A couple of days ago, I came up with a list of the top ten plotline cliches featured in teen-oriented television dramas. In the first installment of this blog entry, I posted the first five of these cliches. That list included: (1) the Pregnancy Plotline; (2) the Death of a Peripheral Character Plotline; (3) the Student / Teacher Relationship Plotline; (4) the Cheating on a Test / Plagiarism Plotline; and, finally, (5) the “Bad Influence” Plotline.
This installment will focus on the following popular Teen Television Cliches: (1) the Love Triangle; (2) the Summer in Europe; (3) the Love / Hate Relationship; (4) the School Ski Trip; and, of course (5) the Prom. So, without further adieu, what do you say we take off our creative thinking caps, embrace conformity, and get started?
1) “Can’t we all just . . . have a threesome, instead?” – The Love Triangle Plotline
The Storyline: Girl meets boy. Boy is attractive.
Boy is also nice and sweet, albeit a tad boring (and, sometimes, a bit of a whiny b*tch).
Or, conversely, Boy is total douche;
but Girl’s parents love him;
He looks “good on paper.”
and Boy is sure to make Girl a very wealthy, but very bored, housewife, some time in the not-so-distant future, if she plays her cards right.
But then . . . Other Boy magically appears.
Unlike the original Boy, Other Boy is a little dangerous . . .
Maybe he’s from the wrong side of the proverbial “tracks” . . .
Or, perhaps he has a reputation for being a bit of male slut . . .
. . . or a criminal.
Or maybe he has a bit of a mean streak, so Girl isn’t sure she can really trust him.
But there is just something about the way Other Boy makes Girl feel . . .
She smiles and laughs more when she’s around him.
(Click the internal link to watch.)
He makes her more fun!
And Other Boy continues to believe in Girl, and support her, long after everyone else has seemingly abandoned her (including the original Boy).
So, what’s a Girl to do, when she wants them both?
Who does she choose? Well, that depends on the season . . . the Television Season, that is . . .
Examples: Joey, Pacey, and Dawson (Dawson’s Creek); Veronica, Logan, and Duncan (Veronica Mars); Marissa, Ryan, and Luke (The O.C.); Elena, Damon, and Stefan (The Vampire Diaries); Rory, Jesse, and Dean (Gilmore Girls); Blair, Chuck, and Nate (Gossip Girl); Peyton, Lucas, and Nate (One Tree Hill); Emma, Sean, and Peter (Degrassi: The Next Generation); Felicity, Ben, and Noel (Felicity); Casey, Cappie, and Evan (Greek); Lyla, Tim, and Jason (Friday Night Lights)
Why it’s a cliche? Three words (One of them is a contraction). Because . . . It’s . . . AWESOME!
When it comes to successful teen drama plotlines, The Love Triangle, is a surefire WIN! After all, what girl wouldn’t want to have two totally hot guys, who are complete opposites of one another fighting over her! Aside from allowing female fans to vicariously fulfill their deepest fantasies, Love Triangles provide the added benefit of making Teen Television watching a TEAM SPORT! Boys have football and basketball. Girls have THIS . . .
Yes, boys and girls, choosing sides in a Love Triangle War is SERIOUS business! (Girls have been shot over WAY less!) Don’t believe me? Check out the sheer intensity of THESE fan-fueled debates . . .
About Blair, Chuck and Nate.
About Elena, Damon, and Stefan
About Felicity, Ben, and Noel . . .
(The above video debate between these two twenty-somethings kind of goes off the rails, after the first five minutes. But I love their obvious enthusiasm for a show that’s been off the air now for nearly a decade! I also love their accents . . . and the very impressive “Portrait of Ben” one of them created. Scott Speedman, himself, would be proud!)
2) “Go to Europe . . . because no one could possibly ‘find themselves’ in the States!” – The Summer in Europe Plotline
“When in France, do as the French do . . . French kiss!”
(Here we go again! Internal link clicking time!)
The Storyline: It’s close to the end of the Season. Our female protagonist’s life is a mess! It’s just jam packed with unresolved love triangles, family issues, and massive blowout fights with former friends. And what better way is there to deal with all of your problems, than to run away from them? So, our female protagonist jaunts off to Europe (usually Paris), leaving pining boys and cliffhangers in her wake . . .
Once there, our female protagonist sees the sights . . .
and miraculously FINDS HERSELF! When she comes back, she’s a COMPLETELY different person, than when she left. Who knows? She might even have a new completely random, doesn’t belong on the show at all boyfriend!
Examples: Serena and Blair (Gossip Girl); Joey Potter (Dawson’s Creek); Brenda and Donna (90210); Holly (What I Like About You)
Why it’s a Cliche? The main character’s temporary departure from his or her home base is a great way to bring about a Teen Television Drama’s summer hiatus. If us fans are forced to spend an ENTIRE summer away from our beloved gang of characters, at least we can sleep better knowing that they aren’t hanging out with one another EITHER! Plus, filming a scene or two “across the pond” makes for a great excuse for the show’s writers to say to their producer, “I’d like an all expense paid European vacation, please. What! It’s for THE SHOW!”
