21 Jump Street: The Lost Opportunity

In the grand scheme of things I guess this just doesn’t really matter. After all, movies come out every month that don’t appeal to me, in fact it’s probably safe to say that every movie that comes out will have a group of people who will never care to see it. I know people who’ve never seen Star Wars. Weird, I know. But they’re out there. So I guess I should focus on the very important state of the world instead of a stupid movie. And focus on my kids, my house, work and all that stuff which is a gazillion times more important than some stupid movie.

But, I can’t help but feel a tinge of annoyance every time I see the ad for 21 Jump Street.

I have to say that maybe because I am a mom and a writer who follows the news and politics and was a huge fan of the 80s drama this new movie is spoofing is the reason I can’t shake this feeling that somebody messed up.

You see, 21 Jump Street was a huge show when I was a preteen. Despite some of its adult material my mom let me watch it every week. Some may try and dismiss the impact 21 Jump Street had on society and kids my age (ahem Johnny Depp, I’m looking at you) the truth is, it did have an impact. On me it did.

Every week the folks on Jump Street introduced me to issues facing teenagers and young adults that I knew nothing about, and every week my mom would answer questions about those issues when I asked them. Questions about drugs, addiction and alcohol. Questions about date rape, AIDS, suicide and being a gay teen. Questions about sex and teenage pregnancy. Questions about right versus wrong, and how sometimes telling the difference isn’t that easy.

Many episodes closed with a PSA and a hotline number correlating with the topic of the night; which is why over the course of it’s run 21 Jump Street was honored with multiple awards from various charities and organizations.

In my house each topic each week started a dialogue with my parents. A dialogue that would continue into my teen years. The years when understanding date rape, drugs and unprotected sex were imperative to my survival. Even today the dangers of bullying, homophobia and teen domestic abuse are things hardly touched by TV shows. Well, Jump Street was light years ahead of it’s time by tackling those things 20 years ago.

I’m in my mid 30s. I never drove drunk. I never got pregnant, contracted an STD or was raped. I never contracted AIDS, or even worried about it, because I knew how to protect myself. And I didn’t turn away from people I knew who were gay. One small reason was because I knew better.

21 Jump Street was feeding a generation of teenager’s lessons that mattered; lessons that needed to be learned in a time when no one else teaching them, and I listened. So, the fact that now, a time so much more turbulent than the one I grew up in, a 21 Jump Street movie is coming out and instead of seizing an opportunity to educate, decides to spoof such a groundbreaking show, bugs me.

I pay a lot of attention to the messages media sends to out kids on TV, in movies, magazines, and online, and when I see an opportunity wasted it drives me crazy.

This is the post-9/11 world. Teens today have only vague memories (if any) of what life was like in a world before 9/11. Today racial tensions are at the most strained since the 60s. Women’s rights are being put on the chopping block every other day like it’s 1955. Girls are being sexualized on every TV show and commercial, and every week it seems we hear about another case of teen bullying gone tragically wrong. More teens are willing to be open about their sexuality than ever before, but social networks and technology have made it easier for bullies to try and destroy those teens than ever before. Suicide is raging.

Now is the time in pop culture, to step up and shine the light on these issues. Pop culture is where our kids eyes and ears are. That’s where the megaphone needs to be placed. But instead they’ve written another spoof movie (at least that is how it is being marketed).

Because that’s what we need. cue in sarcasm