The Secret Life of the American Teen Season One - a Review

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Kathryn E. Darden
Jan 6, 2009

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I am going to have to consider retracting a statement I made in an previous review; earlier, I said "Kyle XY" was like "Sex and the City" for teens. I was not wrong, but I have just reviewed a series with much more sexual content and therefore, more of a claim to the "Sex and the City for teens" title, and frankly, I am disgusted. "The Secret Life of the American Teen" was so focused on the sexual exploits of children aged 15 and 16, I wish I had thought to count how many times the word "sex" was mentioned in each episode. The series begins with a parental advisory stating it is not appropriate for younger viewers. So, WHY then is it on the ABC "Family" channel, and WHY did it recently win a Teen Choice award?

"The Secret Life of the American Teenager: The First Season" just released on DVD on December 30, 2008 from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Winner of the 2008 Teen Choice for "Teen Choice Summer TV Show", all 11 episodes come together in a three-disc set that also includes a song download of the new hit single "It's Over" from chart topping artist Jesse McCartney.

Created by Brenda Hampton ("7th Heaven"), The Secret Life of the American Teen stars Molly Ringwald (Pretty in Pink), Shailene Woodley ("Crossing Jordan," "The O.C."), Francia Raisa (Bring It On: All or Nothing ), Greg Finley ("Cold Case"), Josie Bissett ("Melrose Place"), and John Schneider ("Smallville").

With the youngest lead character a pouty, provocative, but barely 13-year-old child, this is sexual content aimed at children, and it is simply NOT suitable content for teen viewing. Based upon what I have seen, ABC Family is a contradiction in terms. This is not family fare. The premise behind the show is "everyone is doing it," and it equates the catchy theme song "Let's Fall in Love" (which shows the birds and the bees buzzing around flowers), with "Let's have sex." The lead character, a tall, skinny beguiling waif named Amy discovers she is pregnant in the first episode. Ricky, the boy who got her pregnant was abused as a child which has turned him into a seductive Lothario. He gets Amy pregnant at band camp, has sex almost daily with the school skank, and has his eye on taking the virginity of the token Christian female, Grace.

The Christian couple in the high school, apparently the ONLY Christians in the entire high school, are stereotyped with awkward conversations such as "What would my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ think?" Please! I was a Christian in high school, and I had Christian friends. I dated a Christian boy when I was 16. We never once asked each other what our "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" would think about any topic. We talked about our faith, but conversationally, not in great big bold CHRISTIAN SPEAK. Thank goodness the conversations get less stilted as the show progresses, and Grace, while kind of clueless, is depicted in a mostly flattering light. She is sincere and really wants to help her friends. Her boyfriend, Jack, is trying to impress her and his minister stepfather, but he has the faith of a gnat.

Skanky girls with overblown lips show their cleavage and navels, adult scenarios, and endless talk about sex with statistics to back it all up quoted parrot style by the Asian Alice - this is The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Alice's role on the show seems to be solely to justify the gratuitous sex by quoting teen sexual statistics. The show presents teens having sex, regular sex, oral sex, making out with each other's boyfriends, single parents having their lovers over, parents unfaithful -- much like "Sex and the City," EVERYONE is "doing it."

Really, the Christian dialogue, sexual statistic speeches by Alice, glaringly rehearsed comments by Grace's Down Syndrome adopted brother, and adult banter from various teens all come off as very contrived and frequently very awkward.

Let me speak frankly: I was a virgin when I married in my 20s -- a healthy, reasonably attractive virgin, just like my friends. Not everyone "does it." As a result of not engaging in promiscuous sex, I have never had an STD, never worried about getting pregnant out of wedlock, only took birth control for a short time, so I have never had to worry about side effects. I was not cheated in any form or fashion by not having numerous sexual partners or starting an active sexual life at 15; in fact, I am quite thankful I DIDN'T have numerous sexual partners. I have only had ONE sexual partner, and I resent the fact ABC "Family" titillates our youth with sleazy programming dished out as "Family" fare which teaches them that having sex at 15 is NORMAL. Thankfully, when I was growing up, I was not inundated with TV shows telling me sexual promiscuity should be the norm for me!

If you are a parent, what are you doing letting your child watch a show like this? If you WANT your teen to begin having sex at 15, sure, let them watch shows like "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," because sexual promiscuity is the diet being served here. But if you want your teen to have a healthier, more realistic view of constraint, self-control and responsibility -- not to mention MORALS, turn shows like this off and talk to your teen yourself -- don't let shows like this teach them and influence them. Be a responsible parent and teach your teens to be responsible. And, by the way, responsible does not = condoms.

High points: Molly Ringwald who was THE Teen Queen in movies like Breakfast in Club and Pretty in Pink plays a somewhat neurotic mother, not remotely in control on her life or daughters. and John Schneider who plays Grace's father, is a loving father teaching his daughter about constraint, self-control, responsibility and Christian values.

STREET DATE: December 30, 2008

Suggested retail price: $39.99 U.S.

Feature run time: Approx. 473 min

Rated: USA: TV-14 DLSV

Languages: English - Includes Spanish and French Subtitles


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