A summer in another country is also a pretty good excuse to suddenly change the entire personality and demeanor of a character, without any rational explanation whatsoever . . .
“I got my new girlfriend and a frontal lobe lobotomy in Prague. Doesn’t everybody?
3) “He Loves Me . . . He Hates My Guts . . . He Loves Me . . .” – The Love/ Hate Relationship Plotline
The Storyline: He’s a playboy, and a real ladies man. But he comes across as mean, and kind of shallow. She’s a Type A personality, who comes across as cold and a bit uptight.
They butt heads from the moment they first appear on screen together. They fight, and call eachother names. They insult one another, and play nasty tricks on eachother.
But there is a passion boiling beneath the surface, that both he and she are trying desperately to deny.
At the time, he and she are both involved with other people. Their significant others notice the sexual tension laced beneath their supposed hatred, and try in vain to ignore it. But the tension only grows. Jealous and longing looks become prevalent. Lingering touches, and moments of out-of-character “niceness,” between the two make each member of the pair begin to question their feelings.
The guy in this scenario typically recognizes his feelings for her first.
(You know the drill . . .)
But he usually keeps this to himself, out of fear of being ridiculed by the new object of his desires. Then the two are placed in a dramatic situation. Suddenly their mutual passion for one another overtakes them. And they both give in to their desires.
Examples: Joey and Pacey (Dawson’s Creek); Buffy and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer); Veronica and Logan (Veronica Mars); Seth and Summer (The O.C. – sort of . . . well . . . she hated him); Elena and Damon (The Vampire Diaries); Blair and Chuck (Gossip Girl)
Why it’s a Cliche? You know how everyone always talks about how hot Makeup Sex is? A couple fights, and then they make up. All that angst and sexual energy, built up from all that red-faced arguing, is just kindling for the inevitable Orgasmic Fire of “Getting Back Together.” And THAT’S from a fight that might last a day! You can just imagine how hot Makeup Sex would be if the couple fought nonstop for TWO SEASONS!
4) “When the temperatures get COLD, the action gets HOT!” – The Ski Trip Plotline
The Storyline: I’m going to be honest, this one was less of a “storyline” and more of a “plot convention.” (Hey! YOU try to come up with ten of these things . . . It’s not as easy as it looks.) But did you ever notice how virtually EVERY teen drama features at least one ski trip? BIG THINGS always happen on ski trips too! People get drunk, get laid, get raped, or cheat on their significant other! And someone ALWAYS hurts their foot, and conveniently can’t ski!
Jenn hurts her foot, gets wasted, and almost screws Gay Jack.
Pacey and Joey do it for the first time!
Boy Meets World:
Cory hurts his foot too! And makes out with Linda Cardellini!
Other fabulous shows featuring wild and crazy teen ski trips include Degrassi: Next Generation (Darcy gets date raped), and What I Like About You (Holly comes to terms with her feelings for Vince).
Precisely NONE of these characters were ever shown ACTUALLY skiing . . .
Why it’s a Cliche? There’s just something about being away from home and your parents . . . about sleeping in a log cabin, right next to the fire. You relax. You let your guard down. You get a little slutty and make bad choices. (Except in the case of Pacey and Joey . . . that choice was GOOD!) Plus, it’s WAY cheaper to film on location in some fake ski lodge than say . . . taking your entire cast and crew to Europe.
5) “Question: What happened at Prom? Answer: EVERYTHING!” – The Prom Plotline
The Storyline: It’s the event of the WHOLE season! The entire cast will be in attendance! But not everybody is going with the person they WANT to be going with.
A couple will break up. A couple will get back together.
Someone will win prom queen.
Someone’s heart will be broken.
A couple will finally do it.
Another couple will ALMOST do it, but decide to wait . . . Oh, and someone will get wasted and make an ass of herself.
Examples: Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., 90210, Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl
Why it’s a Cliche? For every high school girl, the Prom is the culminating social event of her entire pre-college academic career. Even the most jaded of high school students (and I, myself, was already pretty jaded by that time) can’t help but dream of having the perfect dress, the perfect limo, the perfect Prom date, and the perfect slow dance. For most of us, with all that build up and preparation, Prom itself ends up being pretty anti-climactic. (The Post Prom Beach Trip, on the other hand . . . now, THAT ROCKED!). But if we CAN’T have the perfect Prom, at least we can get the joy of seeing our television friends experience it for us.
So, there you have it – Ten Trashtastic Teen Television Cliches for your viewing pleasure! Doesn’t it all make you feel OLD?