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Is the "blogging teen girl" a new TV trope?

by Ethan Tussey

by Amy Hasinoff for IN MEDIA RES

In many ways, MTV’s  Awkward is a conventional female-centered teen comedy program. Jenna is an outsider(ish) teen girl at the centre of interpersonal dramas, a love triangle with two best friends (Jake and Matty), and the foibles of her comically inept but well-meaning parents. In many episodes, her blog seems to be positioned as relatively unremarkable, merely providing a justification for her voice-over narration. 

This is a shift from the focus on the dangers of online predators that were widespread from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. Girls in particular were warned to never post any personal information online. For example, public service announcements like Everyone from the 2007 Think Before You Post campaign warns that if girls blog or post personal information on social network sites, they might attract the attention of online predators.

When Jenna decides to make her blog public near the end of season 2, the consequences are entirely in the offline world of her existing friends and family members. Even more interesting, in this storyline mobile phones and blogging seem to be both a positive and negative part of teen life. Though a mobile-phone photo of Jenna and Matty that circulates around the school precipitates her slut-shaming, Jenna’s decision to take her blog public also mitigates this problem--her classmates seem to drop the bullying and instead become fascinated by her interpersonal drama. Jenna is even popular for an episode: “I had fans [and] … I was a tastemaker,” she says. The ways that mobile phones and blogs are integrated into Awkward may signal that we’ve left the initial panic about predators behind and moved towards more nuanced narratives about teens and social media.

As Cassell and Cramer point out, girls are often depicted as unable to use communications technologies when they're first introduced (from the telegraph and telephone to the internet) in safe and appropriate ways. But at this point, the “teen girl blogger” seems to have become a cliché—on a recent episode of The New Normal, the 9-year-old girl says upon her first heartbreak: “I’ll look back and blog about this when I’m sixteen.” What does this mean for how we think about social media, and what is the role of gender in this trope?

Clip from Awkward Season 2, Episode 10

Clip from Awkward Season 2, Episode 10

from Awkward (2012)
Creator: Lauren Iungerich
Distributor: MTV
Posted by Ethan Tussey
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