By Nicai de Guzman
Scandal + fitting in + pregnancy + lots of sex.
That seems to be the formula of most teen drama shows like The O.C., Gossip Girls and the new vamped up version of 90210.
They say that art imitates life. The issues discussed in teen shows are indeed sought from real life, but what kind of messages are these shows sending to their viewers?
In a TIME magazine article “The Truth About Teenage Girls”, Julia Taylor, a middle school counselor from North Carolina, talks about how such shows derailed focus on the consequences of irresponsible actions.
“I just remember the show’s multiple sexual partners, the cocaine use, and then at the end, they drink, they drive, they set fires, but all is well! There are never any consequences,” she said about The O.C.
The article also quotes Jane Brown, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, saying “Twelve-to-14-year-old girls who start puberty earlier are more interested in sexual content in the media.”
Brown’s research also found that adolescents whose media diet is rich in sexual content are more than twice as likely as others to be sexually active at a young age.
Guil Ocampo, Bureau Manager of youth broadcasting group, Kabataan News Network (KNN) Baguio, says that such effects are also evident in the Filipino youth. In his work with young people, he noticed that a lot of them are sexually active, at the age of 16.
While some of these shows may highlight problems faced by the youth today and hint at the causes and effects of certain behavior, the consequences are portrayed as something to be taken lightly.
“They show that it’s so fun to fool around and be filthy rich,” he said. “Themes of teenage sex are usually involved, like it’s okay to pregnant at a young age.”
The changing landscape of media also affects the accessibility of such shows, added Ocampo.
“These shows used to air on cable television and the airing is delayed,” he said. “Now, there’s the internet and lots of DVDs.”
According to Ocampo, there needs to be some sort of regulation, but it would be very hard to monitor or have a regulating body for free streaming sites such as YouTube.
Christian, 22, an avid viewer of the series Gossip Girl, thinks that such shows do not really affect the Filipino audience that much.
“It’s not in our culture to be that liberated,” he said. “Our generation still depends a lot on our parents.”
He also said that in the show, the same thing is portrayed – the reliance of the teenagers on parents, who would usually reprimand the wrongdoings of their children.
“So the parents still serve as some sort of control,”, said Christian.
Francis, 17, who also watches foreign syndicated series, insists his peers and the Filipino youth are already being influenced by the values and behavior venerated in such shows.
“Since they’re from the States, we start thinking in the same liberal western mind frame and let that lord over our more conservative Filipino views,” he said.
On the other hand, Erika, 16, who also counts herself as a fan of teen soap operas, thinks that the effect depends on the maturity level of the teen and that there are some positive things to be learned from the show.
“If they can relate to the show, then it’s going to affect their being conservative,” she said.
Erika said that the youth can also get tips on how to solve problems, if the characters dealt with them the right way.
Francis agrees that values are actually “subjective” and that such shows are “good for learning western values, which aren’t always bad.”
“For example, the value of following your dreams despite what your parents say. Local mindset is to be a good offspring and follow your parents ala fourth commandment,” he explained. “The older generation might not exactly consider it a value, but it can certainly have a positive outcome.”