Television, that great American medium, has made society unrealistic about relationships, sexuality, family life, work, practically every human sociological experience. Even the most ardent cultural critics(the great bell hooks comes to mind) have been influenced and inspired by the images portrayed on the magic box of dreams. I, like most people in the First World, have a mind full of meaningless TV trivia but also, more impactfully, images and motifs that have shaped and/or struck a chord with my real life. It didn’t take long for me to see that my new job is more real than any reality show and more dramatic than any soap opera.
Adolescents, like most subgroups of society, have been portrayed superficially on television. From All-American boy Wally Cleaver to cutesy girl from the block Moesha, teens are seen in that problematic angel/devil paradigm that plagues most media. The bad kids are drug-dealing gangsters from New York Undercover, lovestarved prostitutes on Boston Public, or promiscuous brats on The OC. Even the kids on Degrassi the Next Generation, which comes closest to reality, in my opinion, are still light years away from the youngsters I speak to in my office every day. Television has yet to truly capture the heartache of adolescence in the 21st century: absent parents, the long-term emotional and physical consequences of parental drug and alcohol use, harsh poverty, twisted sexuality, and the volatile allure of violence and crime. Television cannot adequately portray the many-layered difficulty of parenting this new generation which is technologically savvy but educationally underprivileged. As a rookie administrator, I have no fictional role models to follow. School leaders are powerful buffoons, like Degrassi’s Mr. Raditch, who did nothing to help bullying victim Rick from orchestrating a tragic school shooting, or sharp-suited meanies like Ms. Musso from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. On television, administrators are mostly irrelevant keepers of the law, often relegated to bit parts. This is why I actively seek out mentors and value the living leaders around me.
|Ms. Hatzilakos from DNG: not quite a role model|
In real life, high school has storylines that won’t wrap up in thirty minutes or an hour. There is no catchy theme music or sweeps season cliffhangers. Still, it is something worth watching and living.