Sex, drugs, and suicide: The most controversial teen show moments
Are you ready for season three of 13 Reasons Why? The controversial Netflix Originals teen series returns to screens later this year, when we’ll all likely get super depressed as we watch all 13 episodes in one horrifying sitting.
With its extremely frank exploration of sensitive issues like rape and underage drinking, as well as one of the most explicit scenes of suicide ever shown on screen, 13 Reasons Why is one of the most controversial teen TV shows ever made.
Frankly, we believe teenagers shouldn’t be spoken down to and should be given the chance to explore these serious issues in graphic and honest ways on screen. They’re not morons, people! Here are six other controversial teen show moments that caused a massive stir upon release (and that adults were far too dramatic about).
6. School shooting: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1996 – 2003)
In a show full of otherworldly horrors, it was a real-life horror that caused the most controversy for Joss Whedon’s seminal supernatural teen show.
Depicting Jonathan (Danny Strong) in a clock tower with a gun supposedly waiting to pick off other students (he was actually wanting to kill himself), “Earshot” was pulled from The WB schedule after the Columbine High massacre in 1999. Canada’s YTV also decided against airing the episode, as “it’s not appropriate . . . it would be offensive to air something like that.”
5. Carlton accidentally takes speed: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990 – 1996)
Despite the episode very clearly being an after-school special wagging a big judgemental finger in the direction of recreational amphetamine use, “Just Say Yo” drew outrage in 1993 for daring to talk about drug use.
Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) asks Will (Will Smith) for vitamins – you know, as we all do when our vitamin stash is out – and instead receives a handful of speed that hospitalizes him after some frantic theatrics at the school dance. Honestly, it’s the most harmless drug episode imaginable yet it caused many a pearl to be clutched in outrage.
4. Abortion: Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001 – 2015)
It took two years for the episode “Accidents Will Happen” to air in the US due to a plotline involving Manny (Cassie Steele) deciding to abort a foetus she regrettably conceived with Craig (Jake Epstein). The episode received praise from Planned Parenthood for dealing with the complex issue in a sensitive manner and received predictable shrieking from the “all life is precious, even fictional life” brigade.
4. Lesbian lovin’: The O.C. (2003 – 2007)
Even though the scene happened in 2005 and not 1955, America apparently wasn’t ready to see wild child Marissa (Mischa Barton) and bisexual punk Alex (Olivia Wilde) hooking up together. According to the American Family Association, The O.C. was shredding the very fabric of America by showing two young women passionately frenching each other.
“To include a lesbian kissing scene in prime-time network television, weʼre opposed of that. We think thatʼs promoting a wrong kind of lifestyle, not just the lesbian kissing part of it, but sort of free-sex ideology that permeates so much of teenage programming today.” Free sex! Sounds great – where can we sign up for some of that?
3. Sex, drugs, and murder: Skins (2007 – 2013)
Known for kick-starting the careers of British stars like Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Jack O’Connell (Unbroken), Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road), and Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner), the cult teen show pulled no punches with its bawdy hedonistic depiction of adolescence.
Celebrated for not talking down to its teen audience, Skins portrayed various scenes of drug taking, underage boozing, sex on tap, homosexuality, and violence, prompting a cavalcade of regular complaints.
In 2008 an advert for the show was even banned for depicting an orgy while a later scene in which fan favorite Freddie (Luke Pasqualino) is brutally murdered by a councillor drew complaints from just about everyone.
2. “Explicit” underage sex: Gossip Girl (2007 – 2012)
When Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz’s Upper East Side teen trashtacular Gossip Girl first hit screens, parents were up in arms about how this indecent show was going to influence their “impressionable” little darlings.
One particular scene in which Dan (Penn Badgley), Olivia (Hilary Duff), and Vanessa (Jessica Szohr) decide to attempt the worst college threesome imaginable prompted mass complaints, with the Parents Television Council suggesting the show was urging that “teenagers should engage in behaviors heretofore associated primarily with adult films.”
It could have been worse – producer Josh Safran once revealed his only regret with Gossip Girl was “things like not showing Chuck finger Blair and the dildos and other sexual stuff.” Whoa there, Safran! Don’t hold back!
1. The first ever primetime gay kiss: Dawson’s Creek (1998 – 2003)
After a groundbreaking storyline where Jack McPhee (Kerr Smith) is outed at school in S2 of the show, Dawson’s Creek stepped up and went one step further in 2000 with the first gay kiss on primetime TV. The controversy prompted by the boy-on-boy smooch between Jack and Ethan (Adam Kaufman) was reflected by the tension within the writers’ room over it.
Dawson’s Creek writer Greg Berlanti told IndieWire there was “a lot of negotiation about that kiss” and he “had to threaten to quit” the show to make it happen. He told Vanity Fair, “There had been joke kisses, but there was never a romantic kiss between two characters, let alone two high-schoolers.”