Maybe I missed it, but ABC Family’s hit summer debut seems to have snuck past the realm of (most of) the youth ministry blogosphere. I don’t know how my wife heard about it, but I would have missed this.
Welcome to the dog days of summer, where the weather is hot and television is on repeat.
Over the past few years, cable has picked up where the networks fall off during the summer months. The networks have thrown in a few new sagas this summer, but cable still rules the summer.
ABC Family and veteran writer Brenda Hampton have joined elements of Hampton’s popular 7th Heaven series with a growing interest in teen issues to shock the summer TV lineup. Figuratively and literally.
Almost as surprising as the silence in the youth ministry blogosphere is the silence from Christian media in general. I found one obscure (and one-sided) blog from LT Nixon, and one from the Apologetic Youth Pastor (who notes that blog hits have spiked from search engine referrals on this subject — probably because he’s the only one writing about it!). Aside from those two blogs, no one seems to be writing on it.
This surprises me. This is the kind of show that big, southern denominations would have boycotted in the past. It portrays Christians. It portrays sex. In the same show.
Common problems with The Secret Life: too many references to, and too many people having, sex. Teen pregnancy is “glorified.” Too predictable. Derogatory toward Christians.
Amy Juergens (Shai Woodley) has a one-night fling at band camp with the bad-boy drummer, Ricky Underwood (Daren Kagasoff). She gets pregnant.
Grace Bowman (Megan Park) and her boyfriend, Jack Pappas (Greg Finley), take a trip to “splitsville” after Grace’s down syndrome brother catches Jack kissing the town bad girl, Adrian Lee (Francia Raisa). Her parents, the strong Christian leaders of the community, disallow Grace (ironic name?) from seeing Jack.
Adrian is also dating Ricky. Adrian gets jealous that Ricky starts hanging out with Grace, so she starts hanging out with Jack to make Ricky jealous.
And niceguy Ben Boykewich (Kenny Baumann) starts dating the (unbeknownst to him) pregnant Amy.
The Bowman’s are stereotypical, strict Christian parents, but the portrayal is not disrespectful. Every teenage problem is condensed into a half-dozen characters, which is not necessarily realistic.
But this secret life of teenagers is realistic, if not a bit cheesy. Christian teens are tempted by their significant others to “take it too far.” There are teenagers in our schools who are pregnant. There might be a lot of sex in the show, but statistics do show that a lot of our teenagers are engaged in sexual activity.
And maybe the scariest scenario of all: Adrian’s mother, in the midst of sneaking around with Amy’s dad herself, has no clue what her daughter is up to in her spare time. Sometimes this can be the biggest problem we face in student ministry.
We are only four weeks into The Secret Life saga, so my spin on the story may change at the end of the season. But for now, keep an eye out for this show. Missing it would be a shame.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager can be seen Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC Family.
Article originally published on The Journal of Student Ministries blog.