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That 70s Show, Timelessness, & the Groovy Old Themes

What's it like being a teenager? Man, I'm a teenager, and even I can't give a decent answer to that question. Still, if an alien teleported into my bedroom at this moment and asked me it under threat of laserfication, I know what I'd do. First: freak out and knock the laser out of its tentacle using my nonexistent fantastic white girl karate skills. And then: point Mr. Alien to the classic early 2000s comedy TV program, That 70s Show. Groovy, baby!

Whether it's depicting Eric's desire to strike out on his own, Kelso's struggle to face the fact that he got a girl pregnant, Jackie's doubts on the decisions she's made in love, Donna's dissatisfaction at being seen as a sex object, or Hyde's confrontations with his delinquent mother, That 70s Show spans across seven seasons and across the entire teen experience - and it does it all in a hilarious, meaningful, and uberrealistic way. There's drugs, there's sex, there's friendship, there's marriage, there's Kelso being forced to run naked.

Overall, it's awesome. And despite taking place in the 70s... it's timeless. How's that possible?

Over time, the common subjects and conflicts of teen life change. I bet Juliet Capulet would be pretty confused if she read a modern novel about a boy using video games to escape his messed-up home life. And in the year 2200, teens will probably look back at Judy Blume's books and wonder how people ever survived without McDonalds' Love Matching Machines - find your true love with the click of a button and an order of fries!

Even the That 70s Show episode that had Eric attempting to teach his dad about Star Wars is totally outdated, right? No teens these days really care that much about the original Star Wars movies. (Admittedly, I may have just gotten some up-and-coming Star Wars convention attendees slightly angry.)

But wait... something's off. Sure, today's teens aren't so much into Star Wars, but does that make Eric's frustration at his dad's refusal to appreciate his interests any less hilarious or relatable? Video games may not be super timeless, but who says a 16th-century youth wouldn't be able to relate to the desire to escape a bad home situation? And as for that 23rd-century teen, well... I bet they'd still be able to relate to the pain of unrequited love, even if it was only in the core of their heart, from a memory they never personally experienced.

Because in the end, all teens (and all people) have that core of experience - those groovy old themes. We may not all get braces, but we know what it's like to feel self-conscious and doubt your own beauty. We may not all struggle to ask a crush to prom, but we know the fear of rejection and the courage it requires to take such an intimidating risk.

When I described a sample of some That 70s Show characters' stories back in paragraph two, I used these terms: desire, struggle, doubts, dissatisfaction, confrontations. I feel like these concepts do create a larger core, one that can be tapped into - the result being rad story gold.

As YA novelists, we're the ones whose job it is to tap into it. As teen and teen-at-heart readers, we attach to this core more than anything else, because it's what resonates with us and what makes us feel like a part of something bigger.

Which - I think - we are. In the words of Fez: "Good day, sir. I said good day!" What was it like being a teenager for you? Or, if you're a teen like me, do you think you could relate to the experience of a 70s - or 1500s - teen?
Emilia Plater

Emilia is a YA author who avoids studying, food that isn't covered in cheese, and waking up before 10:30AM whenever possible. A bundle of confusions.

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  1. Reading this post wants me to go back and watch all the episodes again.

  2. Did you forget season 8 on purpose? Don't worry, I wouldn't blame you if you did. ;)

    Are teens really not interested in Star Wars anymore? I've been out of my teens for less then a decade and yet so much has changed.

    And of course now I'm going to have to go home and have a That 70's Show marathon.

  3. I don't remember where I read it (AUGH I hate that), but I loved a piece of advice regarding how all YA books need to maintain the cafeteria dynamic -- even if they take place in a spaceship, on a deserted island, in a dystopian compound, on a puffy cloud. In other words, there have got to be high-school-familiar familiar hierarchies, longings, prejudices, hardships, etc. to make any YA novel work for teen readers.

  4. Teenager here, and it is HARD!
    Didn't realize you were a teen, just discovered your blog, Emilia!

  5. WAIT -- WHAT?

    I thought everyone loved Star Wars?
    Then, maybe that's just the people I know.

  6. I just posted about the universal themes of YA too. Great minds?


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Item Reviewed: That 70s Show, Timelessness, & the Groovy Old Themes Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Emilia Plater