Real Teens, Real Issues…Now That’s Reality TV!

Rach, the “teen”

I’ve been watching High School Confidential, a show that follows 12 girls through their four years in a typical Mid-western high school. If the girls didn’t talk so much about Kansas, I would have never known where the school is located.

Northwest, the school portrayed in the show, seemed almost exactly like my high school. Our student bodies are very similar; our communities seemed equally diverse, even our school television stations looked alike. The girls out there seem to wear more makeup than the girls at my school, but to be honest, that’s the biggest difference I saw.

That’s why I liked the show so much. Not only do I feel connected (because of our school comparisons), but because I felt connected to the students. They weren’t Orange County celebrities in the making, and they weren’t actors posing as teens. They were real teens, with real issues, making real choices. That rocks. It really felt like an accurate portrayal of what it’s like being a teenage girl.

Of course, it might just be me. Did the high school and the kids seem real to you too?

Real Teens, Real Issues…Now That’s Reality TV!

Mary, the “mom”

It’s fascinating to me that Rachel does feel so connected to these girls and it’s really quite instructive. As I listen to them, they often sound quite dramatic. I think I remember what it was like to be a teenage girl, and of course, I do remember some of it. But at this point in my life, I’ve managed to put all those high school dramas into perspective. It’s easy as an adult to look at some of the issues these girls are dealing with and realize they are just small ‘bumps in the road’.

The girls in High School Confidential are a wake-up call. They are real. Their issues are real and, most importantly, their perspectives on those issues are real. As a parent, it’s really useful to be reminded that, to the girls, at that moment in time, these issues are all consuming.

Real Teens, Real Issues…Now That’s Reality TV!

On the other hand, some of the girls in this show are dealing with huge, life-altering issues – parents dying, unplanned pregnancies, and so on – issues that any adult would recognize as no small ‘bump in the road’. Yet, in some cases, they don’t get the support they so obviously need.

So, what did I get out of this as a mom? A reminder to not minimize the ‘crisis’ that are the milk of the teenager years and a little positive reinforcement that providing a stable and supportive environment – to whatever extent you can control it – has its benefits.

Brad, the “dad”

Actually, High School Confidential scared the bejeebies out of me. Pregnancy, marriage, death, abortion – ah, good times, good times. Then I reminded myself that even though these are real kids, we’re watching the highlights (or lowlights) of four tumultuous years shrunk down into about 18 minutes.

My 17-year-old watched the show with me, and even she commented on how incredibly dramatic each story was. “We have 100 seniors at my [tiny] high school,” she said, “and there’s been exactly one pregnancy, two other girls who came back to school with babies, one traffic death, no suicides, and as far as I know no dead parents. Yet.” (At which point she gave me a disturbingly speculative squint.) There’s a point there: High School Confidential – being a TV show, after all — is intrinsically attracted to the Big Stories, good or bad; Judging by the experiences of my own kids and their friends, the day-to-day life of the high schooler isn’t nearly as high-anxiety as what we saw here.