Culture

Review: The Secret Life Of The American Teen

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January 11th, 2010

By Patti Gibbons  Amy has a problem.  It isn't that she plays French Horn, either. 

“I had sex, and it isn't like what you think, all romantic and stuff.  I didn't realize what was happening, until, like, 2 seconds, and it was over.”  The words, “It was just some guy at band camp,” combined with the pained look on her face is how her besties realize she's not only done it, she's pregnant.

So begins The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a new series from ABC Family, starring Shailene Woodley (The OC) as Amy, along with Molly Ringwald and Mark Derwin as her parents; Josie Bissett, John Schneider and a host of young talent.  It airs Tuesdays at 8 pm and began July 1.

Amy's story is definitely Juno-esque, but Secret Life has a story all it's own.  Secret Life takes the viewer into the social whirl that is Grant High School, complete with all the types (band geeks, athletes, rebels and even Christians) and struggles, sexual tension and drama that is the teenage world.

I watched the premiere episode with a small group of young people between the ages of 16 and 26, and the consensus was that the show was considerably more serious than High School Musical (and made great use of music from artists like Avril Lavigne and John Mayer), but was still a bit more caricature than reality.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing, and, in my mind, gives the show promise in opening communication about the reality of the situations arising among teens.  The best quote of the premiere was from Jack (Greg Finley), the Christian football star, discussing his feelings about the new purity ring Grace (Megan Park), his Christian cheerleader girlfriend, is wearing, exclaiming:  “I am a Christian and I'm a man. I don't know how to be both right now!”

Youth workers, and parents, should know that the sexual tension is what drives the plot and it does so frankly enough that the show has a parental discretion advisory.  The show also points viewers to the website Stay Teen, the site of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy which is a teen-influenced project that youth workers and parents may want to evaluate.  Even in the first episode youth workers will find plenty to use as discussion material about topics from how to invite non-Christian friends to events, to the practical realities of the demands of sexual purity, to the authenticity of the relationships in the show (and their own schools and families).   The previews hint at subjects like abuse, divorce, gossip, and more.

The full episodes are available online on the ABC Family website's video page; as with any potential resource, previewing for your group is very strongly recommended.  The Secret Life show pages have all kinds of interactive media, including a forum, blog, poll, access to the music used in each episode, and inside program information (all of which are also worth a look before sending kids their way).

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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