5 Weird Things That Teen Shows Think About Actual Teens
Hi! My name is Lydia Bugg, and I'm a cool, trendy teen. Don't fact-check that.
OK, maybe I'm a woman in her late 20s who watches a lot of TV shows made for cool, trendy teens. Or rather, for non-cool/trendy teens, because real cool, trendy teens are probably out there getting cool, trendy shows made about them? Modern TV obviously depicts realistic teenage experiences, since they are all written by people who have experienced teenagerdom at some point. Or did they? Because sometimes, these shows seem to say things like ...
Teenagers Love Boning Their Teachers, Which Is Fine!
Teenagers staying after school for some extra credit (dick) is a strange trend. Not only because it makes teacher/student sexual relationships seem like a common occurrence, but also because it usually deems these hookups as normal and not at all harmful things. Pretty Little Liars ends with one of the main characters marrying her high school English teacher, whom she'd been having an on-and-off affair with since she was 16 years old. Normally I love a good "Aww, they were high school sweethearts" moment, but not if one was an adult and the other was probably still driving with a learner's permit.
Riverdale begins with sophomore Archie and Ms. Grundy having super creepy car sex. On MTV's Scream, Brooke is in a relationship with her English teacher which ends with him stalking her. Yet these scenarios are never treated with the appropriate horror from the onset. It's more like "Oh, Brooke. Getting into a relationship that could (rightfully) end with the dude getting 10-20 years in prison. That's. So. You."
Going back a little bit further, the teacher sex trend probably originated with Pacey and his English teacher Tamara Jacobs on Dawson's Creek. I feel like English teachers are getting a really bad rap on these shows. Do writers only remember one subject in school, or is it just in the zeitgeist that English teachers are the hottest? Regardless, could they make it a little less obvious? It's gotten to the point where if a fictional teacher says anything about poetry, my immediate reaction is "Welp, who they fuckin'?"
Whatever the reason it happens so often (even the godfather of teen shows, Degrassi: The Next Generation, covered this plotline), it seems almost normal. It's portrayed as being a cool, sexy, and dangerous thing to do. It seems like what these shows are saying to teenagers is "Hey! Is your (probably English) teacher hitting on you? He must be your soul mate. Grab his butt and see what happens! Live your best life!"
It's Perfectly Normal To Get Engaged, Married, And Divorced In High School
There's a certain natural progression to high school relationships. It starts with making out in a Walmart parking lot in your hometown, and ends with crying in a Walmart parking lot in your college town. I'm from a small town, so there may be other parking lots involved, based on one's region. What I'm trying to say is that high school relationships don't normally end in marriage. Except on TV, where sometimes they end in divorce.
The Secret Life Of The American Teenager is the most bonkers thing to ever happen on television, and it had one character who got married twice before graduating high school. No, this was not in any way satirical. Secret Life was a ridiculous teen soap opera that I watched three seasons of because Shailene Woodley has a heavenly head of hair.
I just want to swim around in it.
The character I'm talking about first marries Shailene's pretty hair when they're freshmen in high school (freshmen), but the marriage is annulled. He then gets a girl pregnant and marries her during their senior year, but they divorce after their child is stillborn. So yeah, this was unfortunately not a hilarious side plot in a zany teen divorce comedy.
On Suburgatory, Lisa proposes to her boyfriend Malik when they are seniors. They end up marrying and moving into Lisa's parents' house before graduation, and pretty much everyone on that show treats it like it's the cutest thing ever. Isn't it, though? Being 18 and living with your new husband in your goddamn dad's place?
Finn and Rachel try more than once to get married before graduating high school on Glee, but their wedding keeps getting pushed back, once due to a classmate's suicide attempt and again for a friend's car wreck on the way to their wedding. It's almost as if their union was cursed by more than the fact that they were trying to get married before some people get their braces off. The middle of That '70s Show was filled with proposal anxiety, almost making you wish that it would go back to just doing repeated hamfisted Star Wars references.
Even the most perfect show that has ever existed, Boy Meets World, featured a proposal at a graduation ceremony. This makes it seem like marriage is how your high school relationship should normally end. And if it doesn't, get ready to buy a hundred cats, because you're going to be alone forever, grandma.
