YTH Live Plenary Liveblog!

Greetings from the YTH Live Opening Plenary!

Moderator: Michele Noonan – Reality TV star – co-founder Sexpinion – @phdinsexy

Amy Rardin, Supervising Producer of CW’s “The Carrie Diaries”, ABC Family’s “Jane by Design” and “Greek”
Erica Lorraine Scheidt, YTH Board Member, Author, Uses for Boys – @ericalorraine
Katie Elmore, PRAJNA Productions, Executive Producer, East Los High – @KTelmoremota
Malinda Lo, Author, Adaptation, Ash, and Huntress – @MalindaLo
Ebony Section @Ebony_N_Ivory, Anthony Sis @a_sis62, Cindy Lee @cindyhoangle, Max Kamin-Cross @MaxKaminCross, YTH Youth Advisory Board

This session opened with an amazing and energetic set of clips from shows about young people – Glee’s Kurt, singing Being Alive; the girls from 10 Things I Hate About You going to the prom, East Los High, and many other shows – and a set of hard-hitting questions about the representations of young people.

What shows did you watch as a kid and from what media did you get your ideas about youth sexuality?

Michele Noonan – Dawson’s Creek
Katie Elmore – 90210

Cindy Le – I read a lot, Robin McKinley & Madeline LeEngle.

Max Kamin-Cross – I’m still a teen! I love The Office and comedy TV

Erica Lorraine – I was a huge bookworm as a kid, don’t remember any teen shows I watched! I’m reading some incredible young adult books now including ones with genderqueer themes & awesome sites like Rookie.
What do you think about the portrayal of gay characters on TV?

Max Kamin-Cross – something fantastic about reality TV has been to see real gay people rather than stereotypes of gay people.

Malinda – Yes, I think there should be more gay characters on TV! There’s very mixed representation now – I think that the variety & richness has improved recently, but we could still see more queer teens of color, teens who are not upper class, queer characters of color.  We really need to see the good the bad and the ugly!

Ebony Section – I really wish some of the shows about teens of color would migrate off the urban networks and onto regular networks!

Erica Lorraine – I think it’s no longer true that you’re limiting yourself to just a gay audience by writing books about gay characters  – straight teens read these too.

Cindy Le – We can save the world too, just like Buffy! Coming out is just one part of life.

What are your favorite teen girl characters right now? Who feels like a “real” person and not a fantasy of a teen girl?

Katie Elmore – I think it is critical to get teens not just in front of the camera but behind the camera, involved in the research and writing of a series.  A teenager who dealt with teen pregnancy was very key to the production of East Los High.  I think being real allows us to have a real conversation.

Amy Rardin – I really like that you get to do stuff outside of the studio system.  We often get our scripts thrown back at us and they say “she’s not likable,” “she’s mean,” “she’s imperfect,” viewers aren’t going to get to watch her – and know that we are trying but that studios won’t always let us portray imperfect people.

Erica Lorraine – It’s really challenging for viewers & readers because if you don’t know that people are having experiences like yours you think you’re nuts.  If we only see these sanitized versions of youth sexuality, people don’t know they’re not alone.

Amy Rardin  – Actually, youth TV has standards and practices that require the use of condoms, unlike movies & the web.

Katie Elmore – Talking about sex is WAY more taboo than showing sex on TV – how does sexual negotiation look and feel? What does that look like? Our show is considered highly racy because we go there with conversations.

Erica Lorraine – You have to have conversations for consensual sex. I’m really interested in the messy bits, the physical bits, the awkward parts, the parts we don’t talk about.

What have you not seen that you want to see?

Teen Fathers.

Less machismo – more real teens of color

More good transgender characters & genderqueer characters – characters outside the binary.

Audience question: how do we present the positive, as well as the dramatic, side of abortion?

Erica Lorraine: I tried to do this in Uses for Boys, my novel, and it turned out that some people looked at the abortion as a “punishment for having sex”, and what I really had meant to do was a kind of love letter where my character saw self-actualized women for the first time at the place where she got her abortion.

Amy – I think it can be done and it can be done really well. I showed an abortion and I was terrified I would get hate mail – and I actually got thank you mail because I showed an abortion and then HER LIFE CONTINUED.

Audience question: How do alternative media, social media, affect teen ideas about sex?

Michele: We are watching teens talk about sexual acts very graphically – “I want to murder your vagina” – and I think we need to address these issues – what’s the proper response if you get tweeted that? should you be tweeting like that? How can we get more teens talking about sex in a healthy manner & in a private manner?

Audience question: So, I was lucky to come out really early, like at 16, and one of the worries I had was what it would be like to age and to age into a queer person of color and that being a positive thing rather than a worry? 

Max Kamin-Cross – Room 335 is a really great documentary about nursing homes.

Amy Rardin – It turns out that writers over 40 can’t even get jobs in Hollywood right now – so it actually starts there. So people won’t pitch shows about aging because they’re afraid if people realize they’re “old” they won’t get to do a show.

Michele Noonan – Everybody on reality TV is under 30.

Amy – I think it all boils down to ad dollars – they’re spent overwhelmingly targeting teens & young people.

A reminder emphasized by several participants – if you want to see something on TV, vote with your dollars. Buy it, post it on social media, let the studios know that you want to see it.

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