Why We Need More Realistic High School TV Series: Part 2

Part 2: Older Actors and Character Sexualisation

This series explores the range of issues found with high school TV series which are for the most part unrealistic, the impact these have on viewers and the need for more relatable content for young people to watch.

Each time a new series is launched, there is always talk about casting and how, once again, actors in their mid to late 20s are playing characters on screen that are considerably younger. These actors are fully developed, often with defined boobs or muscles which can cause audience to feel these are what high school students’ look like. With the audience viewing these supposedly ‘typical teenage’ bodies, this kind of age discrepancy can lead to the sexualising of characters that are supposedly 16-18 years old. Casting actors 5-10 years older than the characters they are playing can make people of that age feel inadequate and as if they are not grown up enough because they don’t look like their favourite on-screen characters. This casting issue also denies younger actors the chance to represent characters of a similar age, instead opting for more experienced or credited actors.

Teenage dramas also often centralise on sex as a major aspect of characters’ lives. Many TV shows perpetuate the wider social issue that is the focus on sex as a pivotal part of life, causing viewers to once again view this as normal and consider their own experiences as abnormal. Those without an interest in sex are made to feel abnormal or different, with many shows not catering for characters fitting this description.

More recently, British series Sex Education has been praised for its bravery in exploring the more embarrassing, yet real, side of being a teenager. Focusing on sexual health and myths, the Netflix original has tackled many taboo subjects and has allowed conversations about sex to be had, shame free. The show features characters from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures as they begin to understand their own sexual preferences and identity. There is no ‘norm’ presented in the show, with the sexuality and sexual desires of characters being respected, allowing characters to expand their knowledge about sex while simultaneously sharing this with the audience. The diversity of characters in this show extent the representation beyond the typical characters featured in high school series, creating a more realistic depiction of high school circles. 

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