Supernatural teen shows: Heavy on the issues, light on the teen
Some call them “teens”, others “young adults”. We call them mid-20s beefcakes shooting an American show deep in the wilds of Canada. A show marketed towards teenagers has to walk a very fine line: simultaneously respecting its teen audience without pandering, inspiring viewers yet scaring them, addressing adult themes for a younger audience – and it 100% needs to be packed to the rafters with hotties.
So, so many of these shows are on The CW.
The central thesis of Wynonna Earp involves a crazy chick with a gun, but the rabid fanbase is fixated on WayHaught, the love story between Wynonna Earp’s (Melanie Scrofano) sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) and Officer Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell). Rarely, so rarely, are TV viewers able to see a healthy lesbian relationship portrayed on screen without a painful, drawn-out death.
Smash cut to:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The small-screen breakout by Joss Whedon (The Avengers) was groundbreaking; people tend to forget that because the 90s lie in the mists of ancient times. Buffy’s depiction of serious issues such as cancer, mental health, trauma, and sexual assault placed in a fantasy world set a benchmark that has rarely been surpassed.
For seven seasons, viewers watched Buffy grow from a confident, bubbly teen girl to a hardened, world-weary woman who fought for the good of others, no matter the odds. Buffy has endured as a cultural touchstone and her reboot demonstrates the power of the franchise.
Fox 21 TV Studios is behind the new show with Midnight, Texas creator Monica Owusu-Breen as writer, executive producer, and showrunner. Most importantly, according to Deadline, Buffy will be African American. Buffy has always adhered to the motto of duty first, and it will be interesting to see her address current issues with the same dedication and perseverance as the OG slayer.
If anything, it can’t be any worse than Sineya.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This show took obligation and made it interesting. That in itself is a stunning achievement that is frequently overlooked based on the witchcraft and Pinterest-worthy jackets.
The duality of Sabrina’s (Kiernan Shipka) lifestyle is something a teen audience can identify with. How does one balance family obligation with the need to fit in with different social circles? Sabrina is walking a tightrope, trying to balance family & friends with the magic taking hold within her.
Sabrina also draws on the importance of faith in a show with literal demons. Sabrina is aspirational, approaching challenges head-on – and that kind of enthusiasm is important for her teen audience.
Fantasy shows operate on a conceit, existing in an apocalypse, a fantasy world, a magical kingdom free from the struggles of reality. But the good shows, the ones that endure, address real-life struggles and issues. The 100 is one of those.
As soon as Wells Jaha (Eli Goree) died, The 100 transformed from the average CW babefest into a grizzled, dark reflection on survival and loss. The show has followed the journey of Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) from naive ingenue to leader to survivalist. The survival theme is appropriate for its teen audience, who get to see a young girl transform into a grown woman willing to do whatever it takes for her family, friends, and even her enemies to thrive in an alien environment.
The 100 has also addressed a number of heady topics such as classism, LGBTQI issues, and full-on genocide. Has it handled all of them well? No. And yes, The 100 has killed its share of lesbians – but we’re still gonna watch it when it premieres on April 30.
Shadowhunters has taken a subpar book written by an (alleged) plagiarist and transformed it into a capable, funny, heartwarming celebration of diverse characters and their world.
Sci-fi and fantasy often create a haven for otherworldly characters, a safe space for anyone different to honor their individuality. Shadowhunters has followed this rubric, with a compassionate representation of LGBTQI, POC, female-identifying and marginalized characters. Also, it’s got magic.