Confession: I’m a 30-Something Man Addicted to Teen Dramas

The Girl Next Door: The idealized notion of feminine virtue, the Girl Next Door is always kind, always beautiful, and always with the wrong guy. This character often serves as the crush object for the All-American Boy and his desire for her drives him to feats of great romance or physical bravery. Writing rooms expend tremendous energy keeping these two characters apart and when that ultimate coupling finally occurs, it’s simultaneously a great catharsis and the moment the show loses every ounce of compelling sexual tension. Examples include Peyton Sawyer from One Tree Hill, Summer Roberts from The OC, and Felicity from Felicity.

The Brooding Loner: The Brooding Loner is the Teen Drama’s sex object. He’s a bad-boy who’s often up to no good, and The Girl Next Door is drawn to him like a moth to a flame, which inevitably brings the Brooding Loner into conflict with the All-American Boy. Sometimes the Loner drives a vintage muscle car or a convertible. Other times it’s a motorcycle. He’s an artist at heart, maybe a poet or a painter, and he always hurts the Girl Next Door, often out of his own secret desire for her. Examples include Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life, Dylan McKay from Beverly Hills 90210, and Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights.

The Whore with the Heart of Gold: This is the bad girl in town with the dark past who doesn’t believe she deserves love. Deep down she’s loyal to a fault and always does the right thing in the end. Often the tragic character, she’ll suffer through pregnancy scares, date rape, drug abuse, or abortion all to serve the larger moral message. Examples include Kelly Taylor from Beverly Hills 90201, Tyra Collette from Friday Night Lights, and Marissa Cooper from The OC.

The Too-Cool-to-Be-True-Parents (TCTBTP henceforth): The TTCTBTP’s invariably parent the All American Boy or The Girl Next Door. These parents are handsome, perhaps even sexy. They’re preternaturally attuned to the moods and desires of the teens they parent and always understand exactly what their kids are up against. They rarely react poorly in any given situation, and if they do, they’re quick with an apology. Examples of the TCTBTP include Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (not Buffy’s parent biologically, but certainly a father figure), Kirsten and Sandy Cohen from The OC, and Rufus Humphrey from Gossip Girl (so cool he’s an actual rock star).

Ridiculously Talented Kids: The children who populate these shows are always unnaturally talented for their age and often outcast from popular groups despite this obvious talent. Dawson Leery is gifted filmmaker. Veronica Mars solves murder mysteries. Buffy Summers is a superhero who saves the world on occasion. The reason for this plot device is obvious. Every teenager wishes they were extraordinary in some fashion, and most teenagers feel like outsiders. The more interesting question here resides in the self-definition of art. If Lucas Scott writes a novel that is considered “art” within the context of One Tree Hill, does that mean the series creator who actually wrote Lucas’ “art” believe he’s created art in turn?

Complete Self-Awareness: In addition to being unnaturally talented, these kids are also completely self-aware of their own emotions and motivations, which rings completely hollow to anyone who actually knows a teenager. Actual teenagers are capricious, often downright hostile human beings more akin to Idi Amin than Sigmund Freud.

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    • cokie

      i love this. everything is so true especially #prosprk and the teens being very insightful, this show would be a hit!