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Tuesday, November 09, 2004
I wrote me a letter to Heather about this stuff.

Heather, Heather, Heather. Girl, I love reading your stuff, but man, you just don't get it with the teen dramas, and the article you just wrote about 'em kind of encapsulates all that.

First of all, you list a series of shows in the second paragraph, and then give a description of those shows in the third paragraph. ("Instead of slogging through the confusing mire of soupy emotions, repression and the little betrayals of high school, these teens trade rapid-clip witty banter, drop the names of the coolest alternative bands, and float through school like it's just a pretty backdrop for their highly evolved psychosocial dramas. Instead of stuttering nervously, then running home to fill their diaries with earnest entries about their deepest, darkest secrets and wildest dreams, these kids rail off their issues with lighthearted aplomb, then pull on strapless, bias-cut silk cocktail dresses and race off in their convertibles, off to another night of the kind of sophisticated socializing that used to exist -- still fictionally, of course -- only among Harvard faculty and clever Manhattan elites.") But you seem to be confusing "The O.C." (and, to a lesser extent, "One Tree Hill") with, um, everything else. I can only vouch for Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Everwood, and Jack & Bobby, but those all take place in small towns, and the final sentence there about putting on cocktail dresses and jetting off to glamorous parties just doesn't apply. And angst? Man oh man. Just recently, we've had Bobby's super-teenagy doomed first love angst, Lane's mom and Zack angst, The Jewish Kid On Everwood's (I know he has an actual name, but TJKOE is how I'll always think of him) being-a-shitty-pianist angst, etc., etc. (Haven't been watching much Smallville of late.) And Rory on Gilmore Girls is a big bundle of angst, from her grandparents to her boyfriends to college to her class status; she just contains it well, although she didn't even do that so well when she was, um, actually in high school. (All the kids on Gilmore Girls are currently college sophomore-aged, incidentally, so.) Jack & Bobby takes place in a college town (although, the mom? Hip? Really? She seems kind of out-of-control and sad to me) but the teenagers spend their time at bonfires, barbeques, etc., and there was even a major plot point in the last episode revolving around one charcter's diary! And Smallville? I mean, OK, he does tend to save the world a lot, but he's Superman.

You then complain about the prevelence of cultural references. Well, aside from the fact that this does seem to be how most kids I know talk, in the Jack & Bobby scene you cite, there is a deeper emotional context--just as with Carver, there are a hell of a lot of things they're not talking about, Jack's general rage at his mom among them. It's not Carver (thank the lord--can you imagine how boring a Raymond Carver TV show would be), but, hey, neither's Paradise Island, you know.

The Gilmore Girls scene you cite did make me wince--that show's position on music in particular is highly problematic, the brilliant casting of Sebastian Bach notwithstanding--but this is, after all, the show that Joy Press said helped her deal with her mother's death. I feel like in part your repulsion is driven by the fact that you're watching it in the context of all these other, far crappier, teen dramas, which is highlighting the annoying similarities and not letting the wonderfulness shine through. Of course, you could just generally not like it. But given the reception it's been getting lately, and the number of people whose tastes I trust who also like it, I feel reasonably confident in pushing you to give it more of a hearing. It's one of the smartest, most moving, and well-written shows on TV. There's a lot going on there, from the class issues with the whole Gilmore family to Lane's trying and failing to deal with the fundamentalist religion of her mother to the really kind of brilliant political episode a few weeks ago with Jackson and Sukie. Also, it's really funny.

Of course, then there's The O.C., which, yeah, not so realistic. But c'mon--it's frothy, and we all know it's frothy, and there you go.

Anyway, all that bitching aside, you're one of my favorite writers in the whole wide world, and keep up the good work.

ADDENDUM: (which I may or may not send) Jesse and I were talking the other day about the fact that on Livejournals, there's a form at the bottom of each entry to note your mood and the current music you're listening to. This is how we talk now. And the banality of the fake-cheese discussion above was kind of the point: the return to normalcy, etc.