The Secret Life of the American Teenager is Boring as Hell


Over at the new Big Hollywood blog, I've got a post up (my first, in fact) about the second-season premiere of the ABC Family show The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which is about a high school girl who gets knocked up. A snippet:

Apart from the vaguely titallating premise and promise of the show's title, the thing is safe as milk. Skim milk. Soy milk. Possibly powdered milk. The Secret Life, arguably Hollywood's most naked bid at the jailbait market since Saved By The Bell went into permanent summer recess sometime before Dustin Diamond entered a long-delayed puberty, thus exemplifies the worst tradition of after-school special.

It's preachy beyond belief and, for all the bad stuff that's supposed to happen to the characters, it plays out in a world that is about as menacing and gritty as the dancing gangs in West Side Story. Give me Rock and Roll High School any day, the 1979 flick that ends with the blowing up of Vince Lombardi High, as great a Sophoclean catharsis as has been recorded in a movie featuring Clint Howard.

The Secret Life also represents a ubiquitous Hollywood tendency that all libertarians and even conservatives should reject out of hand: That television and other forms need to be instructive to youth and other idiot members of society who apparently take their moral cues from the small and large screens.

Whole thing, including some Rob Reiner and Mark Foley bashing, here.

NEXT: Noncompliant Nipple Ring Sold Separately

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  1. Tell us how you really feel about the show, Nick.

  2. Reason doesnt feature enough Rob Reiner bashing. Has he done anything good since Marty Dibergi?

  3. Of course, the target audience (stupid teenagers and their stupid parents) isn’t capable of that kind of analysis, and doesn’t care what boring smart people think about it anyway.

  4. Wow, Nick, writing for Big Hollywood, eh?

    This economic downturn is really starting hit home…

  5. You post at Big Hollywood? Gross.

  6. Rob Reiner is one of the most brilliant people in Hollywood, but this show sounds like an exception. His days as a radical must be fading.

  7. Reiner was a good director for a decent stretch:

    Misery (1990)
    When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
    The Princess Bride (1987)
    Stand by Me (1986)
    The Sure Thing (1985)
    This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

    I guess A Few Good Men was okay, but it didn’t measure up to his previous films.

    Politically, of course, he’s the usual Hollywood moron.

  8. Loved the poison pen review, agreed with the conclusions, but it really drove home the fact that libertarians and conservatives are fundamentally different political animals. I can’t see the “Focus on the Family” crowd getting on board with any of the sentiments in your review.

  9. the target audience (stupid teenagers and their stupid parents

    Don’t be disparaging my daughter with your generalities, butthead.

    Gillespie, please don’t go all Michael Medved on me.

    It’s just a bubblegum soap opera, for chrissake.

  10. Wow, that sure sounds like some dastardly liberal stuff.

    Seriously, can’t you see how your thesis is completely at odds with the entire purpose of that blog? Every other post there is basically arguing that Hollywood should be a clearinghouse of conservative propaganda. You say conservatives shouldn’t be preaching values? Well I think your co-blogger, Kathryn Jean Lopez, would probably disagree.

  11. Wait, wait, wait…. is what Max Hats saying true? Is our Nick a co-blogger with Kathryn Jean Lopez? Oh how the mighty have fallen.

  12. robc,
    Damned skippy! Mash the meathead! Rob Reiner has become a festering boil on American Culture.

  13. Also: Debbie Schlussel. And everyone who just didn’t have the intellectual chops to land a gig at NRO. It’s a real clearinghouse of the best and brightest.

    I think Nick is trying to basically start an argument over there, get some discussion going over what conservatism is. I don’t think it’s going to happen. It would take a miracle for anyone over there to even notice.

  14. Hey guys, you know, whatever…even if Nick’s fellow-bloggers failed to notice he’s arguing for more prurience and against this “socially responsible television”, who gives a damn? It was very well-written and funny.

  15. we’re only getting snippets of Nick’s posts at Reason, and they’re getting the full original at Big Hollywood?

  16. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

    Fallen? Big Hollywood will end up in the pantheon of great Conservative Media, just like:

    Red Eye
    The Half-Hour News Hour (such a witty title to boot!)

    Continually aligning ourselves with the increasingly Palin-esqe GOP will get us nothing but continual marginalization and ridicule…

  17. I’m with Taktix on this one. Big Hollywood is a black hole for our efforts. We can both agree that a lot of liberal things are dumb, but the frames that we use to arrive at these conclusions lead us to have the same contempt for them, and them for us. To pretend we get along with so-cons anymore is just giving people the wrong idea… again.

  18. I saw about four episodes of it… having been out of high school for the better part of a decade now, I kept thinking to myself “was high school really this messed up?”. Then I started watching it the same way I watch the movie Aliens… as an unintentional comedy. (By the way, in that vein, “Secret Life” is HILARIOUS.) That being said, had somebody tell me once that the show did remind them of high school… I patted them on the shoulder and said “I’m sorry.”

