The hazards of the “American Teenager”


So while I was back home, I was able to watch television and actually watch it. As a college student, I usually just leave it on as background noise. While at home, though, I usually watch whatever others are watching. Recently, it was The Secret Life of the American Teenager. If you are unfamiliar with that show, good. The real issue I have with shows about teen pregnancy is that they are pretty much detrimental to the cause. They are to the cause of preventing teen pregnancy as Biden is to Obama. If people want to watch reality television or shows in that vein, I’m all for it. Let people who are making poor decisions as adults become entertaining and informative. If it prevents another Trackmark Tony, then it’s successful. My problem starts when kids and young people are involved. Just like in my last article, when I mentioned that child actors have an issue telling if things are imaginary or real, the same is true for the audience that watches these shows about teen pregnancy like 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. While this article deals with what I have seen in Secret Life, let it be known I am no supporter of other shows that capitalize on children in such a manner.

Enough prologue. When Secret Life came out in 2008, I thought the whole show was developed to prevent teenage pregnancy. I thought it was funny because it was an American teenager, which makes America look awesome, and also because it was on a family channel owned by Disney. The show absolutely backfired, if you ask me. The backfire came around because it was a drama, as in fake shit. Any teenager knows that the setup was fake, and therein lies the problem: you make a fake show about a serious issue. You get a populace that thinks things in the show can’t happen to them. Teen pregnancy almost becomes a game, because the issue is dramatized.

Here are some things I saw in the episode I watched recently. There is a Christian girl, who now promises to only have sex with those who promise marriage. The “loose one” of the school is living with a graduated college student. The nerdy band guy who was supposed to be a nice guy has married both the show’s protagonist and the previously mentioned “loose girl,” giving him a grand total of two divorces for those keeping score. (His dad is Big Pussy from The Sopranos, though, so that’s a win there.) The show’s protagnoist has a kid and is living with the guy who knocked her up in band camp, the only believable scenario in the show. Did I mention they are all 17 or 18 years old?

Now, how the hell can someone look at this show and think it sounds plausible? I certainly didn’t go to a school that had people who were twice divorced. The biggest thing, though, is that every kid there apparently doesn’t know what a condom feels like. That, or they all have latex allergies. I taught education and health workshops in inner-city schools with lower pregnancy rates than this fictional school. What fantasy land high school is this? The bigger problem is that they make pregnancy almost seem like there are no consequences, because they are all living mostly well. The main character has only one issue, and that’s getting summer school done. She works and is a mom, but she can afford to live in a nice apartment, has someone living with her and has been married once and is engaged again. Excuse me, but is this a show about the 1% of pregnancies? I want to know what happened to the whole message that pregnancy is a negative thing when it happens in your teens. (They mention it once in commercials.)

Secret Life works so hard against its original message. It takes a message, makes the characters the most extreme versions of themselves and make the main issues almost laughable, because the worst thing in these kids’ lives seems to be homework. If I am completely out of line, let me know, but if you ask me, an 18-year-old girl in this situation might have bigger issues. What about the lack of finances? What about the issues of most teen pregnancies not involving two parents? What about the animosity from their own parents? What about….? I could go on, because it’s something I taught. I’m telling you, if you want to glorify tough issues, you get a public that thinks they are fictional. This isn’t just some Twilight fantasy bullshit. If you want to make a message and a difference, you can’t just spice it up for ratings.

Did I mention that this show precedes The 700 Club?  If you haven’t watched that, go ahead. It’s the most biased Christian news program you will ever see. They follow a show that’s filled with this glorified version of teen pregnancy and premarital sex, with a show against choice and birth control. I think it’s kind of hilarious, and it just really doesn’t make sense. Let’s follow the most improbable show on TV with a show that would call every character on it heathens. Oh ABC Family, you make me giggle.

  • Bridgeysmom2011

    You really should so some research on the show before you try and tell the world what it is about. I have been watching it since it came out and you have got a lot of information wrong.

    • Actually this person was nearly dead on. I have watched it with my sister, and it aggravates me. They may have gotten a few tidbits wrong but thats it. The so called “loose one” was never married to the baby daddy. And the protagonist wasn’t married to the nerdy band guy. In fact. My sister went to the same highschool I went to. Of the 45% and higher sexually active students while I was there, only 3% had gotten pregnant. Ever since these horrible shows came out in 2008, that 3% of pregnant students went up. to 6%. That is high considering my alma mater holds about 800-1000 students. I never watched full seasons of this crap because these shows are sending the opposite message. ESPECIALLY the MTVs shows. Saying “Hey! If I get pregnant. I can be on TEEN MOM! :D”. No. You clearly need some therapy if you are sticking up for this show.