March 31, 2013

TV For Thought: A Case For Teen Soaps

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I don’t wanna wait for our lives to be over. And with Paula Cole fading into the background, Dawson’s Creek has ended for me this evening with the faint trace of a tear having glided down my recently tanned face (thank you, Costa Rica). Now, I can feel the shame and the judgment from everyone, but a case has to be made for Dawson’s or the quintessential teen soap in general. They do serve some purpose in any television line-up; one that has seemingly been forgotten recently.

For one, teens love to see their lives played out dramatically on the screen. How many times do you remember feeling like your world was going to end because you were grounded, or Timmy hooked up (kissed) your best friend Tara (names have been changed to protect the privacy of the real individuals and my own reputation)? Lately, it has become increasingly difficult to find a series that is directed to that important demographic, outside of a handful of painfully bad ones on the CW or ABC Family that try to bring back that magic — not that their efforts go completely unappreciated. Other shows try to incorporate teen angst, but only in small plot points further accentuating the feeling that nobody gets how tough it is to be a teen.

And then there is the defining aspect of any great teen soap: the relationships. America loves to root for couples who face the odds. Hell, they even made a movie about it (America’s Sweethearts, featuring everyone in Hollywood). We like to root for the impossibilities in relationships knowing that it will resolve itself over the course of the show and hoping that it reflects our future endeavors in love. It gives us that hope that love prevails and that people have soulmates. It’s what kept viewers going for Ross and Rachel, Corey and Topanga, Dawson and Joey/Pacey and Joey, depending on your preference. And although they give us unrealistic expectations in life and love, these characters just provide that other layer of escapism that requires an even greater commitment to the shows.

Along with the will-they-or-won’t-they relationships come the sexual tension build-ups. We all know that sex sells and our inner voyeurs are made happy with the steamy sex scenes added to any drama. The unique vantage point of teen soaps is the added element of wonder that comes with anyone’s first time. Teen soaps definitely do not try to dodge the issue; in fact, sex usually lies at the crux of character development. It showcases the average teenager’s tribulations in navigating this new aspect of life and trying to find the ever-elusive “one.” And even those who have already had our first time come and go many years ago, can remember those nerves and excitement of yesteryear. Nostalgia kicks in, unwilling to budge.

This is precisely my fate at the moment. After countless hours spent following the epic saga of the Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle, I am left wanting another teen soap to indulge my inner teenager’s love woes. Unfortunately, the teen soaps that grip a nation seem to no longer be in existence. Most ended sometime early in the last decade, leaving a cesspool of angst left to be resolved within 42 minutes. Figuring out what futures are at 15 is never an easy task. But through weekly escapist tales that transfer tactics and prospects, the transition into adulthood can be made all the more seamless.

Original Author: Natalia Fallas