All Teenagers Are Masters Of Disguising Their Age
Speaking of Glee (as I often and loudly do, until people beg me to stop), there was a bizarre plotline in Season 3 wherein a junior in high school lies about his age to get a job at a male strip club. Granted, he's played by a guy who was well into his 20s at the time, but in real life, strip club owners are going to take a minute to look into that before letting someone expose themselves at their business, right? I don't claim to be Professor Strip Club, but my first question when looking for a new hire would probably be "Is this illegal?"
"Sorry, bud. If you wanna keep strippin' here, we're gonna need a signature from one of your parents."
MTV's Finding Carter has the main character getting a job at a bar when she's 17. And then, to fit in the middle of this column's Venn diagram, she begins dating the owner of the bar who is much older than 17 -- or possibly also really good at disguising his age, we may never know.
Both of these business owners are apparently willing to risk terrible repercussions without taking a cursory glance into these characters' backgrounds to discern their real ages. It's the 2010s. They could probably Google these kids and find an Instagram account that says they go to Jefferson High School for the Criminally Insane, or whatever.
Think about how many of these kinds of shows feature kids sneaking into clubs. Everyone in teen show universes has a fake ID. On Riverdale, four characters sneak into a club somehow, and when someone accuses them of being underage, they're just like, "Fuck you, my parents are rich" and the bartender is like, "Damn, can't argue with that. I guess we have reached the end of this discussion." If it were that easy to sass people into letting me drink, I never would have graduated high school.
Teens Are Totally Free Of Adult Supervision
If it were legal, my parents would have locked me in a basement and fed me nothing but circus peanuts until I turned 18. And honestly, they would have been doing both me and the rest of the world a favor. TV parents are totally cool with their kids just coming and going as they please, because they're totally cool and also totally absent from their children's lives. In teen shows, parents show up about as much as the mailman or a cashier at Wendy's.
The Pretty Little Liars are being stalked, and none of their parents ever say, "Hey, if you're going to go poking around that abandoned factory in the middle of the night, shoot me a text first or leave a note on the fridge." In order to remove the obstacle of lame parents parenting their cool teens, TV shows like to just remove parents altogether.
Have you ever noticed how many teenagers have their own apartment on TV? Bunheads, an otherwise-perfect show, had a 16-year-old character whose parents gave her an apartment rather than move her out of her hometown. "Here you go, child. Don't stick a knife in any sockets while we're gone forever," they must have said on their way out the door.
Then there's the ultimate cool TV teen move: being homeless. Jughead on Riverdale, Caleb on Pretty Little Liars, and even Jess for a time on Gilmore Girls were all homeless teens whose homelessness is treated as being honestly kind of cool. As if homelessness is a trait of your typical bad boys. It feels like someone took the "Cool kids don't have parents" thing just a little bit too far in these instances. As if they said, "We don't want any parents harshing their vibe. Take away the parents. In fact, take away the entire damn house. Screw it. He lives in a tent now. Chicks love tents."
Technology Doesn't Really Exist
Hey, remember 1982? Because whoever is writing these TV shows sure does. In fact, they don't remember anything but the time before technology was part of daily life. Yeah, everyone on these shows has cellphones (except when they need them to call the police because they're being chased by a murderer), but they don't really use them. Cellphones are just accessories that you put in their hands to make them Long Bangs With A Dark Past Barbie.
Teenagers today have laptops, video game consoles, and VR face hat things that let them swat around while other people sit bored in their living rooms. Technology is an ever-present part of their daily lives. How often do you see a group of kids in public and none of them are ignoring their friends in favor of a YouTube video of a kid snorting Flamin' Hot Cheetos? Legend has it that it's impossible for modern teenagers to make direct eye contact with anything but a game of Candy Crush. And to give you an idea of how fast that technology moves, even that reference is dated.
Yet on these shows, there are so many instances of people getting together to discuss information that should've been conveyed in a group text. The Pretty Little Liars talk about a bunch of illegal stuff like breaking and entering, stalking, and sometimes murder in their local coffee shop. Have these people never heard of the knife or running man emojis? It's the only way to safely plot murder with shapes. They can't arrest you for shapes.
Technology is present on TV today, but only in the same way that it was in the '80s. On Awkward, an MTV show about being awkward, they constantly call each other on their phones to ask to meet in person for an interaction that would probably actually take place entirely over the phone or internet in real life.
It's more fun to watch them interact with each other in person, so they call each other and say, "Hey, come over. We need to talk" instead of just ... you know, continuing to talk or type to each other. To be fair, I may have just noticed this one because I'm allergic to face-to-face human contact and prefer to communicate with most of my friends through a complicated maritime flag system.
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