Tag Archives: Secret Life of the American Teenager

Secret Life Close Up: Amy

5 Mar

Amy Jurgens (Shailene Woodley)

Well, it was over a month ago when I posted the last on The Secret Life of the American Teenager and I admit, I took a break from the show.  I can only take so much stupidity at a time before I get annoyed, but I always come back so I can shake my head and wonder if this is what teenagers are really like–or if this is how conservative TV execs want us to think teenagers are like.

This time, I’m going to focus on Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley), the female protagonist who became pregnant after her first sexual encounter.  Many people have complained about the portrayal of pregnant women on Glee–that they are narcissistic, manipulative, and crazy bitches.  They order there significant others around, lie to them, and degrade them.  While pregnant women on Glee are pretty horrific, personally, I find Amy to be more obnoxious than any of them.  However, that’s probably because Amy does much of the same but without being “punished” for her behavior.

Unlike Quinn (Dianna Agron) on Glee, Amy’s parents are incredibly supportive (if equally slow on the uptake).  When Amy’s pregnancy is finally revealed, there is a blow up, but a fairly minor one, as her parents let her continue to live at home.  Compared to many pregnant teenagers, Amy gets off easy in the parental department.  Even her “annoying” sister (India Eisley) turns it around and supports her, but how does Amy repay them?  She plays the “poor pregnant teenager” card non-stop without accepting that she got herself into this situation.  Case in point: when Amy’s son’s nursery takes over her sister’s room, her parents turn the garage into a suite for Ashley.  Amy’s response is to stomp around saying how she’s being punished for having a child.  If not getting a new room (and not having to share a room with your baby) is a “punishment for getting pregnant”–I think most pregnant girls would sign up for that.

For a teenage mom, Amy is living a pretty blessed life.  Two fellow classmates help get her a job at the church’s nursery, and she gets free daycare for her son by working there.  Did she have to search or look for a job?  Did she have to struggle to find day care services?  Does she even really have to worry about money?  No, no and no.  Her parents didn’t even ask or force her to get the job, only encourage her to take it as free child care is hard to find.  Other than the basic maternal aspects of having a child (feeding, diaper changing, etc), Amy has very little responsibility for her or her son’s lives.  Yet, she is completely ungrateful for what she has and takes everything out on her family, friends, and boyfriends.  Even her baby daddy tows the line, but it doesn’t seem to be good enough for her.

To be honest, I do enjoy most things about The Secret Life of the American Teenager.  Yes, it’s very conservative in its sexual politics, and the story lines are clichéd, but I still find most of the characters endearing (if stupid).  However, it’s biggest (and most unforgivable) downfall is Amy.


The Secret Life of the American Teenagers

3 Feb

Teenage love affairs. L to R: Adrian and Ricky, Amy and Ben, Grace and Jack

Have you watched The Secret Life of the American Teenager?  I have and it’s probably one of the most unintentionally hilarious and infuriating shows out there.  Some how it’s attached itself to the inner masochist in me, because I love to watch it even though it’s absolutely painful.  Some people experience the same thing with Jersey Shore, but Secret Life is the one for me.  It has very few redeeming qualities (namely Mayim Bailik and Molly Ringwald), yet I can’t stop watching this train wreck.  There’s plenty I want to discuss/complain about this unrealistic piece of propaganda, but that would lead to an incredibly long post that no one would read.  Instead, over the next few days, I’ll be giving you a post on each aspect of this show.  Today, I want to start with female sexuality.

In Secret Life, good girls abstain and bad girls have sex.  If you have sex then bad things will happen to you.  Example #1: Amy Juergens (Shailene Woodley), a freshman in high school who has a bun in the oven thanks to one night at band camp with Ricky (Daren Kagasoff).  She’s the cautionary tale proving that sex leads to babies, and she won’t let anyone forget that.  She constantly warns her friends not to have sex or they’ll end up pregnant like her (with supportive parents who help take care of the baby, a boyfriend who proposes to her, and classmates who arrange free child care and a job.  BOO FUCKING HOO AMY JUERGENS!  But that’s the next post).  It’s only after many episodes of Amy’s whining, that one friend finally tells her that if you use protection there’s a good chance you won’t get pregnant–but of course the friend is quickly silenced and the topic of safe sex is never brought up again.  Basically, the lesson of the first season is: IF YOU HAVE SEX YOU WILL GET PREGNANT or become the school slut.

Speaking of sluts, Adrian (Francia Raisa) fills in that role.  She’s a majorette and Amy’s baby daddy’s fuck buddy (just get confused?  They try to make it confusing, but it’s really not).  Adrian just loves sex, she’s so sexual, she’s insatiable.  Blah, blah, we get it.  Honestly, I don’t know how she manages to have so much sex, go to school, get straight As, and be a majorette.  That girl is working it.  However, it comes at a sad price.  She has no friends, she’s always angry, Ricky won’t commit, and she ends up in couples counseling with him.  Of course, she uses sex to compensate for an absent father, a near absent mother, and various insecurities, but that’s not really until season 2.  In the mean time, she sexually manipulates Ricky, breaks up relationships, and pressures and ridicules every who isn’t having sex or enjoying it.  She’s supposed to be Amy’s nemisis, since Adrian is sexing up Ricky and Ricky knocked up Amy and all that jazz.  On the bright side, Adrian has managed to have plenty of sex and not get pregnant, so she provides an extreme balance to Amy’s stupidity.

Finally, there’s Grace (Megan Park), the perky, Christian cheerleader who is abstaining until marriage, or that was the plan.  She shares many similarities with Glee‘s Quinn (Dianna Agron), except instead of having sex once and getting pregnant with a guy who isn’t your boyfriend (that’s Amy’s schtick), when Grace finally has sex with her football player boyfriend, Jack (Greg Finley), her overbearing father dies in a plane crash.  Thus, Grace believes her sexuality killed her father, who continually told her the importance of abstaining.  She enters a deep depression (it lasts about half a season) and refuses to have sex with Jack ever again because sex kills!*  Although, I’m behind in episodes, so she may change her mind.  It is very important to teach teenagers that sex can be dangerous and but couldn’t someone get an STD/STI?  Did we have to resort to plan crashes?  However, Grace is my favorite of the three leading ladies, because her story is just so ridiculous, and I would probably feel the same guilt if I thought my sexuality killed my father.    So, I can’t hate on Grace too much.

It blows my mind that people are actually producing these characters anymore.  The whole show seems to have transplanted early 1960s characters into 2009/2010, and just barely updated the jargon.  Secret Life is teaching teenagers (especially young women) the most ludicrous, old fashion ideas on sexuality.  I don’t think high schoolers are mature enough for sex; however, some will and shouldn’t we at least present sex positive images to them?  Especially, positive images of female sexuality, which already has enough negative stereotypes that it doesn’t need any help from an ABC Family show.  I would love it if there was an episode where Adrian explains what sexual precautions she takes, because she could become a positive role model, instead of the man stealing “slut.”  Even Grace could turn it around and become a great character.  I don’t think Grace would need to have sex again to be a sex positive role model, but she does need to stop being pressured into sexual experiences, and should admit that she doesn’t feel ready.  It’s okay to change your mind, it’s okay to realize you weren’t mature enough.  It’s also okay to say no, even if you’ve already had sex.  That’s part of maturing and growing up, and what all the characters need to do.

*I feel so late 80s/early 90s AIDS PSA now!  If you can, watch an episode of the original Degrassi High when they do an AIDS awareness episode and you’ll understand.