Teen Disparity

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Lately I’m noticing a trend. That doesn’t mean it’s a new trend, or that you haven’t already realized it. Me being WAY behind isn’t totally unheard of. I mean, I’m just now catching up on Pretty Little Liars, and I haven’t even started Gossip Girl yet. But, nonetheless, the trend still exists.

Adults playing teens.

I hear you all groaning already. This isn’t news, Krystal. This happens in Hollywood all the time, you idiot. Look at how old the women and men are who play twenty-somethings.

But I think it’s getting worse. Take The Vampire Diaries, for instance. The show’s been on since 2009, and the main cast (the living ones, or now they’re mostly all undead) went from either their sophomore/junior year of high school to their sophomore year of college. Elena’s actress, Nina Dobrev, aged from 20 to 26, and her role is as someone age 15/16 to 19/20. Stefan’s actor, Paul Wesley, started at 27 and is still on at 33, and his character (though long-dead) is someone who could be in the same grade as Elena. Don’t even get me started on Ian Somerholder. Yes, Ian, you are smoking hot and have always been one of the older characters on the show. But you were 31 when TVD started, and now you’re 37.

And maybe that’s it. Maybe in the world of television, casting directors can’t assign roles to actual teens because women like me, women who will forever remain 28, cannot fathom drooling over a guy still full of baby fat. Because I see lots of that when I swing by the local high school to pick up my son. None of those kids have veins cording their ripped muscles or intense stares that melt my insides. They have backpacks slung over their shoulders, or lacrosse sticks outstretched and ready to combat with a friend in the parking lot, or their shoulders are raised with tension because they have SOLs to prepare for, or midterms, or their girlfriends expect them to act like those thirty-somethings-on-TV-who-play-teen-roles. Or, worst of all, I see fear in those kids’ faces. Fear because the world is as unforgiving as it’s ever been, and one little mistake will destroy their lives forever.

Yes, that’s definitely what I see.

When I was in high school, we didn’t have shows like TVD or Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl. We had Full House and Saved By the Bell and cartoons. Lots and lots of cartoons. Guess how old Hottie Mchottie Zach Morris was when the show started?!

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Fifteen. He was fifteen years old, playing a kid in high school. I think I even remember his voice cracking. He went through puberty while the show aired!

So why the shift? Why can’t teens play teens?

And is this trend making its way into young adult literature? Are teen guys being portrayed in ways that are well-above their maturity, not only in body but in mind, to appease an older audience?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!