It’s been such a busy month. I’ve barely had a chance to write anything. So here’s something small I’ve been musing on. American TV. I’m not talking about Big Bang Theory or fluff pieces like that. But grittier stuff. The Wire, Sopranos and this new show, American Crime. I’m only on the first episode so it may be too soon to put it in the same league as these other greats, but there’s something about these kids, these parents, this school life that feels all too real.
There are a few things going on in this show. The first episode builds the tension and subtly hints at the complex thoughts that will later emerge. One young man’s claim that he was raped at a school party. I can’t give anything away as I don’t know much more, but it already feels like it will be a thought provoking, stirring show that highlights how these issues are never black and white.
What did strike me was the young women in the show. And the constant pressure of sex. In fairness to American Crime the three female teens we meet in the first episode aren’t your stereotypical teenage girls bowing to the wants of their male companions. But it is there. And obviously this show is about sex. So I wondered is this what it’s really like for American teens?
I get it. Teenagers are spilling over with hormones. I was a teenager once. Ha! But the pressures of sex wasn’t so all encompassing, that it marked every minute of my school life. Admittedly I went to an all girls school but it’s not as if I didn’t know any boys. But for American teens, it seems to be all anyone thinks about. Drinking, drugs and sex.
Okay, okay. I wasn’t a nun growing up. I did drink. I was sexually active and did think about sex but I was honestly in no rush to give it away. And there was drugs around but I was lucky enough to have friends that weren’t really interested in it.
So this is where I ask myself …. does fiction cross with reality?
American series involving teenagers always seem to be about the girls flaunting their asses in a short skirts or whether they’re going to have sex with their boyfriends. Or some teenage pup is saying they want to fuck them or actually in this show ‘rape’ them. Though it’s used in a jovial way and is obviously a nod to later events.
Does it all revolve around sex? Yes. Because it did in my time too. I wore the shortest of skirts. I flirted and danced sexily with boys. But I feel there’s a difference in the way sex is portrayed among American teenagers. There’s a sinister undertone. It’s not simply having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend, someone you trust. There’s the leeriness of men, of boys. The crass way they speak about women, the sense that women are still playthings for their amusement rather than an equal partner in this decision. So then, the woman is berated for her choices, for not saying no. I do applaud American writers for not shying away from this dark side of teenagers (have a look a Skins for the British equivalent of this reality) but it makes me weary.
Will the message ever change?
There are hints of in it in American Crime and I’ll be watching it to see how it evolves. Whether the three teen girls we met will buck the trend and surprise me.
Right muse over!
Thanks again to Unsplash website for the photo