Have our young people lost their innocence?
When I started to watch ‘On My Block’ I didn’t know what to expect, but being a kid who grew up in the 90s watching ‘Saved By the Bell’ after school, I couldn’t stop comparing the two shows which both depicted teenagers in their high school years.
Watching On My Block season 1 (2018), and reminiscing on ‘Saved by the Bell’ season 1 (1989), I had to ask, have our young people lost their innocence? Or is ‘On My Block’ targeted at an older audience?
For those who are unfamiliar with Netflix’s ‘On My Block’, the 30 min per episode drama depicts four 15 year old friends (Monse, Cesar, Ruby, and Jamal) as they progress into high school, living and growing up in a rough inner city Los Angeles neighbourhood. In the 10 episodes of season 1, the show touches on adult themes like consensual sex between minors, drug use, gang affiliation, and gang violence. The show is deemed a comedy, and sure there are parts which are LOL worthy, and by and large the acting is convincing and the storyline is compelling enough. But I just can’t stop comparing ‘Saved By the Bell’ and ‘On My Block’ with each other. And the question keeps coming back to mind, have our young people lost their innocence?
Is the contrast between ‘On My Block’ and ‘Saved by the Bell’ due to? –
- Our changing society i.e. generational differences, thus marking the changes in our society and changes to our morals over time?
- Our youth are actually changing i.e. youth in 2018 are growing up and becoming maturer faster, thus shows targeted at them are now depicting their more grown-up realities?
- Or is this a creation by the media i.e. TV Producers are wanting to be more risky and push the envelope for the sake of drawing in viewership, thus including themes which might connect with a wider audience (not just younger teenagers) while planting adult themes into young impressionable minds when they’re actually not ready for them?
But growing up with ‘Saved By the Bell’, which had left a deep impression on my 12 year old self, I do think that I and my peers grew up in a more innocent time, where the main story plots were run-ins with school principals, jocks Vs non-jocks, teenage dating, and teenage pranks, which were themes we could relate to as 12 year olds. And if we take the topics explored in ‘On My Block’ as an example of where society is currently at, I do think that today’s teenagers are victims of a changing society, victims of a changing youth culture (i.e. younger teens are dealing with adult themes earlier), and our kids are victims of the media’s willingness to expose our kids to riskier topics all in the pursuit of more eyeballs on their product. And to prove this point, is to pull out the adult themes from ‘On My Block’ – themes of gang violence and teenage victims of gang violence; juvenile incarceration; police racial profiling; dreamers separated from their parents; and they were only the more confronting themes, which made underage consensual sex seem ‘everyday’, when topics of sex was way too risque for ‘Saved by the Bell’ 30 years ago. Or perhaps ‘Saved By the Bell’ depicted a ‘White American’s’ version of their reality in Calafornia, whereas ‘On My Block’ depicts a ‘Black/Brown American’s’ version of their reality in California? *Shrug*.
So I think from a sociological point of view, ‘On My Block’ has been an interesting cultural educational experience and was surprisingly thought-provoking. And for those who are currently parents of little ones, parents of the future Monses, Cesars, Rubys, and Jamals? You’d have to be concerned about where our society is going and where it will be in another generation’s time? What other truly adult themes, will our young people deem as the norm for them in 2028? But look on the bright side, according to Greta Thunberg, we’d all be dead by 2030 anyway. So who cares???!!!