    MAX HATS: I think you’re reading a bit too much into it. Breitbart threw out a call for conservatives and libertarians to contribute to Big Hollywood, and he, so far, seems to have gotten what he asked for (namely, a bit of both).

  19. No one’s hit upon the most important critique of Nick’s article: His picture over at big Holloywood makes him look the the crazed killer from “No Country For Old Men.”

    And you know Nick has a shotgun with a silencer under his jacket.

  20. Tell us how you really feel, Nick.

  21. That television and other forms need to be instructive to youth and other idiot members of society who apparently take their moral cues from the small and large screens.


    I don’t to be a prick, but how does that idea square with the stated goal of Big Hollywood?

    Until conservatives, libertarians and Republicans-who will be the lion’s share of Big Hollywood’s contributors-recognize that (pop) culture is the big prize and that politics is secondary, there will be no victory in this important battle.

  22. Sorry, Derrick beat me to it.

    *bowing out*

  23. Until conservatives, libertarians and Republicans-who will be the lion’s share of Big Hollywood’s contributors-recognize that (pop) culture is the big prize and that politics is secondary, there will be no victory in this important battle.

    Well, at least they got the endless war part down…

  24. Brilliant, Nick, but not as brilliant as my ground-breaking review of Freaks & Geeks

    with No Rob Reiner/Mark Foley bashing.

  25. The bashing that people here inflict on Reason staff members whenever they seek exposure in other outlets is ridiculous. I certainly hope they do not take it seriously.

  26. Big Hollywood is a wellspring of information. Who knew Orson Bean was blacklisted? For all these years, I thought he had a hard time getting work because he sucks at his job.

  27. Umm, dude, it’s on ABC Family. What were you expecting?

  28. I love seeing Reason people featured in other media, too, but they might want to rethink the Big Hollywood connection. It’s already getting embarrassing and it’s only day 4. Does Nick really want to hang out with the Kathryn Lopezes of the world? The website sounded good on paper but once you throw open the doors to the freaks at National Review, you’ll lose any Hollywood libertarian-curious types who might have stuck around. I fear Andrew Breitbart’s made a deal with the devil and the site will fade away soon.

  29. Seems like, from the comments here, that people don’t grasp that not everybody came to libertarianism via the progressive left… or is it that being grouped in a pool of diverse ideas with “embarrassing … freaks” is somehow a bad thing? If they want our ideas, and we want to contribute to them, then why not?

    Of course, if the whole self-isolation angle is what you’re after, then that’s fine too…

  30. “…as great a Sophoclean catharsis as has been recorded in a movie featuring Clint Howard.”

    That line made me chuckle.

    Oh and give Big Hollywood a break. It may look a little cheesy now but it’s good that it exists.

  31. I can see your point Mari.

    It is as if Fox News has begun an infiltration of Reason.

  32. Shut your fucking face.

  33. I like Red Eye.

    1/2 news hour and conservapedia chupa capbras.

  34. And Gillespie so far is the only redeeming value of Big Hollywood. (And I haven’t seen anything from Breitbart himself)

  35. “Human beings are not so mechanistic, despite what folks like Dawkins and Dennet argue”

    the comments are going to be the best part.

    i guar-un-teeeeee!

  36. “?look upon her visage and despair.”

    Forget Molly Ringwold. Has anybody seen Kathleen Turner lately? Long way from Body Heat, Jewel on the Nile, and The Accidental Tourist. Mr. Gravity has not been kind to that woman.

  37. I can not believe we are talking about this while the Hispaniolan solenodon is going extinct as we speak.

  38. Kolohe, ditto on “Red Eye”.

  39. Tbone,

    If your daughter is a teenage girl, chances are she’s emotional, illogical, and stubborn- traits which my wife assures me aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

    It’s a stupid TV show, written by cynical manipulative hacks, for the purpose of enthralling teenagers, and idiots who have refused to develop their analytical faculties.

    Continually aligning ourselves with the increasingly Palin-esqe GOP

    That got a WTF out of me. You mean the fundies and bib-wearers that the blue-blood establishment uses for votes and appeals to the emotions of?

  40. Actually, even worse would be a world in which people who write such, produce, act, and direct such crap are actually unaware that it is crap, and feel no shame.

  41. Edina Monsoon,

    YEESH! Time indeed been unkind to Ms Turner. But don’t blame gravity. She didn’t age naturally.

  42. MadMikeFish, the main problem with appearing alongside the Lopezes’ of the world is that you risk duluting your brand and cause lazy viewers (i.e. most of the world) to start lumping you together with people you actually oppose. But hopefully the Reason stuff will act as an antiseptic to the rest of the tedious screeds. I thought this site would be more like a written version of Red Eye, or even a conservative Defamer, but alas not…

  43. The website sounded good on paper

    Well, no. It sounded predictable on paper, and has delivered.

