Teenage anomaly


“Euphoria” has garnered nine Emmys, WAP was number one on the Global Billboard 200 for three weeks, and “Do Revenge” was on Netflixs’ top 10 movies for 15 days. These are all connected by one factor – its teenage audience. The large amount of teenagers watching is unsettling when you notice how inaccurate the portrayal of people in high school really are. Film has always been something special for me and became the area I wanted to pursue since 7th grade. Yet the more dark teen dramas and coming-of-age content that gets forced out by money-hungry executives, the more I feel like my life isn’t as cool or interesting as I see it, and there’s an insecurity that starts to come from that. High school obviously doesn’t have the constant series of plot twists and character arcs that studios want, but that doesn’t mean media that shows realistic lives of teenagers and keeps the creators’ vision aren’t able to be made so that it’s core audience can connect.

So often I’m watching scenes of what are meant to be 15-17 year olds doing things that in all honesty, most people this age just don’t do. Hard drugs and smoking or solving murder cases all before characters go to class the next morning has become a norm with what this high school audience sees, despite most of it being far beyond this messy age.

It can seem harmless, but when this is a constant in media that’s made for teenagers to consume, it festers. Doubts start to form and confidence falls away from every little thing that you say or do.

What I see are characters that are meant to be and act the same age as me, but rarely do. There are 26 year olds who take on the role of 16 and with that, you see how an adult acts and looks, not someone my age. You begin to question why your skin isn’t clear or why you don’t have the “ideal” body that repeats and repeats until that’s what I think I’m meant to look like.

Together, it creates a romanticization of adult substances and an impossible standard for teens going through an age of exploring and defining who you are. We’re young, and there’s always going to be flaws within us, but that doesn’t mean those should be seen as out of the ordinary. There’s few and far between in this media that presents teenagers trying to balance relationships with friends, family, and school. It’s rare to see girls supporting girls because of the constant pitting against one another. And of course, the awkward interactions that follow new experiences for the weird in between of no longer being a kid but not yet an adult.

Having teenagers see themselves, their real, genuine selves, on the screen is a change to stand for. We need less “Riverdale” and more media like “I Am Not Okay With This”; a series that has teenage actors playing characters their age and shows the experiences of dealing with emotions fueled by changing bodies and circumstances, relationships and the messy, complicated ways they unfold, and identity struggles while still staying true to the realities of being high school aged. 

The truth is, being a teenager is a difficult and confusing time for almost everyone going through and this media is a source of comfort for many, so that comfort should allow us to be honest about how we are. I want to see teenagers that are stressed and tired and sometimes just confused because that’s the way it really is. It’s weird, but we need it because it feels defining, and that should be real.