Watching T.V. shows like Gossip Girl, 90210 and even Skins (Britainís take on the teen melodrama) is my favorite form of escapism during the school year. As a teenage feminist, watching these shows can be frustrating. But Iíd be lying if I didnít admit that I actually loved the exaggerated depiction of what teensí lives are like.
But I enjoy these shows despite my unquestionable knowledge that the display before me was completely unrealistic. In fact, that is why I like them. Over-exaggeration can be fun. But I hope that itís general knowledge that "teen shows"- the ones that are supposed to relate most closely to our lives- the ones full of drinking and drug use and sex - the ones that don't spare the nitty gritty- these shows aren't actually reality. I enjoy watching theses shows through the lens of a completely unreal, fantasy teen world, but I worry that little girls who live far from the big cities where these shows take place, who have never been further than a few hours from their house, wonít see it that way.
The fact is T.V. networks sell us the images we think are cool by saying that they are our lives - that way we feel cool consuming their product - sex, drugs and lies. And here's how they do it:
These kids are sophomores/juniors in high school and apparently they're all emancipated minors living lavish life styles. Almost all 16-year-olds have some type of guardian. This is an especially salient point of Gossip Girls. In this show, parents are there merely to serve as an additional plot line, not as the anchors of reality, or actual parents. The most parenting I saw from Lily, the teen character of Serenaís mother on Gossip Girls, was when she had her daughter arrested. And then Blair and Serena, two teens, decide to go to a swanky bar on a weeknight- no carding, of course, they're the elite after all. They have inconsequential sleepovers at their boyfriends' houses. No big deal.
Drinking, Smoking, Sexing OH MY!
These "teens" (by which I mean actors in their twenties) drink like fish, further elevating their chance of liver damage later in life every episode, smoke cigarettes and pot, and are promiscuous. Yes, it is true that teens actually do drink, smoke and have sex. But it's not all of us. It's not even most of us. And it's rarely at the alcoholic and addictive points displayed in these shows. Some of us are responsible and conscious of our health.
Drama, Drama, Drama
With story lines revolving around teen pregnancy and rehab I canít help but wonder how weíre supposed to take any of it seriously. There's nothing wrong with drama in what are really just glorified soap operas, but that's the point. These shows tout themselves as representing reality, despite the fact that most teens do not live each day like a party subsidized by their trust fund.
Because, let's all face it, our lives on average wouldnít really make the most interesting T.V. show. Which, as it turns out, is actually fine. I hear all these teens complaining about how boring their lives are, because whether consciously or not they're comparing their lives to the lives depicted in Gossip Girl and 90210, which just promote irresponsible promiscuity, drug use and other stupid moves. We watch these shows and we roll our eyes because most of us realize that life isn't like that. But then we go and strive to match it anyway.
Considering that we all know better and it still has such a strong effect on us, I'm seriously worried about those girls in rural areas, the 6th graders watching, and even the parents who now think that this is what we're like. The bottom line? Iím still waiting for a T.V. show that actually represents my life as a smart, well-rounded young woman.
Related links at Feminist.com:
Excerpt from "A Little F'd Up: Why Feminism is Not a Dirty Word"
by Julie Zeilinger
Julie Zeilinger is the founder and editor of The FBomb, a feminist blog for teenagers who care about their rights and want to be heard. The FBomb posts the articles of teenage feminists from all over the world about issues such as pop culture and self-image, while also promoting open dialogue about more serious issues like politics and social justice. Julie is a 16-year-old from Pepper Pike, Ohio.