OPINION: Toxic teen dramas. Do you know what you’re watching?

I am a huge movie and TV buff. I grew up using movies and shows as a method of escapism when life seemed too much. Sitting down to become engrossed in the lives of different characters and traveling with them through everything they have to deal with is still the quickest way to my heart.

That being said, in recent years, I have come to find a lot of the new television shows geared toward our generation distasteful and poorly written. There is a growing obsession in our generation with what I have started referring to as the “toxic teen drama.” Affairs, drugs and deceit dominate our televisions and laptop screens.

While touching on issues such as sexual assault and substance abuse are very real and should be presented realistically, exploiting these kinds of issues just to get people talking is without a doubt problematic. Not only that, but the biggest problem I have with these toxic teen dramas is that half of them are marketed to 15-year-olds.

A 2004 study from RAND Research examined the results on young teenagers watching these kinds of programs.  Watching a high volume of sexual activity was shown to lead to sexual activity earlier in adolescence, which resulted in in a higher number of unplanned pregnancies and STDs among these teens.

RAND further went on to state that these programs affected individual behaviors, causing a 12-year-old at the highest levels of exposure to behave in the way a 14- or 15-year-old at the lowest exposure levels would.

In an interview with Allure, Blake Lively, who starred in the hit series Gossip Girl from 2006 to 2012, admitted that playing out these plot lines wasn’t the most fun.

“People loved it, but it always felt a little personally compromising — you want to be putting a better message out there,” Lively said.

She even told a young fan that she wasn’t sure the girl should be watching Gossip Girl.  Yikes.

Now, believe me, I have watched my fair share of toxic dramas, and I understand how bewitching they can be. I’m not telling you to clear everything off your Netflix cue because we’re all adults who can make up our own minds about how we entertain ourselves. Instead, I’m challenging you to think about what you’re watching and really engage with what’s going on and what you think about it.  

I realize that viewers our age will not be affected the same way we would be if we were 12, but I still think that examining what we watch is incredibly important. Because, no matter how old we get, the age-old adage does prove true: trash in, trash out.

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