Skip To Content

    11 Times Teen Shows Handled Serious Topics Really Irresponsibly, And 11 Times They Actually Did A Great Job

    Degrassi didn't handle everything perfectly, but they still got a lot right.

    We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us examples of when teen shows handled serious topics poorly, and some examples of times they handled them really well. Here's what they had to say!

    🚨 Warning: Spoilers ahead!! 🚨

    Note: The following contain mentions of sexual assault, eating disorders, suicide, and other sensitive topics.

    1. Handled poorly: When Hanna's and Mona's eating disorders were never properly addressed on Pretty Little Liars.

    Alison tells Hanna she knows a way to help her feel better, leading to her becoming bulimic
    Freeform

    "They had all these little throwaway lines about how they starved themselves to look the way they did, and it was never addressed."

    jennj479d3c130

    2. Handled well: When J.J. revealed that the bruises on his body were from his father on Outer Banks.

    JJ sobs that he can't take his father anymore
    Netflix

    "The series did a really good job of showing the impact that JJ's abusive father had on him. The violent and aggressive behavior was destructive toward JJ's personality, and it seriously impacted how he treated himself and other people. It illustrated how some people in abusive relationships deal with their trauma and also revealed how scarily easy it might be to hide that part of their lives from everyone else."

    brek4f6214926

    3. Handled poorly: When Blair had a miscarriage and it was pretty much never mentioned again on Gossip Girl.

    Blair's doctor tells her she lost the baby
    The CW

    "It was as if every character forgot that she was ever pregnant. It just affected her for a day and then everyone magically moved on."

    yunotadog

    4. Handled well: When Spike got pregnant at just 13 on Degrassi Junior High and chose to keep the baby, and the show was realistic about the difficulties of being a teen parent.

    Spike realizes her period is late
    CTV

    "The fact that they depicted a young teenager getting pregnant was honestly groundbreaking for that time period on its own, but they also handled Spike's whole parenthood arc very well. They presented multiple options — adoption, abortion, parenting — as valid, and ultimately didn't sugarcoat how difficult raising Emma really was for Spike."

    Kelly Martinez

    5. Handled poorly: When Cheryl attempted suicide and never received any help afterward on Riverdale.

    Cheryl plunges into the icy river on "Riverdale"
    The CW

    "Nobody goes to an adult, and Cheryl never gets therapy for her serious trauma."

    rmohanawilliamson

    6. Handled well: When Archie's dad, Fred, died on Riverdale and they held a memorial for him after the actor who played him, Luke Perry, died in real life.

    Archie and his mom and Veronica and Jughead and Betty grieve Fred
    The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

    "I actually thought Riverdale did a really nice job with the memorial episode for Luke Perry. I fully acknowledge that the rest of the show is a complete and utter disaster, but I really thought Luke Perry/Fred's death was well handled."

    jadekoalas

    7. Handled poorly: When the severity of Marley's eating disorder was never properly addressed on Glee.

    Ryder to Marley: "I don't want to kiss a girl who's got puke on her breath"
    Fox

    "They skipped over it so quickly."

    anjaxmiller

    8. Handled well: When it was revealed that Craig's father was physically abusing him on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

    Angie: "I saw today, all purple, a dinosaur hurts him, he told me"
    CTV

    "The fact that this was Craig's first episode really showcases just how amazing Jake Epstein was in this role. Joey taking Craig in as his son made me so emotional. The way they utilized his little sister, Angie (Cassie Steele's real-life sister, by the way), was also brilliant."

    Kelly Martinez

    9. Handled poorly: When Spike attempted to rape Buffy and it was used for his character development on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Buffy and Spike talk about the assault, Spike says he's changed
    The WB

    "Buffy did a really good job of portraying depression and numbness in Season 6, but one thing I’ve never agreed with is using Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy as a way of advancing his own plot. There were a few instances of her flinching when he was around afterward, but it was ultimately discarded in favor of Spike getting a soul. She even left her younger sister in his care after the attack."

    ashley1246

    10. Handled well: When Buffy's mom died and the show realistically explored Buffy's grief on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Buffy finds out her mom is dead
    The WB

    "'The Body' is truly one of the most accurate depictions of the direct aftermath of someone's death. Buffy's immediate reactions, as well as the different ways that her friends and sister respond, are such a great exploration of grief and its effects in a way that truly makes anyone who has lost someone feel seen. Everyone talks about Anya's monologue, but one of the most impactful parts for us was when Buffy talked to Tara about how she doesn't even feel like she's there, and Tara talked about how death always feels sudden."

