Teen dramas have been a central point in teen lives for decades. The television genre follows teenagers in their daily lives and how they deal with issues such as romance, friendship, and or school. However, the teen drama genre is more known to audiences for the stereotypical and inappropriate portrayal of its characters. The characters and storylines follow stereotypical and old-fashioned ways of character building while often featuring partying and sex as normalized hobbies. As teen dramas highly influence teenagers, the genre is expected to show a healthy and accurate depiction of adolescents, which it often lacks, according to scholars. In contemporary times, much attention is given to inclusivity, gender equality, and representation in the media. This attention is largely a response to the introduction of Gender Quotas in 2011 and the #MeToo Movement. However, the question remains whether the teen dramas have changed their depiction of their characters, especially their depiction of the female gender. This study explores whether the female characters have been portrayed differently in teen dramas throughout the past two decades. The study analyzes four of the most popular long-term teen dramas broadcasted in the Netherlands: Degrassi, Skins, Spangas, and 90210. Through a qualitative study, the Multimodel Critical Discourse Analysis is used to analyze the television series based on its script, visuals, and underlying themes. Four different time periods are analyzed: the first season, the last season that aired in 2010, the first season that aired in 2011, and the most contemporary season. A total of 60 episodes are analyzed for the study. The findings suggest that teen dramas have started implementing purplewashing. Purplewashing refers to using feminism to hide the misogyny, objectification, and sexualization of the female gender (Casás, 2018). Female characters appeared more independent and versatile at first glance. However, they remained to be depicted as stereotypical and less significant than males. This research concludes that little has changed for the female characters regarding a more diverse portrayal.

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Marlen Komorowski
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Marley van der Knaap. (2022, June 27). Shaping the Female Teen: A qualitative study on the portrayal of female characters in teen dramas. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/65000