Movies & TV shows shouldn’t have to apologize for creating unrealistic fantasies

Films and TV shows are constantly critiqued for portraying unrealistic characters, plots, and fashion. However, the picture on the big screen is made to entertain—viewers must learn the difference between fiction and reality.

A common genre under fire for its lack of realism is soapy teen dramas. They show the angst of first love and the ambiguity of teen identity, drawing you into the wild lives of these idealistic teens.

The appeal of characters like J.J. from Outer Banks or Otis from Sex Education make the average teen boy pale in comparison. Their stories are supported by angled lighting, 20 takes, and a perfectly written script. There’s a part to play, and they play it well.

Not many people believe they’ll marry Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl or that their best friend will be Rory from Gilmore Girls. But maybe some will. It’s possible these beliefs come from young, impressionable teens who want to be swept away in the romance and the excitement of these fictional lives.

Here we come to the heart of the issue.

It’s expected for TV shows to reflect reality. Maybe we’re all a tad egotistical and want to see ourselves in the characters onscreen. But the issue seems to go even deeper.

Due to the recent and long-awaited release of its second season, one show in particular has garnered a huge amount of popularity in the past weeks: Euphoria. Euphoria’s unique style of glitter, colour, and individuality has produced a new cultural aesthetic among teens and young adults. However, because it’s flashy, seductive, and dark, Euphoria has accumulated critique for not portraying the true lives of teens.

And this would be correct. It isn’t meant to be an authentic experience—shows are meant to invoke excitement and emotion because they’re overtly dramatic, not because you’re seeing your life through a glass screen.

Shows are labelled as bad, inadequate, substandard, or second rate because they don’t seem “real” The illusion’s been broken—three men won’t actually be fighting for your hand in marriage, you won’t be caught in a storm and have your friends think you’ve been dead for months, and, sadly, witches aren’t real.

We shouldn’t think less of a show for showing us what most likely won’t happen. We also shouldn’t always blame film for glorifying violence, drug abuse, and sex. It’s our responsibility as viewers to know these are only stories. They’re created purely for the viewer’s entertainment.

Whether a film or show is good or bad, it’s a fictional story. They exist as a fantasy to bring delight and entertainment to the viewer. It isn’t going to resemble real life, nor does it owe it to the viewer to do so.  

Suzy is a third-year English-History medial student and one of The Journal’s Copy Editors.


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