    Hannah Marder

    11. Handled poorly: When Kelly's friend Amanda's eating disorder was resolved in one episode on Beverly Hills, 90210.

    Kelly says her mom used to pop diet pills and that they "murder your personality"
    Fox

    "Kelly's friend was explained as being so mean because she was taking diet pills and had an eating disorder. Both problems were immediately solved by the girls being her friend and bringing her some cookies. Her character was never seen on the show again."

    stephaniesezz

    12. Handled well: When Adrian's baby was born stillborn on The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

    Amy holding a sobbing Adrian
    Freeform

    "It was so hard to watch. The way they showed how pregnancy is completely unpredictable was heartbreaking and real."

    booka2003

    13. Handled poorly: When Maya was framed as being in the wrong for protecting Tristan from a predatory teacher on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

    Tristan says Maya shouldn't have "blabbed" about his relationship with Mr. Yates
    TeenNick

    "I actually thought this was the best the show had handled a student-teacher relationship so far, but I still felt like they dropped the ball in the end. Tristan's initial anger and hurt was portrayed realistically, but I think the writers needed to make a clearer point of emphasizing that Maya ultimately did the right thing protecting him. Having her apologize to Tristan for reporting Mr. Yates just left a bad taste in my mouth and sent a weird message."

    Kelly Martinez

    14. Handled well: When Manny became pregnant at 14 and decided to have an abortion on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

    Manny tells Emma she's getting an abortion
    CTV

    "This episode was initially banned in the US when it first aired in Canada, which is such a shame because it's an incredible episode. Cassie Steele's performance was great, and the way Manny explained her decision — she simply wasn't ready to be a mom, and she didn't want to go through carrying a pregnancy to term at such a young age — was perfect. We also loved that they had Manny confide in Spike and that Spike, despite having chosen to keep Emma as a teen mom herself, was totally supportive of Manny's decision."

    Kelly Martinez

    15. Handled poorly: When Nathan was implied to have purposely crashed the race car and then never received any serious help in the aftermath on One Tree Hill.

    Nathan crashes race car and almost dies
    The WB

    "They were like, 'He did this on purpose' and 'He didn’t brake when he crashed,' and then Nathan tells Peyton he’s not sure if he aimed for the wall, but he 'feels differently now,' and it was never addressed again. He went through other bouts of depression too and never went to therapy except for couples therapy with Haley. Boy needed serious counseling."

    Hannah Marder

    16. Handled well: When Jimmy brought a gun to school, (unintentionally) shot Peyton, and then killed himself on One Tree Hill.

    "We're just kids, we can't be like this, it's not possible" alongside Jimmy pointing gun at everyone
    The WB

    "It's a heartbreaking episode that's unfortunately super relevant in today's world, even more so now than when it came out back in 2006."

    LavaSurfing101

    17. Handled poorly: When Landry killed a man who was trying to rape Tyra, then they covered it up, and it was pretty much never addressed again on Friday Night Lights.

    Landry and Tyra standing together by a truck
    NBC

    "It was a multi-episode arc that was resolved way before the finale of the season and then completely forgotten about from then on! Why did the writers put the characters and their audience through that for a few episodes if it just didn’t matter?!"

    lilliand42f064ed1

    18. Handled well: When Polo killed Marina and then dealt with extreme guilt and eventually attempted suicide on Elite.

    Depressed Polo takes pills to try and kill himself
    Netflix

    "The way he tried to hide everything was so well executed. It wasn't one particular scene that stood out, but the acting over the course of multiple episodes."

    brookeyamada_

    19. Handled poorly: When Aria and Ezra's student-teacher relationship was completely romanticized, and they even ended up getting married, on Pretty Little Liars.

    Aria and Ezra tell her parents they're in love
    Freeform

    "It's so irresponsible for adult writers to romanticize student-teacher relationships on teen shows like this. You can’t suggest to teenagers that it’s romantic if a teacher makes advances toward them."

    rachelsg1210

    20. Handled well: When Maeve chose to have an abortion on Sex Education.

    Clinic nurse tells Maeve she needs to have someone pick her up after the procedure, Maeve jokes "what if I was a serial killer or a hermit or my whole family died in a fire?"
    Netflix

    "It was done sensitively but still handled with the show's typical humor. I also loved how they didn’t make it something that destroyed her character — she knew what she wanted, dealt with it decisively and calmly, and then went on with her life."

    kirstyr435f741a2

    21. Handled poorly: Nearly every single storyline on 13 Reasons Why.

    Tyler's storyline
    Netflix

    "I don't think there's a serious topic they haven't tried working into the show, and they've basically mishandled every single one."

    chickens

    22. And finally, handled well: When Shawn's drinking began negatively affecting his behavior, and he discovered his family's history of alcoholism, on Boy Meets World.

    Shawn shoves Angela while drinking
    ABC

    "Shawn definitely had the most difficult backstory of any character on Boy Meets World. He started drinking to deal with his personal frustrations, and that's when Jack said that alcoholism ran in their family, even revealing that his mom left their dad because he was an abusive drunk. This was later mirrored with the altercation Shawn had with Angela, when he shoved her into the door. The show was able to highlight the seriousness of alcoholism by expressing how destructive the disease was to Shawn and his relationships."

    ActorAnon

    Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.