Elizabeth Scott has done it again: Stealing Heaven might be my favorite of hers yet. I loved the premise, loved the characters. Scott has a knack with writing self-involved parents who aren't entirely evil. I appreciate that, because they make for tough, independent protagonists like Danielle, young adults who are mature beyond their years and perfectly capable of fending for themselves out of necessity, but they maintain familial relationships without harboring too much resentment. They are still allowed to be vulnerable and often experience the fun side of being a teen later than most, but you get the feeling that they will grow up just fine. She doesn't rely on stereotypes in her storytelling, and manages to seamlessly build in sexuality for the female characters that is not based on trauma. She really respects her audience, which is huge.
And now Secret Life of the American Teenager: you are officially on Goofus watch. Episode One gently roused this sleeping giant, but Episode Two brought out the trumpets and drums (and french horns). It's so on now. Let's see if I have this straight, creators of this show. According to you, nobody in the history of the world actually really likes sex, except for maybe teenage boys, but really they just like it in theory; when they actually get to have it, they feel guilty about it or they think less of the girls they have it with or they are compulsive seducers because they were abused in childhood. Also, it's entirely appropriate for guidance counselors to help their freshman students in their romantic quests, as well as cast aspersions upon young women's motivations for having sex (the scene with Ben talking about the rumor with Mr. What's-His-Name drove me to jump out of my chair and yell "GAAAHHHH I hate this show!" to my empty living room). Also, did you know that you will turn into a joyless, calculating slut if you are raised by a single parent who works a lot? You'll play tough by having lots of sex and being a temptress (cue the literal biting-into-the-apple scene in the first episode), but really, like all girls, you just want to be held. And it's normal for parents to micromanage their children's potential sex lives by having creepy promise ceremonies. Is that about it? Oh, and the way everyone is so up in everyone's business drives me insane - they all act like they're entitled to private information and dish about it like it's the news. The pregnant teen's family seems to be the only cluster for whom the "secret life" part of the title actually applies. Their benevolently clueless approach to parenting seems to be the one taken to task by the show's overall premise-- it'll be interesting to see if Grace, the virginity pledge girl, ends up rebelling at the hands of her overly involved parents. Finally, John Schneider, who do you think you are with that hairdo? That seems like an unrelated point, but still. It's so sinister, there's got to be some kind of correlation.
After the first episode I appreciated that it was followed by that little PSA that seemed non-judgmental and gender neutral, but on second viewing I noticed she says something along the lines of "too often, the first time teens talk about sex with their parents is when they tell them they're pregnant" which, to me, means, "teen girls" as in, boys aren't so much in need of a talk. Or a chastity ring. OK, I know it's a personal harping point, but I think they could have worded that better. I wonder if the ideology will be so transparent to the intended audience, if it will actually turn out to be insulting to teenagers. Anyway, I will probably continue to watch the show and see where it goes, but it is doing the opposite of winning me over. I never watched 7th Heaven, and in retrospect I think it was for the best.
Yeah, I should just stick to books.
Written material copyright 2008 Dawn Emerman