Seen and Heard
Secret Lives of Teens
Cautionary tales from the high school frontlines
-Mary Beth Sammons
In an era when we all know teens are having sex, and Jamie Lynn Spears tries to make her naked belly look cute and coy, you’ve got to applaud ABC Family channel’s attempt to show the not-so-fun side of getting knocked up as a sophomore in high school. After all, this is a crucial issue for teens and parents that can wreck lives forever. Unlike recent Hollywood depictions (Knocked Up, Juno) that make the consequences seem almost fun, it’s not particularly glamorous or funny.
But last night, watching episode #2 of The Secret Life of the American Teenager with my 15-year-old daughter and college sophomore son, I had to shake my head at their scoffs and “get real” comments. Like yeah, there’s a lot of sophomore cheerleader bombshells like Grace pontificating from their locker perches about the merits of staying celibate, is what I could read on the smirk on my daughter’s face. Even the most clueless parental viewers can quickly surmise that most teens are too sophisticated to buy these staged, let-me-cram-my-message-down-your-face teenage morality plays found on the show.
And, the casting is hilarious. Fifteen-year-old Amy, the “good” student who becomes pregnant the first time she has sex is a likeable girl (and her gothic younger sister is a stitch) but she’s Molly Ringwald’s daughter – yes the same red-haired Molly of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. You can’t help but wonder who is more mature, as visions of John Hughes blockbusters dance in your head. And even more hysterical is Christian cheerleader Grace, who vows abstinence to her parents…Josie Bissett of Melrose Place and John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard. Their frequent heart-to-hearts are probably the funniest parent/teen, bad-acting interactions I have ever witnessed on TV.
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud any effort to help teens navigate challenges that can have lasting impacts on their futures. But, please…the pious dialogue and lecturing (high-school students spout teen pregnancy statistics en route to study hall). It’s a good try, but try again.
Even sadder, I will be watching again next week. It was so absurd I can’t wait to see what else they can dream up.