Picture this: it’s a Wednesday evening in October. You’re scrambling to finish your Algebra homework before 9, knowing you’re going to have to fight at least one family member for the TV. It’s what you’ve been looking forward to all week: the new episode of your favorite teen drama. It’s a sacred ritual: making popcorn, texting your best friend to ask if she’s watching too, and knowing that you’ll be frantically dissecting every detail by your locker tomorrow morning.
Your mom probably calls it trash, but to you, it’s treasure.
Which one ruled your school nights? Depending on your age, was it The OC? Gossip Girl? One Tree Hill? Gilmore Girls? Riverdale? Vampire Diaries? 90210? Did you obsess over Jess Mariano or wish for your very own Seth Cohen? Are you more of a Blair Waldorf or a Joey Potter? Being a teen in the late 2000s/early 2010s, my drugs of choice were Pretty Little Liars and Glee. Was the writing ham-fisted, the plotlines ridiculous, and the continuity subpar? Often, but that didn’t make me enjoy either show any less.
We all share a nostalgia for those overwrought soap operas that our teenage selves eagerly devoured every week. Bad acting? Twenty-somethings pretending to be 14? Hilarious, wildly unrealistic scenarios absolutely no real teenager would ever find themselves in? Teen dramas (and their ridiculousness) are sacred not only to pop culture, but to female adolescent bonding as a whole.
I’ve recently seen a barrage of tweets bemoaning how “bad” Riverdale is, and my first thought was “um, duh? It’s a CW drama geared towards teens, they’re not making fucking Mad Men here.” That doesn’t mean it’s unwatchable. No one’s calling it Emmy fodder. If those critically-acclaimed, decorated pillars of television like Breaking Bad and Westworld are gourmet dishes from a five-star restaurant, then teen dramas like Riverdale are powdered donuts: lower quality, but still goddamned delicious.
Teen dramas aren’t about quality, they’re about the female adolescent bonding rituals they represent. They’re about marathon binge sessions at sleepovers. They’re about arguing over whether Effy Stonem should have chosen Freddie or Cook, or whether you shipped #Finnchel or #Hummelberry. They’re about agreeing that yes, you and your crush were JUST like Chuck and Blair. It’s giggling over whether Lucas or Nathan Scott was the cutest. These experiences have become integral to teenage girldom.
Let teen dramas be teen dramas: they don’t have to be “good” to be watched. They’re entertaining, they’re fun, they’re pure bubble gum. Get off your high horses and just let them be.