Teenagers Should Play Teenagers on TV

The Authentic Perspective

April 13th, 2017

Source: stock photo from pexels.com

The hottest new show on Netflix is 13 Reasons Why. Based off Jay Asher’s book, Brian Yorkey’s thirteen-episode season, explained by IMBD, follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life. 

In the description, it blatantly mentions “teenager Clay.” So why are most of the actors in 13 Reasons Why not actual teenagers?

As sophomores in the show, the characters are about 16 years old. But the actors are not. Dylan Minnette (Clay) is 20 years old. Katherine Langford (Hannah) will be 21 this month.  Alisha Boe (Jessica) is 20 years old as well, and Christian Navarro (Tony) is 25 years old!

Adult actors playing teenagers is nothing new. The trend is apparent among many high school-themed television shows, such as One Tree Hill, 90210, and Pretty Little Liars.  

Because of child labor laws that state the fact that actors under 18 years old cannot work as many hours as their older counterparts, it is common for 20-something-year-old actors to be casted for younger roles. The problem comes with how these 20 year old are depicted the characters.

When a 15-year-old girl is watching a television show that includes a 21 year old actress, she is envisioning her future. She sees a popular cheerleader hanging out with her football star boyfriend, wearing his letterman jacket. She is wearing bold red lipstick, she hair is flawless, and she has no acne. Fast forward a couple years, and the girl who watched this television show is suddenly wondering why her life does not look like that.

When 20-year-old actors play teenagers, they are already past their awkward high school phase. They did not look as good at 16 as they do no, playing a 16 year old. Teenagers watching these shows are often lead to believe that this is what a 16 year old should look like. Then they are left with a misconstrued image of how they themselves should look.

If 20 year olds are going to play teenagers on screen, to abide by the obvious child labor laws, they should at least look like teenager. Messy hair, ill-fitting clothing, and a few pimples here and there.  They should look more like what a real teenager looks like during their high school years.  They also have to face real teenager issues-changing friendships, family issues, school stress, rather than trying to solve murder mysteries like in Pretty Little Liars.  If teenagers are going to be able to accurately connect to a television show, they have to be able to better connect with the characters and actors themselves, and not have their awkward high school period of life glossed over.

Jill Augustine
Senior Viewpoints Editor 

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