Should 20+ Year-Olds Be Playing Teens In Shows and Movies?

Ava Abbott, Staff Writer

High school is a very awkward time in most people’s lives. Filled with acne, trivial drama, and unnecessary mental breakdowns about what college you’re going to apply to next year. It is also a time of change and figuring out who you are and what kind of person you will be. I’m sure many teenagers have asked their parents about their awkward high school days, wondering what it was like. Many teenagers and pre-teens probably turned to the media and entertainment like high school drama shows. I’m sure most people have watched High School Musical, Riverdale, Euphoria, and Outer Banks which demonstrate a few examples of young people in high school struggling with the issues of teenagers around the world. One important, and possibly unrealized fact, is that the actors in these dramas aren’t teenagers. They’re far older than the 16, 17, 18-year-olds that they play. For example, Euphoria Actress, Alexa Demie, plays Maddy Perez, a 17-year-old senior, who is the most popular girl at her high school. Surprisingly Ms. Demie and her character have a 14-year difference! Alexa Demie is 31 years old, and seemingly the oldest member of the central cast! As for Riverdale, the youngest member of the cast is 21 year old, KJ Apa, who plays Archie. Similarly, the main character of Outer Banks, John B, a 16-year-old sophomore, is played by Chase Stokes who is 29 years old!

As you can see some of the actors that play minors are actually way older than they seem. Along with their perfect makeup, hair, and complexions they truly set an unfair standard in the minds of teens and pre-teens. Even pre-teen me thought that as soon as I hit high school I would look like Lili Reinhart from Riverdale. Obviously I was wrong, since she’s literally 25. These invisible standards set by the media and broader society, are based on silly high school dramas that contribute to some teens feeling insecure about themselves. The common thought of comparison plagues young people today with the portrayal of people their age in movies and shows. However, in High School Musical, Zach Effron was actually 17, which is perfect for his character, Troy, who was around 16-17 years old. In more recent high school drama shows the ages of the actors get higher and higher. 

One major reason that adults are mainly cast as teenagers involves labor laws and the limited hours minors can work, certain stunts needed to be performed, and mature themes in some shows. Acknowledging the mature themes in some high school shows featuring minors they have to use people 18 and over to ensure they are complying with the legal aspects. Actual teenagers have been used for movies, but are sometimes playing characters younger than they actually are. It seems like the entertainment industry likes the thought of teenagers in cool movies and shows, but not the reality of how kids look and act in high school settings.

High school is an awkward time in most people’s lives, filled with what appears to be unmeetable standards on how you look and act, who you’re friends with, what parties you go to, whether you’re a popular social butterfly or a quiet wallflower. Those things that make high school life harder are multiplied by the image of 20-something-year-olds pretending to be teens again and portraying an airbrushed version of teenagers and high school environments.