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Netflix, I’m Begging You, Please Stop Letting Adults Write Teen Shows MAG
I saw a TikTok the other day showing a scene from the Netflix original Never Have I Ever showcasing just how awkward a scene was (watch it at your own risk). This scene specifically made me cringe because of how obvious it is that an adult wrote this.
Nobody has said any of the slang they were using in years and it was honestly hard to watch this TikTok in its entirety because of how out of touch the writers truly are with teenagers nowadays.
This is nothing new for Netflix.
This TikTok got me thinking about just how common it is for Netflix shows to be written completely by adults who seemingly have never had an interaction with a teenager in their life.
It’s difficult to put this against the writers sometimes because it must be hard keeping up with what is currently cool to say and what needs to stay in the past.
Even I’ll admit I have a hard time keeping up on slang sometimes, but when a show's main demographic is teenagers, it’s crucial to put in the time to make sure it is actually engaging the viewers.
In order to have a show written by an adult really stick with a teenage audience and make them feel for the characters, they need to understand that times have changed.
It’s more than just outdated slang.
While the usage of outdated terms is easily the biggest reason these shows lose relatability, we should also take into
account the fact that the writers of the shows haven’t been teenagers for a long time.
These adults don’t know what being a teenager is like right now because so much has changed so quickly. I’m sure at some point high schoolers did cry and eat ice cream on the couch after a breakup but nobody does that anymore (yes, that was a real scene written in a Netflix show in 2021, I wish I was kidding).
Seeing a scene like that in a show revolving around teenagers in today’s society makes it hard to feel for the character because we’ve never been in that position ourselves. It’s almost insulting that adults think we still do stuff like that.
It seems sometimes that writers for these Netflix shows just look up what teens think is cool, read one article from 2016, then write in an entire scene where all the main characters start dabbing and flipping water bottles which is just not enough to genuinely connect with their audience.
Relatability is a major key to succeeding when your audience is a bunch of high school kids so by not having that factor, you
lose us and our interest immediately.
This ends up making the main characters we’re supposed to be rooting for seem boring and it becomes hard to watch.
A simple fix.
People that write these Netflix shows are clearly gifted and know how to make a story come to life so by just getting a little input from teenagers, they could really make their shows stand out in a good way rather than in a negative way.
I know that the actors on the show probably couldn’t care less about what the script says, they just do what they're told because it’s their job. I highly doubt they will cut in and say they don’t like what their character is saying out of nowhere.
I do think, however, that they would be more than happy to give input if they were asked. This could help so much in the long run by getting feedback from the people who know the target audience the best and are the ones that will be acting it out.
Other simple fixes would include asking your own kids what they would do or say when put into a certain situation to get the most accurate ideas or even hiring young consultants or apprentices and ask them.
There’s no shame in asking for a little guidance. It will end up making viewers much more satisfied because all we want
are characters we can connect with.
A great example of a teen show.
Generation (stylized as Genera+ion) on HBO Max was created by 19-year-old Zelda Barnz and one of her two fathers.
The show focuses on a group of teens exploring their sexuality in the modern world and many events and ideas were pulled from real high school experiences Zelda went through.
At just 17, she began writing the show and shared that experience with The Hollywood Reporter:
“When I started talking to my dad [Daniel] about this idea, his attitude was, ‘Well, if you want it to be a show at some point,
just write the show.’ I thought I couldn’t do that because I didn’t know how to write a script yet. And he was like, 'I’ll teach you.' It became this project that we started working on together.” -Zelda Barnz
Since her father Daniel already had experience writing and directing, it was a perfect opportunity for her to offer a new outlook on high schoolers we rarely see.
This show stuck with fans so well because the person behind it knows what she’s talking about. Seeing characters from a teenager’s eyes for once eliminates those stereotypical ideas people associate with us and helps us connect the show to our own experiences.
Don’t take it from me, take it from some of the many Google reviews for the show:
“To be quite frank, I think this show is amazing. It’s not every day that someone tackles real-life struggles with teens and I think this show aids those who may not understand what their teenager is going through or what the person themself is going through to identify themselves.” -Q Burch
“This show is not perfect but overall it’s different from other teenage/young adult projects. I like how the writers accurately capture the angsty confusing and fun moments of figuring yourself out as you grow up.” -Evelyn Lopez
Now, I’m not saying that we should let 17-year-olds write every coming-of-age show from now on because it does need to be ultimately left in the hands of professionals who have been in the industry for years.
All I’m saying is that Zelda worked closely with her dad who knows television and can help lead her to success and many writers for shows could learn from him and get the input and experiences from teenagers in order to ensure an accurate and non-cringe-worthy storyline.
I feel that Netflix could benefit from working with younger writers or at least just trying to understand and connect with us
on more than just surface level.
Other streaming services seem to understand that only teenagers can be accurate in storytelling for shows revolving around them.
I’m sure Netflix knows that no matter what they produce people will watch it and that’s what matters to them as a streaming
service at the end of the day. However, It would be refreshing for teenagers to finally watch a show on the app and feel connected to the characters for once.
It doesn’t take much for the writers of these shows to really make it meaningful, just a few conversations with teenagers could help dramatically.
If they start to really connect with their audience this way, I more loyal fans would start to emerge and fall in love with the new and improved storylines.