23 Teen Drama Storylines I Saw No Problem With When I Was 15, But Now I Find Super Irresponsible
·13 min read
Hi, y'all! I'm Hannah, and I grew up obsessed with teen dramas!
It's still fun to go back and rewatch my faves — but there are a lot of things that really don't sit well with me now that I'm an adult.
Here are 23 things from teen dramas that now seem really messed up to me:
1.Verbally and physically abusive boyfriends and toxic relationships being portrayed as romantic:
As a teenager, I absolutely WORSHIPPED Chuck and Blair from Gossip Girl, and I wasn't the only one. Presenting abusive, creepy, and toxic behavior as romantic is so damaging to teenagers, and it's time to just give it up. Blair ending up with Chuck on Gossip Girl and Lydia saying she still loved Jackson on Teen Wolf were both so bad, but even toxic couples like Damon and Elena on The Vampire Diaries reinforced some damaging ideas about love.
2.And stalking and obsession being portrayed the same way:
On The Vampire Diaries, Stefan literally admitted to following Elena around so he could learn everything about her, and Damon snuck into her bedroom at night. But Serena calling Dan’s incessant stalking and invasion of her privacy a “love letter” on Gossip Girl really took the cake for me. Although Ezra getting close to Aria, his 16-year-old student, to write a book about Alison on Pretty Little Liars is a close second.
3.Attempted assault scenes being portrayed as a turning point that spurs growth:
4.Or literally just not a big deal:
5.A lot of times, teen dramas also imply that there wasn't consent and it's played for humor or stated casually:
6.Or they'll have a full-on relationship where one party is too young to give consent:
I'm not sure why teen shows still find this "edgy" (looking at you, Riverdale). It wasn't when Pacey slept with his teacher in Dawon's Creek, and it's not now, either. It's creepy and gross, and the actors playing 16-year-olds sleeping with their teachers are never ACTUALLY 16. That makes these relationships look like they're between two consenting adults and obscures the true creepiness. If Lucy Hale had been an actual 16-year-old, seeing her with Ezra on Pretty Little Liars would've been a lot more disturbing.
7.Or they'll romanticize situations where there's a serious power imbalance in the relationship:
8.Moving on...let's talk about queer-baiting:
9.And the only actual queer relationships being toxic:
Adam literally bullied Eric on Sex Education and later was ashamed to be with him. Paige tried to drown Emily for swim team–related reasons on Pretty Little Liars and then they DATED for most of the show. Kurt and Blaine became so toxic, but Glee presented them as their token gay couple. Queer representation is great, but it feels like there are very rarely any positive couples to root for, and that reinforces the idea that queer couples are wrong or don't work.
10.And female characters having a relationship with a girl, then their sexuality never being addressed again:
11.And sexuality overall being presented as super rigid.
12.Queer characters dying for absolutely no reason, often just when their relationship with a same-sex character had started (aka #BuryYourGays):
I've talked a lot about how teen dramas do queer couples dirty, but the #BuryYourGays trope is the absolute worst example of this. Queer couples (often fan favorites) often end with one or both members dying — think Clarke and Lexa from The 100, Nora and Mary Louise from The Vampire Diaries, Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Many times, the death feels unnecessary to the plot, or occurs right after some sort of declaration of love or implied sex scene (or even because of that scene), making the death feel especially connected to being queer. Tara dies right after having sex with Willow, literally a day after they've reconciled, and only because she's in Willow's room. Lexa dies taking a bullet for Clarke. Mary Louise dies for Nora. Supernatural — not a teen show, but a CW show — is probably the worst offender, with Castiel getting dragged to super-hell right after admitting his love for Dean. It's almost as if queer characters are expendable or destined to be tragic, or that the show doesn't actually know how to write a queer couple.
13.The male protagonist being depicted as morally superior, when they’re really just as bad as everyone else:
14.Everyone getting into Ivy League schools:
NO ONE is a shoo-in for Harvard. It always pisses me off when characters who are never shown studying, and are involved in maybe one school club, get into schools like Yale. Also, there are more schools than just the Ivies, and a ton of people don't go to college. Stop setting unrealistic expectations!
15.And, actually, going to college at all:
Let's be real — do we really even want to see these characters go to college? Besides, it's far from the only option after high school, and many times a lot of the issues around student debt and financial aid are ignored. Can we have more characters that don't go to college, please?
16.And then having careers RIGHT out of college, or even before it's over:
17.Characters always ending up with their high school sweetheart:
18.Mental health facilities being depicted as dangerous, creepy places with evil doctors:
19.A suicide-related storyline for shock value:
20.And along the same lines, unnecessarily graphic sexual assault, self-harm, and suicide attempts:
21.Suicide attempts and self-harm for supernatural reasons rather than mental illness:
22.And just in general, mental health storylines only lasting briefly or for drama's sake:
Pretty Little Liars was just straight-up offensive about mental health. Mona's mental health was handled very poorly, and Spencer was just brushed over after a couple episodes. The PTSD the characters experienced after the dollhouse only seemed to last a few episodes. It's not the only offender, though — remember when Lydia kissed Stiles in Teen Wolf to stop his panic attack and it was this big romantic moment? Also, how many teen shows can you remember that actually used terms like depression or schizophrenia or PTSD, and how many presented therapy in a favorable light, if at all?
23.And finally, a happy ending meaning kids and marriage:
Now, this isn't all to say that teen dramas need to always be realistic, or only depict things in healthy ways.
But teenagers can be really impressionable, and I do think that teen dramas should be more mindful of some of the things they are glamorizing or normalizing.
What teen drama tropes or aspect did you not mind as a kid, but find pretty messed up now? Let us know in the comments!
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