Guest Author - Jen Whitten
Along with everything else, drama TV has evolved over the years. What was once viewed as cutting edge or risqué is now seen as antiquated and old-fashioned. Some will argue that the nature of television changes in response to the changing taste of viewers; others claim television is a leading factor in the moral decay of society.
It matters little which came first in this electronic version of the chicken and the egg debate. What matters is the noticeable evolution of dramatic programming available on television and what effect it may have on viewers. Teens, in particular, are affected by this morality shift on television.
The CW is a prime example to illustrate this shift, as they are the largest non-cable network provider of programming for teenagers. Two of the network’s most popular teen dramas are “Gossip Girl” and “90210” and they both feature some very controversial plots. Are the plots a reflection of the issues prevalent in teen culture or are they merely fueling the bad behaviors?
From the first episode, “Gossip Girl” has danced on the line of what is acceptable. A primary character returns home after an absence to face her party girl past. Wild parties, teen sex, alcohol and drug abuse are all recurring themes throughout the series. While these may be the building blocks of great entertainment, it is unknown what level of harm may befall the teenage viewers tuning in each week to watch their mostly consequence-free antics.
Despite the influence of the wholesome parents attempting to hold onto their small town values, “90210” is no better. Little more than halfway through the inaugural season, one character has already had a drug problem, been in and out of rehab, tried to terminate a pregnancy and announced it to the entire school via the video intercom system.
No question about it…This makes for excellent drama. The issue arises when teens watch these shows and begin to model the behavior shown.
Of course, one could question whether these two CW dramas are any worse than the programming they replaced. Considering two former shows were “7th Heaven” and “The Gilmore Girls” – shows full of family values – then one could answer that question to the affirmative. Certainly, the previous dramas held their share of controversy, yet no one was immune to the consequences of their actions.
There was always a lesson; always a moral.
With teen pregnancy and drug abuse on the rise, it is only natural to wonder what influence dramatic television held over those early decisions down the wrong path. Quite clearly, responsibility for one’s actions cannot be placed on television, as everyone is responsible for the person they choose to be. Yet the question remains: Do teen dramas follow the lead of society?
Or is it the other way around?