Monthly Archives: October 2011

Watch out here comes some Teen Drama

Watch out here comes some Teen Drama

My teenage years consist of some of the best and maybe worst memories I have experienced so far in life. High school and I had a love/hate relationship. I felt like every day I was living in a T.V. show where you never know what would happen next. If I had to define my High School experience up in one word it would be Drama!


That must be why I was addicted to every show in the Teen Drama format. Such as the Oc, Gossip Girl, 90210, and that’s just a few to name. That is why when asked to analyze a media text I jumped at the opportunity to analyze my all time favorite: One Tree Hill.

From all the cat fights, steamy on and off again relationships and everything in-between,  I was instantly drawn in and still currently watch the show.One Tree Hill is up and coming in its 9th and final season. The show premiered in the fall of 2003 and has experienced great success among intended teens and young adult audiences. The genre of this as I mentioned above is in the category Teen Drama, which I will get into more detail a little later.

First let me introduce the show to those who are unfamiliar with it! One Tree Hill is set in the fictional small town of Tree Hill in North Carolina. The show follows the lives of two half-brothers, Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan Scott (James Lafferty) who for the first four seasons are high school students dealing with the drama and pressures that comes from school, basketball, and relationships.

Here’s a clip so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about from the first episode of the first season!

Now that you have some background on the show it’s time to focus on the main reason I am writing this blog. I’m going to analyze the genre of Teen Drama with a focus on the show One tree Hill by using a Genre Criticism Approach.

Lets start by breaking this down a bit. The word genre is french for a type or category that is based on shared characterizes. Genre is a complex fusion of formal, stylistic, substantive features. Meaning the structure of narrative[formal], the audio/visual codes[stylistic] and ideological codes [substantive].

Genre is based on both “conventions” and “innovations“. There is tension between them and a need to find balance. Conventions meaning repetition and developing familiarity, and innovations meaning difference and sustaining interest. This relates to the genre of  Teen Drama because though it appears to be a trend of shows on major networks such as ABC Family, the CW, or Fox.

The conventions of teen dramas is that they share the same elements of a soap opera genre.  The characters must deal with the dramatic ups and downs of their friendships and romances while facing an array of “realistic” teen issues.

The innovations with a teen drama is that the dramatic series has a major focus on the teenage characters and not adults. Before most series with a focus on teens were sitcoms that focused on teens but they were usually part of a group that included adults and children.

When using genre criticism to analyze a text there are three approaches that are used: aesthetic, ritual and ideological.

The aesthetic approach identifies formal and stylistic features, and innovations. Such as the narrative’s structure, and audio-visual codes. It avoids the substance features thus stopping short of providing insights into rhetorical force of texts.

In a show like One Tree Hill they focus a lot on the music. They use music to represent the intended moods of a scene or to prepare you of what is about to happen. For example in the clip I showed they use music in the transition of scenes from sentimental with slow quiet music and then changes to upbeat music to get you excited and ready for the basketball game.

The camera work also shoots a lot of medium closeups of Lucas the hero in this scene. As I read in the article “The Codes of Television” by John Fiske “the normal camera distance in television is mid-shot to close-up which brings the viewer into an intimate, comfortable relationship with the characters on screen.”  But the villain for this scene is nathan is being shot using extreme close-up meaning we can see better or ” the viewer can see into the villain and see through his word.” 

The ritual approach uses semiotic/structuralism to analyze syntagmatic and paradigmatic features of a genre. Looking at reoccurring themes like the sequence of events each episode is filmed, paradigmatic structures, and binary oppositions. We use the ritual approach to understand how texts of a genre interact with cultural forces (production and audience).

Teen Drama’s use themes that teens watching can relate too such as love, friendship, rivalries and betrayal.  With the themes come education and lessons within each episode that viewers watching can take away. Two of the show One Tree Hill’s most prominent themes are basketball and romance. The pressure that comes from a sport or any other hobby, and the trouble and joy that both come from young romance are things that a lot of teens have difficulty with physically and emotionally while growing up.

One Tree Hill follows a regular structure with each episode like many other teen dramas. An episode usually begins with a recap of events relevant to the upcoming narrative. The theme song is played either immediately after the recap, or after the first few scenes. This is common for most teen dramas.

In One Tree Hill Whenever an episode features sensitive or violent subject there is no opening montage but only One Tree Hill written on a black background. During the final minutes of an episode there is a final narrative from one of the characters acknowledging that the episode is concluding. In other teen dramas there is a last look at each of the characters in the episode and the situations they are left in to lead into the next episode.

The last approach, ideological, views television texts as instruments of power and control and examines the genre to understand how it naturalizes dominant ideology. Dominant ideology meaning as a hegemonic force with examples being gender relations, race, and class.

Most teen dramas take place in rich area codes such as Beverly Hills, 90210, The O.C, Gossip Girl or in fictional small town settings such as One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek.  Most teen dramas have a cast of attractive characters who live privileged, upper-middle class lives. It has been found that shows that depict teen life in a more realistic manner tend not to do nearly as well, except for a few exceptions like My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks, Degrassi: The Next Generation.


The hegemonic force that a lot of teen dramas are putting out into society regard class. Teens watch these shows and see the rich and fancy lifestyles and want be like Blair from Gossip Girl or Naomi for 90210 and wearing the newest trends and driving the hottest cars. These shows are encouraging teens to go and spend even more money because they are just trying to keep up with their favorite characters.

Most of these shows also cast a predominantly cast of white characters with maybe one or two characters of a different race. This now sending messages into society of regarding race and white dominance.

So why does any of this matter you ask? It matters because teen dramas have been acknowledged with their success in educating youth of ways to face teen issues that they see everyday. With episodes regarding sex, gun violence, eating disorders, teen pregnancy and more issues that parents aren’t discussing with their kids they are learning in these shows. With that in mind media literacy is also important so kids can get the educational value from watching these shows but also recognize and disregard the factors that are exaggerated and glamorized.