Thursday, 10 May 2012

That Secret Life Thing

All right, here's where I'm going to attempt not to be political and talk about television for a change. Or at least talk about television in a peripheral sense. Mainly because a television show that I've been watching has got me thinking about my own life and the difficulties I've been through versus what other people go through.

First I'm just going to establish what it was that has prompted this blog post. There's a television show on ABC Family right now called "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (@ABCsecretlife on Twitter). Okay, go ahead and think I'm weird for watching a show like that, but it's one of the more interesting shows out there.

Yes, it's a show about teenagers, and yes it's overly dramatic and kind of has excessive situations. But that's what television is for. It's for overly dramatic teenagers in excessive situations. And okay, it's also on a family network run by Disney so it's pretty Christian oriented. But for what it provides, I can live with that.

From a filmmaking point of view, people should really take a look at this show. In a lot of ways it's brilliant. As a writer, I would love to take a look at the scripts they produce for this show because it has to be 90% dialogue. Most of the scenes tend to go like this...

Character #1 enters and talks to Character #2. They speak, then one character leaves as Character #3 enters and begins another conversation.

I know what most filmmakers are saying at this moment "That sounds terribly boring."

But I often think that filmmakers, and directors in particular, say that because of a personal preferance for movement when it comes to dialogue. Filmmakers don't think of dialogue as interesting by itself. They think that because film is a visual medium, that visual means movement. But I don't think it does. It just means making things visually interesting.

But what prompted this blog post in the first place was not the film aspect of it. It was the content of the show itself.

The reason that the content is so interesting is because of the main character. She really carries the show for a young girl, and she is young. At the time of the show's beginning, she was 17 years old. She was playing a 15 year old girl, but compared to what usually happens on shows featuring teenagers, mainly that they are played by 25 year olds. So the fact that she's carried the show at her age is impressive.

What she plays however is a teenager who got pregnant on summer vacation. So the show follows her life as a pregnant teen trying to figure out how to live with her new reality. And they don't pull any punches on the subject either. They present every option that is available to her.

This is what prompted the blog post.

By comparison to what some people go through in life, my life has been incredibly easy. With everything that happens to people, and not even in countries that are at war. In civilized countries, people have terrible things happen to them.

Drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy and bullying. These are all terrible things that happen to people and they are things that don't really go away.

But also, it gives me pause to think about the future as well. Specifically about children. I have always been aware of the tremendous responsibility that children bring to the parents. Raising them is a tremendous thing, and everyone always says that for all the responsibility it's also a great joy.

But not being a parent myself, I haven't personally experienced the responsibility that goes with such a decision. Watching this show, I have come to think about that reality on a more personal level.

By no means am I discounting what I have been through as a teenager, or what any other teenager goes through on a daily basis these days, it's difficult. Being a teenager in any generation is difficult, but what teens who get pregnant go through must be insane. Whether it's within a family that's supportive from the start, or one that comes around over time, or even those that have their family turn against them, it must be hell and a half.

Here they are in the middle of some of the most radical physical changes a person can go through in their lives, and they have to go through another series of radical changes on top of everything. Obviously, the women go through the most difficult part of the process, I don't think anyone would argue that, but it's not exactly a picnic for anyone else either. The fathers, most of whom aren't ready for the incredible responsibility of fatherhood, have to decide whether to take on said responsibility. This can be difficult for a full grown man to handle, some of whom abandon the responsibility mid way through, so is it any wonder that a teenager would have so much trouble with it?

We tend to think of our problems as monumental, and they are at the time we're dealing with them, but retrospectively? There's always someone going through something much more difficult then we are in the grand scheme of things.

It's important to keep that in perspective when we think about our lives. People who forget that are often those who were prone to looking at other people and thinking they have it easy. Whether we're talking about actors and politicians with lots of money, or a family of six kids living in poverty. Life is hard for everyone, there's just different problems for different people.

Yes, people with money can do more things, they have more freedom, but with that freedom comes responsibility. They need to do something with that money. Some people waste the money on parties and drugs and stuff, others use it for charitable causes and helping people.

We see charity as the right thing to do with that money, and I wouldn't disagree with that, but I would say that people who don't often waste their money because they don't have it in them to take on that responsibility. That's a burden too, and sometimes it's as great a burden as using it for charity.

But I digress. My point is that it's important to be aware of the difficulty of others when making judgements about people and the lives they live. It's not always as simple as it appears on the surface.

At least, that's my opinion.

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