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The Adult Bodies Playing Teens on TV

The immature realities of adolescence can be hard to remember, especially when the high school stories we watch on TV involve 25-year-olds acting out sex dramas foreign to the average teenager. Daniels says today’s teen shows, most of which include sexually active characters, misrepresent the reality that in the U.S., only 41.2 percent of high school students report having ever had sex, and just 11.5 percent have had sex with four or more partners. “It’s really different than even in the ‘90s,” Daniels told me. “If you think back to the first run of 90210, the majority of the characters, while they were in high school, were not having sex. … It was still a really big, long, drawn-out process as to whether Brenda was going to sleep with Dylan. And yet, today, we see shows where it seems like the characters are not only sexually active, but having multiple partners, and that’s incredibly uncommon for teenagers.” Shannen Doherty was 19 when she played Brenda, a 16-year-old, in the first season of Beverly Hills 90210 in 1990. As fellow high schooler Dylan, Luke Perry was 23.

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