The Effects of Representation in Media


The Edwards 21 in Boise, a common place for kids to view movies with friends or family. (Moesha Aplicano-Burnham)

Moesha Aplicano-Burnham, Managing Editor

Growing up in a media-heavy age, it’s likely that most of this generation grew up watching Netflix or another streaming media. These shows influence us from a young age, most being common knowledge among Gen-Z. Being able to recite a quote from a show and having most people recognize it is evidence of just how much of an impact these shows have on pop culture. These shows can also have a huge impact on young teens as well. Many shows such as Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, and Glee, have adult actors playing high school aged characters. It makes little sense as to why the casting directors choose this. One reason is the work limitations for minors. It’s much easier to work with adults as they don’t have these restrictions, but what impact does this have on its audience? Young teens are typically the demographic for these shows. Most kids in this age group are going through a difficult time in their lives. It’s not uncommon for them to experience low self esteem, or feel stressed out about their appearance or their “level of popularity”. It can be incredibly damaging to see twenty-something-year-old actors with clear skin and mature bodies representing what’s supposed to be a developing teenager. 

Another reason as to why having adult actors as teen characters is harmful is the sexualization of these characters. Having an adult to play these teens makes it feel more acceptable to have these characters act more sexual in terms of wardrobe or even sex scenes. 

Misrepresentation of high school kids can be damaging not only to the self esteem of its young and impressionable audience but also makes the sexualization of minors in high school feel more acceptable. Overall, shows should cast more accurate actors and actresses to play out the plot of their show.