    The risk of associating with Big Hollywood is the usual m.o. for these types of sites is not to offer a broader perspective from the Right, but a narrower one. If Big Hollywood follows this trend, you will see the likes of Gillespie are ignored at best, and simply not offered any more essays. At worst, there will be loud rending of clothing over the heretics who’ve infiltrated the conservative/libertarian axis, and once again, the ideals of Reasonid thought are cast aside by the Right.

  44. Taktix brought out the big guns with the conservapedia reference.

  45. The Secret Life of the American Teenager

    Secret? She doesn’t have a MySpace account?

    All I care about this “secret” teenager is that she is compliant and docile enough to get a demeaning job and pay her taxes to support me in my dotage. Is this asking too much of today’s youth?
    I think not.

  46. ‘In a telling and all-too-common moment of Hollywood hubris, director Rob Reiner (who has made some good movies, I think) said, “Hollywood should not be making exploitive violent and exploitive sex films. I think we have a responsibility [to viewers] not to poison their souls.” Thanks, Meathead, but you don’t have access to my soul in the first place. Or those of my kids.’

    I don’t know if Reiner is telling the truth, but I’m glad he at least claims he doesn’t want to poison our souls. That’s not something to take for granted. To be sure, we can argue that kids are resilient and resistant to the cultural poisons that the “entertainment” industry offers them. But why should this industry be offering cultural poisons on the market in the first place?

    If morally-corrupting material isn’t a big deal because nobody is influenced by it, then by the same reasoning, morally uplifting material isn’t a big deal because nobody is influenced by it, either. Who says A must say B.

    *Reason* publishes a whole bunch of material about the evils of the War on Drugs, no-knock searches, etc. It is right that *Reason* exposes many of these abuses. And the hope is that this material will actually have a positive influence – why seek donations for *Reason* if it’s totally useless and without influence?

    But if people can be influenced for good, why not for evil? There are constant complaints here (often well-founded) about statist propaganda – like the toy TSA checkpoint. Yet I don’t hear mocking and insults directed at the critics of the TSA checkpoint model. But that’s just a toy, isn’t it? Isn’t it ludicrous to think such a toy would affect impressionable kids? Etc.

  47. Further evidence that maybe, just maybe, Reason is aware that entertainment may influence teenagers:

    “We asked [Cory] Doctorow, a devout civil libertarian, to recommend three political books for young adults. . . .”

  48. Here’s one of the recommended novels:

    ‘A subversive novel about a kid who moves from a funky urbanized inner city neighborhood to a place where he attends Heinrich Himmler junior high and is lost among very plastinated people. He and a friend discover an occult book shop in the funky neighborhood and go spelunking.’

    Ooh, how challenging and transgressive! And did you notice the subtlety of having the teenage character attend a high school named after Heinrich Himmler?

    It seems that *Reason* is right there with everyone else, endorsing its favorite preachy entertainment for teenagers.

  49. The real outrage is that ABC Family hasn’t renewed ‘The Middleman’, but this ridiculous teenager show lives on.
    Wendy Watson is a far better role model for teenage girls than some knocked-up high schooler.

  50. Oh, god, Big Hollywood is absolutely brilliant:

    Greg Gutfeld apparently didn’t know that Henry Rollins was with Black Flag.

    And then you have Orson Bean rambling like Grandpa Simpson. (Now, I wasn’t a Communist, but they blacklisted me back in ’55. Or maybe ’56. And then, I voted for Nixon and got blacklisted again.)

    And there was a piece on “Watchmen,” where it would appear that nobody who posts on the site has even read the book, or is able to comprehend it if they did. Even the professional comic book writers.

    I Hate Generation X – That would have been an awesome article twenty years ago.

    And then there’s Debblie Schlussel… who, on her best days, comes off like someone Tina Feying Ann Coulter…

  51. I take back my defense of Big Hollywood. Site’s lookin’ real cheesy, out of control like. And Debbie Schussel should find a picture of herself where she looks more slutty and Jappy.

    Ease up on Gutfeld, however. His bit about Rollins being in the Vandals was a joke. Jeez, don’t you people watch Red Eye?

  52. “Jeez, don’t you people watch Red Eye?”

    i’ve tried, but damn it’s not funny. at all. i mean, fuck, did you read that album rundown? shittastic.

    seriously, all they’re proving is that the leftists are winning because conservatives are incapable of being funny.

  53. Yeah, well teenage life is boring, but hollywood could of added some gun battles and car chases.

  54. When did recommending books become preaching?

  55. What?!? Not a single post about the sad role of Molly Ringwald in this show? Doesn’t she know how much better off she is as a permanent image of plucky youth in my mind!!!

  56. I would kill that white bitch, and then eat the baby.

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