When does loving entertainment geared toward the teenage demographic go from being funny and ironic to sad and borderline pedophiliac? Sure, it’s cute to be in your early twenties playing Degrassi drinking games with all of your friends; but once you hit your mid-twenties and your unwavering dedication to the Canadian melodrama causes you to miss social functions with real people, the endearing charm is lost and others begin to question your mental stability. What was once a laughable idiosyncrasy has turned into an abhorrent behavior.
The shows on TeenNick aren’t the only ones that quench my appetite for such pubescent drama. Give me Teen Mom or any show on the CW. Just put a teenager or a 20-something playing a teenager on television and I will watch it. No, I won’t just watch it. I will allow these asinine stories and characters to engulf my entire life. Will Elena and Stefan realize that their love can overcome all obstacles thrown at them on the Vampire Diaries? Will Teen Mom’s Maci and Ryan ever reconcile for the sake of their poorly named son, Bentley? These are questions I must have answered. These are questions, I realize, stable and intelligent adults do not ask themselves.
As an introspective person, I question why I take such pleasure in these poorly written narratives. Perhaps it is because I never got to experience the highs and lows of the stereotypical teenager. I never faced the choice between terminating an unwanted pregnancy or raising a child on my own. No one ever pretended to date me on a dare and ended up falling in love with me after realizing that inner beauty trumps all. I didn’t even go to prom with a boy who was a romantic interest, so I never got the opportunity to lose my virginity in a sequined gown. I was just the girl whose goal in high school was to leave unscathed and unnoticed. I was successful in this attempt. In fact, I was too successful. This is where I pinpoint my dilemma of vicariously living out these various important teenage moments through television and movies. So what if I missed out on these events so long ago? I watch these milestones unfold through the too-pretty-to-be-real cast of Pretty Little Liars.
Does this mean that because I never successfully lived out my teenage years I am now doomed to watch teenage programming for the rest of my life? Sure, knowing what I know now, I may have gotten knocked up by the mysterious boy in my drama class and had a secret abortion or fled the country with our lovechild. But hindsight is 20/20, and honestly, I believe that always having these teen shows in my life meant that I never needed to do such things.
Perhaps the real appeal of shows like Vampire Diaries or Pretty Little Liars to women living in their post-teenage years is that they are a constant. I remember being a child watching 90210 and how Dawson’s Creek formed my ideas of what high school should be like. Today I know that the depictions on these shows are false, exaggerated, and often problematic for the adolescent audience whose ideals of gender and sexuality are not yet fully formed. However, I still watch. They are my comfort food. My McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries. I know it’s bad for me, and I feel a sense of shame after consuming it, but for some reason I’ll never be able to fully stop. These shows allow me to forget who I am at the moment and enjoy all the troubling greatness that television executives attribute to being a teenager. And, at least for now, I will continue watching.
Image from http://artfare.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/369/