Teen favorite shows more harmful than we think

Amylee Gil, Staff Writer

As a teenager of Gen-Z, I’ve seen a good amount of the most popular drama shows presented to young people. And with every new show, I am left unsatisfied and a little irritated. 

I don’t mean to sound bitter; they’re all good in their own right. However, there are multiple issues I have with certain harmful messages today’s shows give to us teens. 

First of all, I’d like to address the unnecessary sexualization of the characters in these shows. Yes, sex has a place in the real world, but these shows seem to hypersexualize and glorify sex. They always have their teenage girl characters dealing with some messy and rather toxic relationships with other boys that only ever revolve around sex. For example, in the Netflix show “Never Have I Ever”, a lot of what main character Devi prioritized in her life was her sexual relationships. Yes, expose teens to examples of toxic relationships in high school and the concept of sex, but leave out all the unnecessary and excessive parts that don’t have any purpose in the show other than to be sexual and messy. 

Other examples of this can be found in the shows “Euphoria”, “Riverdale” and “13 Reasons Why”. There’s no denying that these shows are obviously putting extremely intense and adult situations onto teenagers in a very unrealistic and harmful way. It’s true that teens really do deal with a lot of those tough situations the characters from the show go through, but I think that that’s the show’s excuse to just make the story as dramatic and heavy as they want. Specifically with “13 Reasons Why”, this show just exploits teenagers and those who do have to go through those situations that are just used to make the show interesting. 

The worst part is, shows like “13 Reasons Why” can get away with being poorly filmed because all they need to do is to throw some more nonsense into the story to keep us hooked. At some point, shows like this just lose their message and keep dumping whatever traumatic event after another, not to correctly represent real problems, but to keep their audience. But what do we all get out of watching something like that? 

For some reason we are more willing to follow a story like this when it’s specifically about high school students. I do believe that people get off on seeing these kinds of things being put on teenagers, and that it would probably be less interesting if it was about actual young adults. There is undeniably some strange glorification of high school and it’s really just because this is how the media portrays teenagers. Say it’s representation, but really it’s exploitation. 

If it was obvious that the only point of these stories is to represent today’s teens and genuinely tell a story, then that would be fine. But instead what these shows are doing is acting like there’s a purpose behind why they portray teens like that, when really there isn’t, it just heightens the drama. But again, our brains get nothing from that. We get no real take away and learn to prioritize and normalize all the wrong things from a young age. 

We don’t even think about the media we consume anymore. We’re willing to spend our time and attention on shows like this because they’re easy to consume. It just throws the next crazy dramatic plot twist at us and we just sit back and never think twice about how stimulated our brains are. It’s comfortable to watch these things. Yes, they also have a lot to relate to. Yes, at some points they do hold a lot of meaning. Many of those concepts do have a place in teenagers’ lives, but when we see it portrayed in a harmful way it can change our sense of reality and expectations of what our high school experience should be. The drama is great, but it doesn’t always need to be about high school students in order for it to be interesting.