My name is Amanda Livingston, and One Tree Hill ruined my life.
Okay, so maybe it didn’t ruin my life. It just took over my life. I dedicated so much time to it that I finished the entire 187 episode, 9 season series in a matter of four months. (Thank you, Netflix.) Which I probably shouldn’t brag about because it’s not healthy to watch that much TV in such a short period of time, but with the way that I watch TV, it’s kind of normal.
One Tree Hill is a television series that was filmed from 2003-2012 about a bunch of beautiful teenagers who grow up in a town called Tree Hill, North Carolina. All of these beautiful teens all have at least one absentee parent, and live very dramatic lives. The plot of the TV show is based around their high school basketball team and how this kid (Chad Michael Murray) born out of wedlock, abandoned by his father, competes to be on the same team (and for the same love interest) as another kid with the same father (James Lafferty). Did that make sense? Hopefully? It’s a complicated show. (I thought too hard about how to write that sentence, and I kind of lost where I was going with it.)
But based on that description, it sounds terrible. And yeah, it was a terrible show, but it was also heart breaking, and life ruining. I mean, have you seen Chad Michael Murray? He was at his peak in the early 2000s. Him and those beautiful, squinty eyes. Chad Michael Murray on that show ruined me.
I started to write this blog post as a list of reasons why I love One Tree Hill, but I’ve decided to take it in an entirely new direction.
One Tree Hill, and so many of the other dramas that I’ve watched on TV (Degrassi, Gossip Girl, to name a few) are great and they keep you on the edge of your seat with crazy drama. Which beautiful teen will this other beautiful teen fall in love with next? Who is pregnant now? Who shot who? Who is dying from a terminal illness? Who was in a car crash this week? Where the heck are all the parents? (I tried showing my friend Alexa the pilot episode and tried to explain what was going on and who everyone was and she just kept laughing and telling me how ridiculous the show sounded. And it is ridiculous.)
But are any of these situations realistic? Are any of them REAL? Do people really care that much about high school basketball?
The answer to those last three questions: Not really.
I’ve come up with a list of the ways the teen drama One Tree Hill does not reflect/can’t really compare to real life. Enjoy!
- High school does not define you. This is VERY, VERY important. On One Tree Hill, the characters saw high school as the be all, end all. They referred to high school after they graduated basically every 5 minutes. This is not necessary! This is extremely misleading! There are so many other experiences to be had after you graduate! Like college. And traveling. And learning how to adult in the real world.
- Also important– After high school your life is not over. You do not drop off the face of the planet! You can do important and impactful things! One Tree Hill tells us the opposite– their lives revolved around a tiny little town in North Carolina, but that usually isn’t how real life is.
- You don’t have to continually refer to the people in your life as who they are in relation to you. This drove me nuts. Every time someone would come on screen, whether or not they had been a recurring character for six seasons, whoever was already there would identify them by their first and last name, as well as whoever the person was in relation to them. For example, Dan Scott and Keith Scott were brothers. Every time they had a scene together, Dan would walk on screen saying, “Keith! Big brother, how are you doing?” or something like that, except maybe meaner because he was evil. Or Peyton would say, “Brooke Davis, you are my best friend.” Every time this happened I would shake my first at the screen. PEYTON, WE KNOW. THIS HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED. I think after 5 seasons, we know who everyone is. Everybody, calm down.
- No one looks like this in high school (especially like Chad Michael Murray or Brooke Davis. Or any of them, really). This is a problem I have with a lot of teen drama shows. They’re all supposed to be 17 years old when the series starts out, but every single one of the actors that plays them (Nathan, Lucas, Peyton, Brooke, Haley, whoever else) is at least 21. How is that realistic? Imagine 17 year old boys wondering why they can’t lift as much as Nathan, and why they don’t look as toned as Lucas. Imagine 17 year old girls wondering why their bodies don’t look like Peyton and Brooke’s, and why their skin isn’t as perfect or their breasts not as perky. It’s because they’re NOT ACTUALLY 17. They are real adult scarily beautiful people pretending to be real scarily beautiful teenagers. Don’t be mislead by their developed beauty!
