Lately I've been watching volume 4 of The Secret Life of the American Teenager on DVD. [Sidenote: I hate when TV shows are released as volumes in a manner irrelevant to what season you are watching.] I cannot stop watching this terrible, awful show no matter how hard I try. I caught the first half of season one on DVD a couple of years ago, intrigued by how ABC Family would handle teenagers having sex (this is before I started watching Greek), but the acting was so painfully amateur that I stopped watching.
A year or so later I was watching The Soup on E!, where they showed a clip of character Grace, whom I had remembered from the first few episodes as being strictly Christian and virginal. In this clip, however, she was pleading, "Dad died a terrible, terrible death, because I had great sex, and I will never forgive myself for that!" Whhaaaa? I was so intrigued that I put the show back on my Netflix queue, curious to see how the show had gotten to such a point. Surely the quality had improved as the show had gained popularity and experience.
I have to interrupt myself here to say that I love trashiness. I mean, I'm someone who has stuck with Gossip Girl after it got ridiculous (well, it was always ridiculous). I have segments of I Love New York 2 (season 2 > season 1, obviously) memorized. So, in wondering how The Secret Life would have gotten to the point I had seen it at in the aforementioned clip, my mind reeled. I tried to think of ways in which Grace could have killed her father with sex. My favorite was thinking that she and her lantern-jawed boyfriend were going at it so intensely, the bed fell through the floor and landed on the father who is just sitting downstairs reading the bible.
Look, suffice it to say, what actually happened was nowhere near that cool. I sat through however many discs of this dry, dull, and stupid TV show to get to that scene, and it was definitely not worth it. I decided to stop watching for good, until I heard that Bristol Palin was going to be guest starring in the current season, so here I am again, catching up on DVD, hating every minute, and hoping for some kind of payoff.
Now look, there has been a lot of derision geared towards Bristol Palin, before and since her appearance on this show, and that upsets me. Politics completely aside, a teenage girl made the mistake of having unprotected sex, and got pregnant. Like millions of others. She was placed in the public spotlight by no desire of her own, and tried to make the best of it. So she's not a good actress, fine, but I just wish people would lay off of her. Anyway.
So, here I am watching this show. I want to like it. I want it to be good. I'm a huge advocate for comprehensive sex education, and I feel that if children were taught more thoroughly about healthy, safe sex, it would improve so many things. Fewer unplanned pregnancies, STDs, healthier people, fewer unplanned-for children to care for, less sexual assault, better sex lives, happier people! I want there to be a popular, sex-positive TV show that teaches teens the real facts about the one thing they can't stop thinking about anyway. And if this is that show, why is it the worst? The writing and acting are awful, which is just unfortunate. But also, the messages about sex are so mixed!
Last night I watched an episode called "Just Say Me," in which the girls organize a Lysistrata-esque campaign to withhold sex from the boys, and to make doing so easier by promoting masturbation. This seemed promising! Teenage girls talking openly about masturbation, showing healthy sexual desire, and staying safe! And then they were all slut-shamed for doing something 'embarrassing,' even though it's okay for boys to do it, and they were pressured into feeling guilty for taking sex away from the boys. OH MY GOD. This, people, is rape culture. This is the pervasive attitude that women do not have sex for any reason other than to please men, and it is their obligation to do so.
I guess this would be a good show for teenagers to watch with their parents, to foster discussion about these things. Why I'm still watching it is a mystery. I mean, it's basically middle-class Gossip Girl, but with worse writing and acting. Worse writing than Gossip Girl, people. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with everything?!