Reading/Screening Response Week 7

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This week’s screening that I would like to focus on is The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I think Supernatural definitely has rich potential to be discussed in a religious context but based on the episode screened I feel I lack the knowledge of the storylines and the show’s mythology and therefore cannot really delve into the subject matter the way the two articles by Stein and Petersen do.

In class professor Stein urged as not to accept articles or text at face value but not to just dismiss them either. I find it very hard to just dismiss this show as terrible but I will try to look beyond the tepidly memorized recitals by these more or less gifted aspiring actors and actresses – I can’t really blame them because they are givin subpar dialogue to work with. I’m also trying to look past the cheap looking sets as I read on Wikipedia that this show is produced for a million dollar less than the average show on American Primetime television.

Overall, the show felt somewhat schizophrenic as it was moving from attempting to sound young and hip (the mother’s Gilmore-esque rant about North Korea at the beginning comes to mind) to a fairly preachy tone (so we’re allowed to say abortion but only to make clear that it’s NOT a viable option). The Christian characters seem to offer some comic relief, yet the alternatives to their lifestyle are represented as doomed and disastrous. Also “the good Christian family” we meet is morally elevated by having a son with Down Syndrom, which they obviously deal with in the most gracious manner. Also, the nice Christian boyfriend is tempted by an ethnic vixen that wants to sleep with him, probably just to prove his morals wrong. But of course, they are caught in the act – you can’t get away with sin. This seems to be the underlying message the show wants to convey hidden under the “we just want teenagers to realize that actions have consequences”-coat. Yes, they do but by judging them and portraying teenagers as perpetrators without morals or even understandable intentions may not be the way to go. Also, the perpetuation of the idea that a sexually driven teenager (the guy who got Amy pregnant) most come from a place of emotional disturbance seems a little dramatic. Sexual abuse, really? Way harsh. Amy’s likable love interest also struggles with sexual desire but these notions go out the window he gets to know because then it’s all about love – which in Brenda Hampton mind doesn’t go together with sex, at least when it comes to teenagers.

Hampton is responsible (or really to blame) for 7th Heaven, a decade-spanning Chrisitan family saga. Here, she seems to try the racy approach, instead of talking about doing the wrong things these characters at least do it. An improvement from Heaven but overall still not pleasant to watch.

With regards to the readings, unlike Supernatural this show is more preoccupied with the institution of church and the integration of faith and beliefs in the lives of teenagers. Characters are represented as either religious or very much not so – as with the entire show there’s seems to be little room for nuance. In our discussion of Millennials we talk about values and leadership as being more prevalent in this generation. I’m confused as how to apply this to this show which strikes me as offensively judgemental, portraying teenagers as almost exclusively incapable of acting responsibly or within any reach of reason but also rather inconsistent in its tone and message. It tries to portray a variety of values, ethnicities and role models but at least for me in this form and representation none of it seems intellectually coherent or appealing!

One Response to Reading/Screening Response Week 7

  1. kbaker says:

    It’s funny that I didn’t really think about all those terrible stereotypes you mention until our discussion in class, when you brought them up. It’s really hard after noticing them not to believe that the show really is supporting white, religious families over racial, aetheist ones, and abstinence over protection and sexual education. I saw this pilot around the time it came out, only because someone told me the main girl reminded her of me. (WHAT?). But it’s pretty obvious now, I agree with you completely, what ABC family is getting at.

    And the funny thing is, their message really hasn’t changed since I was little. I watched an episode of Seventh Heaven that mentioned sex when I was little, thinking it was pretty scandalous. But all I remember of the episode now was that one character said if you’re an athlete and are having sex, you won’t have babies or breasts… something really weird like that. Hmmm. Makes you wonder.

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