Are all the teen movies and shows on Netflix for teenagers?


It’s no secret that Netflix doesn’t abide by the same rules as networks beholden to internal standards and practices departments. As such, what counts as teen movies and shows on their platform is akin to the wild west, anything goes.

According to their own maturity ratings and classifications, content appropriate for teens ranges from G to TV-14. Anything higher than that carries the weight of “may be inappropriate for ages 17 and under.” So when the streamer designates a film or show as “teen,” they don’t necessarily mean that it’s appropriate for all teenagers but rather that the characters fit within that age category.

Of course, this causes confusion for Netflix users trying to find content suitable for teen viewers because teen movies and shows, regardless of rating, are marketed as teen shows and films. This gives the impression to prospective viewers that the content within the show will be appropriate for all ages between 13-18 year olds and that is simply not the case.

More often than not, though this may change as Netflix invests in more “clean teen” content, the platform’s most popular “teen shows” are rated MA even when they’ve been adapted from young adult novels like13 Reasons Why and Tiny Pretty Things. This, however, doesn’t mean that they don’t have PG or TV-14 content on the platform. They do. Usually, it can be found in their teen movies and network teen shows that have a second home on the streamer. Think the To All the Boys trilogy and All American.

Are Netflix teen movies and shows really for teens?

But this begs the question, “why is content on Netflix featuring teens not always for teens?” The answer is most likely crossover appeal and the fact that adult teenagers i.e. 18-19-year-olds are still teens by definition of the word even if that’s not who the vast majority of people are thinking about when they’re talking about teen content.

While Netflix is very much interested in cultivating an audience that could see a prospective viewer from childhood into adulthood, they also care about numbers. For well over a decade, by evidence of the YA boom in the book industry which translated into adaptation success, teen shows have floated the line of being made for teens but also appealing to adults.

The days of public service announcement teen television with packaged episodes focused on hot button topics meant to teach a lesson are mostly in the past. Current events are being integrated into TV shows and films with an eye toward bringing awareness, but morality and ethics aren’t on the table in the way that they used to be.

Some would argue that’s because family-oriented sitcoms with teen leads are rare nowadays. Others may say that’s the influence of Gossip Girl‘s impact on the television landscape. But I’d argue it’s more a move away from the lesson-based story structure typical to children’s programming toward the less black-and-white realm of television made for adult viewers.

But that’s not to say teens aren’t learning from the content Netflix has to offer. According to Rio Mangini, an actor from the now canceled Netflix teen show, Everything Sucks!:

"…Netflix is controlling the market so well [because] they’re not just making content for young kids like us to consume, they’re making it teach a lesson to kids, to help them grow…I feel like they’re really taking that opportunity to help be a part of solving a lot of the problems that not just teens have but also older generations have."

Some of those problems are self-acceptance and self-actualization. No matter the rating, there is one thing most of Netflix’s teen content has in common: an attention to identity and the need to define yourself on your own terms. That is a coming-of-age priority, it’s a theme particular to stories about teen protagonists even though it is not unique to teenagers.

So, this isn’t a simple quibble. Netflix does need to produce more teen content that fits within their own rating system designated for teens. This is especially true for YA  show adaptations considering taking books made for teenagers and making them into programming potentially inaccessible to a good swathe of them makes no sense.

But it is also true that the streamer is made for all ages with content that clearly states its rating and that algorithms are not parents but rather coding that is fallible. So bear in mind: “Netflix sets maturity ratings by the frequency and impact of mature content in a title, such as the amount of violence, sex, adult language, nudity, or substance use that may be present.”

This is true for all programming on the platform regardless of if it says its for teens. We recommend looking into reviews of shows and films using IMDb parents guides and others to learn whether a title is appropriate for you if you’re a teen or you’re an adult looking for content suitable for your teenager.

Next. 6 YA adaptations coming to Netflix in 2021. dark