"Secret" Intentions


When reading “Religion Among Millennials” (http://pewforum.org/Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx) and watching the pilot episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, I’ve been thinking about the tension between liberal and conservative values present in the millennial consciousness, and similarly, how this tension is presented in the media constructed for this group. Where as the Supernatural screening was using religious iconography and mythology for fantastical (and perhaps revisionist) purposes, Secret Life seemed to be aiming for realism as it pertains to current high schoolers.

Just like in Kyle XY, ABC Family seemed eager to present teenage sexuality as inevitable and ever-present. Both groups of kids on the respective shows talk about sex ALL THE TIME. However, Secret Life differentiates itself by juxtaposing this horny-overload with religious zealotry. Personally, I read (/hoped) the show as being subversive in its presentation. By including scenes in which the show’s protagonist was unsure as to whether or not she’d actually HAD SEX, and by showing the guidance counselor as extremely resistant in distributing condoms, the show seemed to be commenting on the lack of sex education in schools and the detrimental effects that can result. These kids were borderline moronic on their grasp of sexual education, options for pregnant teens, and even seemed confused about the necessity of seeing a doctor. This thread was complicated by the depiction of the religious teens (whose lunch conversation was treated by the writers as silly rather than reverent) as stereotypically blonde, brainless (ish) social elites.

I’m still trying to process this show. I don’t know quite what to think. I’m not sure whether their depiction of religion (and chastity?) in schools is supposed to be taken satirically or not. Clearly they are dealing with very heavy issues on some fronts (teen pregnancy and child molestation—probably the first storyline I’ve ever seen concerning such a sensitive topic). On the other hand, the heavy-handed “after school special” tonality of the pilot sometimes came off like subversive social commentary—like these kids are doomed or lost and need parents to TEACH them how to be safe, healthy, and happy. I’m tempted to watch a few more episodes to see how this pans out, but I’m also wondering how Secret Life was received, and how it compares to the rest of the ABC Family line up—which seems to consistently foreground the tension between social conservatism and tolerance.