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Gossip-Girl

Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels/The CWThe Parents Television Council’s latest report — detailing the sexualization of teen girls on TV — tells us what we know too well: That young females are objectified to an absurd degree across primetime. That teenagers are objectified more than their adult counterparts. That most underage girls on TV are depicted in sexual liaisons outside of committed relationships. You can quibble with the group’s media-baiting tactics at times — I have — but it’s hard to imagine anyone arguing with them on this score. When the group looked at shows most popular with 12- to 17-year-olds — including The Office, Two and a Half Men, and The Vampire Diaries — it found overwhelming evidence to back up what any of us could have guessed, that TV tells us repeatedly that teen girls’ worth is predicated on their sexuality.

A look at the PTC’s video montage supporting the report shows The CW’s 90210 and Gossip Girl to be repeat offenders, along with Fox’s Glee. (It’s set, perhaps not coincidentally, to the version of “I’m a Slave 4U” from perpetual PTC-non-favorite Glee.) Glee makes for an interesting mixed case, though — as much as it sexes up its cheerleader characters, it also includes girls of a diverse range of body types and has repeatedly hammered home themes like setting sexual boundaries, navigating relationships, and not changing to please your partner. (Lea Michele’s Rachel even tried dressing sexy to keep her boyfriend, only to find that it wasn’t right for her — and that he didn’t even want her to do it.) The need for strong female characters whose identity isn’t predicated on sexuality, however, remains, which is why smart teen-targeted shows are so important. Series such as Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life, and Veronica Mars set the gold standard for empowered underage girls who still struggled — realistically and intelligently — with their sexuality while not being defined by it. Of course, they were also tragically short-lived shows, and it’s hard to name a wildly popular current teen show doing a stellar job with this. Degrassi nails it (and every other issue possible), but it toils in cult-level popularity. ABC Family’s 10 Things I Hate About You couldn’t have been more sweetly empowered, and it was canceled. I love iCarly for its role-modeling ways (and the fact that it’s just plain fun and funny), but it’s hardly tackling important teen drama.

I hope I’m just missing something. What do you think, PopWatchers? Any current shows you love depicting teen girls particularly well?

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