them is not. 

A motif seen across teen dramas are storylines built around mysterious deaths and the characters dealing with their grief in extreme ways. Namely, Riverdale’s main storyline is shaped around the tragic death of a beloved twin but is suspected by many to have been a murder. The reaction of the surviving twin, like any normal high schooler, is to burn down their childhood home.

While Riverdale is supposed to be more dramatic than the average high school experience, losing someone isn’t an experience exclusive to fictional stories, so unhealthy ways of coping with this loss should not be promoted. 

Another item on the endless list of flaws plaguing teen shows, an age gap between the actors’ ages and the ages of their characters can be acceptable, but when an actor is a decade older that’s where the real problem begins. 

A show that fits this description is The Vampire Diaries. Paul Wesley, one of the lead characters, was cast and marketed as an 18-year-old (actually 171-year-old) vampire at 28-years-old. A similar age gap was consistent with the rest of the cast as well. The result of this example is we see a full cast of adults that set an unrealistic beauty standard that teens start to idealize. What teens need to understand is that these people we watch on our screens are way beyond their high school years, which sets up an unfair comparison between us (the teens) and them. This is just one example of many other shows that have this dynamic.

Despite all this, there is hope for teens wanting to find a new show to binge on. Sex Education, My Mad Fat Diary, and Boy Meets World all do what other shows like Riverdale don’t, which is to provide viewers with a good look into the actual problems that plague teens today. 

They discuss uncomfortable, but real, problems like sexuality, awkwardness, and mental health. 

Sex Education is a perfect model of a show that effortlessly marries extremism, comedy, and realism all in a fictional world. The show speaks on the fact that teens are having sex despite their young age, and its inevibility, so we should normalize being taught about how to do so safely instead of teaching prevention.

What makes Sex Education completely realistic, is it presents a real problem and a viable solution while still including enough drama and humor to keep viewers interested.

Teen shows today have reached an era of outspokenness and progressiveness, but they haven’t outgrown the writers’ inaccurate  perceptions of high school and teens. 

While teen dramas still have an influence on teens, and we can not directly change how they’re written, I urge teens to hold onto the fact that real life is far more colorful than what is seen on a screen.