Then + Now: TV Teen Dramas

At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old twit at age 23, I have to say: Ad campaigns for TV dramas that target teen girls seem incredibly raunchy these days. I grew up watching quirky, grungy 90’s protagonists like Angela from My So-Called Life (premiered 1994), Clarissa of Clarissa Explains it All (1991) and Spike from Degrassi High (1989). Beverly Hills 90210 (1990) and Melrose Place (1992) offered steamier plotlines but the same sexless high-waisted Levi’s and floppy hats.

But now impressionable viewers are offered Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and Fly Girls (yuck!), whose female protagonists all sport empty stares and the same generic cocktail dress. I don’t want to end up with more pseudo-alternative shows like My Life as Liz, which was awarded Bitch‘s Douchebag Decree, but I (and hopefully others) need another Angela: a non-conformist with interests, who can be dramatic and sexual without being petty and pornographic.

Photos left to right:

My So-Called Life promotional photo courtesy of: / CC BY 2.0

The Vampire Diaries promotional photo courtesy of: / CC BY-ND 2.0


  1. Valerie Ann Johnson says:

    I feel you Erica – not so much as a teen or young adult but as the mother of two pre-teens about to experience the transition to these “dramas” as their TV viewing fare. These teen dramas seem like conditioning young people to accept a shallow, pleasure-only filled, uncritical lives. And conditioning them to be object not subject of their own realities.

    Thank you for alerting us to this trend and for your insight.

  2. Right on! And obviously, the same goes for other spheres of pop culture, like, say, music. In the 90s, at least we had a few strong, independent female artists/role models. Sure, we had our fair share of Brittany Spears and Christina Aguileras. But we also had Alanis Morissette, Gwen Stephani, Liz Phair, Ani DiFranco, the Lilith Fair crew, etc. And who do teen girls have now? Lady Ga Ga? Fergie? Avril Lavigne? Miley Cyrus?

  3. PioneerGrrrl says:

    I was so excited when 90210 was returning to the airwaves–having grown up on the original.

    But the new one was such a let down. The first night was horrible. I remember feeling soo disappointed. Nat was a perfect reflection of my emotions, and the Peach Pit itself looked depressed.

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