It's interesting to watch the reaction in an acquaintance or relative when I first disclose my unrepentant love of teen TV shows and movies. There are some who share in my joy and match my excitement until we're reduced to a rising clatter of squeals and hand-clapping, but the vast majority meet my disclosure with a blank or condescending stare. "Really?" is usually followed by "Well...huh" and then we move on to more socially acceptable topics for a woman my age--children, politics, the recession.
Many more educated Gen XY types seem to mirror my tastes--there seems to be a begrudging acceptance among even the pseudo-intellectual elite that crappy taste in entertainment and good taste in other art forms are not mutually exclusive pursuits. I can love ballet, the impressionists, and Gossip Girl with equal passion--dabbling in the lesser does not a cultural wasteland make.
The vast majority of the over-40 set, however, seems genuinely appalled by my tastes in escapist fare, and this coming from people who love shows like 24, which is hardly War and Peace.
The truth is, I like teen shows like Glee, the OC (R.I.P.), and the like for a rather simple reason: real life is depressing as shit. Since I graduated from college in 2001, I've lived through September 11, two terms of the GW presidency, war, recession, and a consistently sub par job market. I'm not about to say that this stretch was more or less depressing than the decades that preceded it--that's for historians and grizzled porch dwellers to debate over sweet tea and biscuits. The fact remains, however, that things have been less than ideal, and a person might need a few distractions up their sleeves if one is to survive emotionally.
I grew up with a mother who favors what she likes to call "Stories of redemption and hope" and I like to call "Sad ass movies that make you want to kill yourself." Tomato, to-ma-to. In any case, a childhood rife with Das Boot, Glory, and Gallipoli as the Friday night movie kind of messed with my head.
Now, with the benefit of adulthood on my side, I choose not to be moved, but to be amused. I want to laugh and eat candy and dance along while Britney Spears sings a shameful cover of "I Love Rock and Roll" in that blessedly horrific movie, Crossroads. I want to watch fresh-faced teens dance out their frustrations and talk earnestly of their dreams. I want to watch first kisses and first dates and first fights and remember what it felt like to be 16, and staring down a world of possibility. And I don't mind the hot, shirtless 25-year-olds pretending to be 17-year-old vampires either.
That, my friends, is entertainment.