Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Awkward launches its third season with bizarre pro-life moralizing

Season 3 Episode 1 - "Cha-cha-cha-changes"

First off, because much of the rest of what I'm about to type might make it seem otherwise, I'll stress that I generally really enjoy MTV's high school sitcom Awkward. I'd go so far as to label it one of the ten best live-action comedies on television. It's funny and massively energetic, with stronger characterization and continuity than all but a handful of other sitcoms, and creator/showrunner Lauren Iungerich writes with TV's most charmingly and authentically youthful voice. It's a very good show.

But all that said, its (again, otherwise really funny, with an awesome guest starring turn from Anthony Michael Hall) third season premiere... got weird. You see, protagonist Jenna Hamilton has her a bit of a pregnancy scare. Which is a typical enough plot for television, that's not the weird part. But before the end of the episode when she and her mom get up the guts to look at the pregnancy test together – which is negative – the option of abortion (which is never mentioned by name, it being too ghastly to even say out loud, I guess?) is twice referred to as "choosing death," and when Jenna's mom tells Jenna that she'll support her decision, Jenna looks at her mother and says "There is no decision, mom," and that if she is pregnant she has to have the baby.

Perhaps the weirdest part is that nothing else about Awkward has ever struck me as being politically conservative in the least. It's completely sympathetic to its gay characters and totally apathetic about teen girls having and enjoying sex (hell, it may even be in favor of it), and the very next episode after this premiere had Jenna going on birth control, when all true Republicans know that birth control pills are but little pieces of Satan. But in this case, it, perhaps befitting the network of Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant, leaned hard right.

It was jarring and pretty weird and it made me uncomfortable, and I'd be lying if I said that I don't now think about it at least for a second every time I think of the show. I still think Awkward is funny, plan to keep watching until it ends or is canceled, and I think almost every live-action sitcom could learn a thing or two from its insanely high energy and snappy pacing. But, on some small level, it may always be the show that suddenly started reciting a pro-life pamphlet at me.

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