- Not everyone is super successful immediately after high school. Hi hello this is really important! Lucas publishes a novel like 10 seconds out of high school and becomes famous and rich. Nathan basically makes it to the NBA in 10 seconds. Brooke becomes a fashion designer and CEO of a company. I’m not saying that this can’t happen to you, but please be realistic. Also, maybe go to college because NO ONE SEEMS TO GO TO COLLEGE ON THIS SHOW. At least on Gossip Girl they tried it for a season. But you don’t have to have those expectations for yourself! Big things take time. You can write the Great American Novel, but it’s not gonna take you 5 minutes to write it. You can join the NBA, but you also have to be in college basketball and be really great and have a lot of practice. You can run your own company, but you need some experience first. You get the gist.
- Not everyone stays in their hometown after high school. I mean, the only way the show could continue and still be called One Tree Hill is if everyone stayed in One Tree Hill. But people leave! People go off to college! People move and live their lives! Don’t think that everyone has to live in their hometown forever. That’s just how it happens on TV.
- PEOPLE GO TO COLLEGE. The reason that this one had me so upset is because in Tree Hill almost NO ONE goes to college. Or if they do, they casually mention that they went to college like it was nothing, no effort, took no time at all. Which is so unlikely, especially if you look at the demographics of that town. !? College is important! Education is important! Don’t listen to this show! They’re dumb!
- High school kids are not allowed to live without a parent and/or guardian. How the heck did these kids get away with living in houses with no parents? Peyton had a dad and Brooke had parents, but they were never there and basically didn’t live with them. No. That’s not allowed. Babies can’t take care of themselves. No wonder everyone on this show had so many problems.
- Do not use alcohol to deal with your problems! Do not use violence to deal with your problems! Very important! If you watch it closely, almost everyone on One Tree Hill was an alcoholic. Every time they had to do something they didn’t want to do, they took a shot or drank some wine or took a pill or something. Everyone was always drinking. It was terrible. Also, I don’t think that there was anyone on the show who hadn’t slapped or hit or punched or shot (yikes) someone. It was crazy. Please don’t take after these crazy beautiful actor people. This is not how you should deal with your issues in real life.
- People’s relationships don’t develop that quickly! People don’t fall in love that fast! I’ve had this issue with so many television shows. People meet, they fall in love. There’s never any in between moments of getting to know each other, any awkwardness, any actual dating. There’s just falling in love, devastating love, and it’s terrible. For years I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just fall in love like Ted and Robin on How I Met Your Mother, or like Dan and Serena on Gossip Girl, or like Eli and Clare on Degrassi. That’s because their love isn’t real. No love is like that. Love takes time, which TV shows and their audiences don’t have or don’t have the patience for, so they just skip through all the boring stuff.
- Not all relationships have to/do end in marriage/babies/happily ever after. Literally everyone on the show wanted this. But if you look at millennial demographics, the number of people the same age as Lucas, Nathan, Peyton, Brooke and Haley that don’t get married are increasing, because people’s values are changing. Which is fine! But the show does not reflect that at all. Everyone ends up married and with babies. The fact that they don’t show any other options for these beautiful actor “teens” as they go through their lives is inaccurate and depressing. What if Peyton doesn’t really want kids? Or what if Nathan never really wanted to get married? There are other options, people.
- Your life does not end after you turn 40. Dan and Karen and Deb are young parents, because they had Nathan and Lucas when they were in high school/fresh out of high school. But every other older on the show kind of doesn’t exist. Once they graduate high school, Karen kind of disappears from the face of the earth, and Deb and Dan show up sparingly. What this tells us is that they’re too old to be seen on television, which just seems completely unfair. It devalues old people– it tells us that all people want to see is unrealistically beautiful “young” people living their lives.
And don’t get me wrong– I loved watching this show. I watched all 187 episodes of it, and I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t love it. Sometimes I need those little reminders that these TV shows might be based off of real life, but take all the extremes and twists and turns and emotions and make them a million times bigger and more dramatic.