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“Secret Life of the American Teenager” – more than we want to know?

July 3, 2010

There’s no such thing as “safe TV programming” anymore.  I can’t want “regular” TV with my kids at any particular time, knowing that I don’t have to be worried about the content they see.  Even if the program we’re watching is rated “G,” you have to be very worried about what’s shown during commercial breaks.

This is what happened to us last weekend.  We’re home watching that old standby “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” — the one with Gene Wilder in the role of Willie Wonka.  About as safe as you can imagine, well, except if you discount some of the weird content of the movie itself with kids getting sucked up pipes in chocolate lakes or blowing up like a giant blueberry, or those creepy Oopma-loompas.  (Hey, but they have a GREAT moral: do the right thing, don’t overeat, don’t snap your gum in public and you’ll turn out great! I can support that.)

Sorry, I digress. This isn’t about Willie’s about what we get to see in between Willie Wonka.  Previews about the next “Secret Life of the American Teenager.”

And guess what?  Another teen pregnancy.  In preceding seasons, the first teen pregnancy happened on this show and while that seemed ground-breaking at the time, I think it has permanently cast this show in the same concrete.  I don’t really know what this show is about anymore, except that it’s a “behind the scenes” look at the angst and drama of the “average” American teen?

Not hardly. Not only do these “teens” not act like average teens…well, at least not any I know (or most of my friends know), they don’t look like them either. They are glamorized, upscale dressed, pulled together to the point where you know just before they took the shot, someone called “Wardrobe” and “Makeup.” They look like 25-year olds, not kids.

And there seems to be no plot anymore, other than, as a producer-acquaintance of mine said yesterday “their sex lives.” He’s a fan of the show, too. But, once we got to talking, he realized that there’s really nothing going on except endless dialog and debate about these kids’ amorous antics.

There’s my problem.  Do you expect this kind of programming on something positioning itself as “ABC Family?” I mean, I don’t consider this family programming. And, I don’t consider this kind of programming positive in any way. What message is it supposed to be sharing: that our kids are having sex, all the time, at younger ages, and it’s a great thing!?  I mean, I’m not trying to be a prude, but is this the takeaway you want your kids to get out of a TV show, really?  MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” is problematic in itself, but now we have a “made for teens” drama that does nothing but highlight those kinds of behaviors most parents would wish their kids wouldn’t get involved in so quickly.

And when I’m watching what should be family programming on said “Family” channel, I don’t need my young kids to be exposed to this kind of…dare I say, “trash.” They’re too old for Disney Playhouse, but that doesn’t mean I want them to jump into the teen equivalent of a soap opera, with everyone either sleeping with everyone else, thinking about it, talking about it, or scheming about how they can steal such-and-so’s boyfriend/girlfriend. At least the Hallmark Channel has reruns of “Little House on the Prairie,” right?

No, I’m not trying to stick my head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t occur. But I also don’t want to be bombarded with those images that cause us to increasingly accept this kind of behavior as normal and acceptable.  Remember that not all-so-long ago, Ricky and Lucy weren’t even seen sleeping in the same bed — two twin beds, side-by-side in their bedroom (how Little Ricky managed to be conceived at all is still a mystery). I just think it’s not a bad thing to go back to “mainstream” programming times that say certain types of programming shouldn’t be shown before a certain hour, unless you are going to a non-family channel. I think that’s fair.  I’d like to know that before, say, 9pm, when I’m watching TV with my kids on a “mainstream” channel, they aren’t going to see promos of teen pregnancies, adultery, booze, and violence.  And, did I mention sex?

Look, they’re going to get all that soon enough.  I think it’s ok to let your kids be kids for as long as they can. And when something is billed as a “family” channel, I’d like it to live up to that label. Our kids absorb so much as they are growing up. Isn’t it ok to have those images and storylines be positive instead of coarse and common?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tranquil1 permalink
    July 6, 2010 8:46 am

    This is why we no longer have cable TV and only watch shows by way of netflix.

    It is important that children have a chance to discuss topics that come up unexpectedly and not treat discussion about them as taboo. That said, I agree that it has to be approached at their level of understanding.

    For example, I did not have a problem with my 14 year old watching “Mom at Sixteen” (shows the reality and heartbreak of teen pregnancy) but I would have a problem with my youngest child viewing it. It’s not time yet. 🙂

  2. July 29, 2010 5:54 am

    Thank you for saying what I have been yelling for months! My kids are 12, 10, and 5…and we watch several shows on ABC “Family” Channel. These commercials about “Secret Life” are terrible – I can only imagine what the actual show is like. Seriously, teenagers saying things to each other like “If you sleep with my ex-boyfriend Jimmy…then I’ll get you back by sleeping with your ex-boyfriend Bobby.” Really? How ironic that the Executive Producer of such a fiasco is Anson Williams (you may remember him as “Potsie” on the 70’s hit Happy Days). Thanks for letting me rant, Corinne….I love your blog!



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