The Accuracy of Teen Portrayal in TV Shows

Erin Lee, Feature Editor

     Imagine this. You are a quirky, nerdy yet irresistibly charming high school teenager girl. Despite all of your attractive features, no one notices you, and your days go by unnoticed. But by some miraculous chance, you cross paths with the most popular jock in high school, who throws flirtatious glances and winks across classrooms. Sound familiar? 

     This is one of many stereotypes perpetuated by TV shows and media. Teenagers in Western media often come across as overly-mature or highly unrealistic. One major cause of this is because these “teenager” roles are often taken up by actors in their 20s and 30s–failing to account for the true high school experience. 

Cartoon by Cavalcade Staff.

     In reality, there are no actors with pore-less skin and dental veneer smiles in high school; only the dreaded scent of adolescence, Bath and Body Works perfume and Axe body spray linger. The shows seldom have scenes of intense last-minute cramming for AP tests or rushing to attend club meetings, like any average high schooler would. 

     Gossip Girl, one of the most infamous examples for its portrayal of teenagers, illustrates the elite Upper East Side high school life as something fresh out of Paris Fashion Week. There is too much alcohol, drugs, and Louboutins for mere teenagers. Inaccurate teenage life seen on TV programs only creates false perceptions in younger students to strive for an experience that models what they see, only to lead to disappointment. It can even stretch as far as pressuring such students to follow what they see, and justify criminal activity like underage drinking or smoking. 

     A poll of 60 Woodson students conducted through Instagram showed that a 95 percent of students believed that the portrayal of teenagers in TV shows could be better, as opposed to “it’s okay.” 

     “I feel like TV shows tend to make everything about teenagers super dramatic, failing to show the subtleties of the high school experience,” said Aveek Sur, a junior who voted for the majority in the poll. “There are times when the shows I watch make it seem like teenagers are dumb and always against authorities, or adults, which simply isn’t true in a lot of cases.”

Photo courtesy of

     However, not all shows have this kind of wrongful representation. The Netflix hit series, Sex Education, does quite an explicit yet informative job of educating students on realistic sex-ed often brushed over in school much like its name suggests, and comforts the youth on messages about conformity and friendship. 

     It also is important to note that the unrealistic aspects of high school life in shows are what make them enjoyable to watch, since it is so removed from reality. At times, a nice binge of Riverdale is all you need to alleviate your post-midterm stress.