Wednesday, May 29 2024

Television series for adolescents: yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

A long time ago, we had Happy Days: a series that began in the USA
in 1974, but took place in the 50’s. It was seen as a legacy of a happy
recent past: an era where parent-child confrontation never became a
dispute. Love was always sought, and it lasted a lifetime. Friendship was
an inviolable and unambiguous value. The pleasantness of the characters and
the happy ending of each episode were expressions of a society that was
proud of itself, thought positively, and aimed for a future where the
family takes a fundamental role. In the last episodes of this saga that
lasted decades, the young main characters who had already become adults
sealed their transition of state with two well-defined events: one public-
military service, and one private- marriage.

At the end of the 90’s, the youth movement controversies and the sexual
revolution had shaped a freer teenager, already independent from the
normative references that could have come from the family and society. In
this time, Dawson’s Creek (1998) and The O.C.
(2003) became the cornerstones that paved the path for the golden age of
teen drama (along with One Tree Hill, Everwood,Beverly Hills 90210, Joan of Arcadia, High School Musical and many others).

Dawson’s Creek
was especially important for characterizing this period. The teens were
represented in their growing pains while they bewilderingly sought a
meaning to that already achieved yet demanding freedom.

Meanwhile in Italy, Spanish formats were imitated, and general tests were
conducted to show an extended family or a non-family (respectively in I Cesaroni and Un medico in famiglia where the
grandfather Libero had to manage three young people on his own). The ideas
of living together and premature sexual experiences were widespread.

Now for the recent years. After the period of the proud building of a solid
society that sees the family as her cornerstone, and after a long season of
transition characterized by hesitant certainties in Dawson’s Creek, we
reach the actual moment, that of consolidation of plural lifestyles.

The most representative of this new phase is the series Glee, that
can be considered as the mature expression of a post-Christian society
founded on individualism. After its great success won in America and
worldwide, Glee was broadcasted in Italy, first on Fox, and then
on Italy 1 (the third season is to be released in 2012). It seems quite
pleasant at first, due to its structural similarity with musicals. But it
is also the most ideological series that presents the new individualistic
society in a most explicit way.

The main characters of Glee are of group of high school kids, all
considered losers among their peers, though for different reasons.
They find a common bond and a reason to fight to be themselves in the “Glee
Club”, a school choir supported by a young Spanish teacher.

Episode after episode, Glee builds up a new scale of values. The
primary law that regulates each one’s behavior is “become yourself”. In
this light, there is not only the demand for the utmost respect for one’s
own choices, but the series also cultivates the illusion that any choice is
legitimate, indifferent, and free of consequences. There is no search for
values to be shared because there are no values. The fiction is commendably
attentive to the less fortunate (one of the main characters is a teen in a
wheelchair, while another has Down’s Syndrome). These figures are shown
respect more than love.

Homosexuality (a widely developed theme in the series, whose author is
openly homosexual) constitutes a free and indifferent individual choice.
The moment of choice is precisely the moment of adolescence, where each one
must understand what his “calling” is. Needless to say, that sexuality is
conceived as way of expressing oneself, disconnected from any procreative
function and from every dimension of fidelity or even stability. In the
episode entirely dedicated to this theme (15th of the second season) the
substitute teacher Holly, who organizes a course of sex education for the
kids, ruled that “speaking about chastity to children is like proposing a
vegetarian diet to lions”.

The series places religious faith on the list of negative elements. Episode
3 of the second season, dedicated to this theme, concludes with the reply
of Kurt (the homosexual character) that it is better to hypothesize that
God does not exist because if He were to exist, we would have to conclude
that He is an extremely cruel being.

In conclusion, the prospective offered by Glee, despite the
musical surface, is quite sad: in the effort to become themselves on the
basis of self-generated criteria, these teens lack the humility to listen
to and face the external world; they lack the honesty to recognize their
own errors; they lack the drive to try to better themselves.

The new Italian television season in RAI broadcaster will be characterized
by the advent of the third year of Tutti pazzi per amore, another
Italian series that has attracted the public in the recent years. It has
been compared to Glee because the characters sing duets to famous
songs and adopt a very personal style to address sensitive issues with a
light and lively tone. Initially started as a “relative” to the genre of Un medico in famiglia (but with the declared intention to demolish
the concept of the family), the series is increasingly more characterized
as an endless variation of American romantic comedies (from which the
stories and situations are copied) based on either adult or teenage
characters all united in this inevitable surrender to the power of Cupid.

If the tendencies of the first two series are proved, love is seen- as the
title confirms- as something that is substantially a blind impulse where
the will has no role. It is not by chance that before some sentimental
dilemmas (which are often reduced to questions of sex and approached with a
certain farcical vulgarity), adults- stripped of any educational or
authoritative role- declare their equality before the inevitable confusion
of feelings. There exists an overwhelming passionate love, often
self-referential and narcissistic, that cannot and must not distinguish
between age and sex (the normalization of homosexuality is also explicitly
part of the agenda). This type of love takes advantage of the great
romantic tradition of love conquers all, but betrays it for the
benefit of the replicable consumerism of contemporary sentimentalism.

Tutti pazzi per amore
is interesting because it highlights the other side of the coin in this
individualistic society by the new series: the characters, absolutely free
from every bond or external imposition, virtually end up becoming slaves to
this form of love that is not love, but is only a pure instinctual force,
professed as uncontrollable.

Reviews on the following series are available at (Italian

Dawson’s Creek
by Paolo Braga

High Scool Musical
by Francesca D’Angelo

by Paolo Braga

One Tree Hills
by Paolo Braga

Joan of Arcadia
by Paolo Braga

Non smettere di sognare
by Franco Olearo

Glee 2
by Franco Olearo

Liceali 3
by Franco Olearo

Modern family
by Franco Olearo


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