Is the "blogging teen girl" a new TV trope?

Curator's Note

In many ways, MTV’s  Awkward is a conventional female-centered teen comedy program. Jenna is an outsider(ish) teen girl at the centre of interpersonal dramas, a love triangle with two best friends (Jake and Matty), and the foibles of her comically inept but well-meaning parents. In many episodes, her blog seems to be positioned as relatively unremarkable, merely providing a justification for her voice-over narration. 

This is a shift from the focus on the dangers of online predators that were widespread from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. Girls in particular were warned to never post any personal information online. For example, public service announcements like Everyone from the 2007 Think Before You Post campaign warns that if girls blog or post personal information on social network sites, they might attract the attention of online predators.

When Jenna decides to make her blog public near the end of season 2, the consequences are entirely in the offline world of her existing friends and family members. Even more interesting, in this storyline mobile phones and blogging seem to be both a positive and negative part of teen life. Though a mobile-phone photo of Jenna and Matty that circulates around the school precipitates her slut-shaming, Jenna’s decision to take her blog public also mitigates this problem--her classmates seem to drop the bullying and instead become fascinated by her interpersonal drama. Jenna is even popular for an episode: “I had fans [and] … I was a tastemaker,” she says. The ways that mobile phones and blogs are integrated into Awkward may signal that we’ve left the initial panic about predators behind and moved towards more nuanced narratives about teens and social media.

As Cassell and Cramer point out, girls are often depicted as unable to use communications technologies when they're first introduced (from the telegraph and telephone to the internet) in safe and appropriate ways. But at this point, the “teen girl blogger” seems to have become a cliché—on a recent episode of The New Normal, the 9-year-old girl says upon her first heartbreak: “I’ll look back and blog about this when I’m sixteen.” What does this mean for how we think about social media, and what is the role of gender in this trope?


Great post, Amy! The way the show deals with Jenna's blog going public seems different than what I've seen before. Usually when a central female character's diary becomes public, it means social suicide. In this case, her self-exposure (via online platforms) proves empowering and actually elevates her social status. When I think broadly about the relationship between social media and gender on television, I immediately think of The Good Wife. That show tries hard to incorporate new technologies. They even have an episode dealing with the legality of bitcoin! If you compare Zach and Grace, the two teenage children on the show, there does seem to be a gendered aspect to their technology use. There are several episodes in which Grace's use of technology results in potential interaction with online predators. However, Zach doesn't seem to encounter the same kinds of dangers. He is always using his tech knowledge to help his father's political campaign, or expose corrupt policemen, etc. It might be interesting to look at different representations of gendered uses of technology on network vs cable shows. Also, Awkward is one of the few shows on TV that has a female showrunner. Does that factor in at all?

Really interesting post, Amy! I'm curious if you know of any shows that feature characters who are teen girls who use technology in a more substantial way than simply a diary in the form of a blog? The only one I can really think of would be "Veronica Mars," and although that show had a significant cult following, it never really gained serious success. This makes me think of Cindy Conaway's recent presentation at the Flow Conference ( where she noted the disappearance of the "brainy" girl in teen TV shows. Perhaps the disappearance of the "brainy" girl coincided with the rise of our now ubiquitous digital technologies and that's why we don't see teen girls skillfully and/or meaningfully using technology on TV shows today?

thanks for the comments and for the link to that paper! The connection you mention is a really interesting idea, but for me, the blogging teen girl is not so much a new thing that replacing anything else, but it is more a new version of the old trope of the girl writing in her diary. It seems like once the initial panic about online dangers has passed, it's back to this old idea about girls being introspective and somewhat self-obsessed.

The lack of "danger" in Jenna's blog is reinforced through how invisible it is, seeming to in fact function more like a private diary (when she started getting comments from Anonymous I was surprised. This is further matched by the "danger" in the older form of writing (the handwritten anonymous letter), which is revealed at the end of season one (and season two deals with that fallout/revelation). Do you find this matched storyline as important to the process of moving past the danger of girls using technology? (Though, that reference did make me think of THE NEWSROOM...some tropes of ignorance/inability to master technology just don't die). .

Yes, you're totally right that the blog is quite invisible and narratively irrelevant until these recent episodes--it's really just a diary that makes the voice-over diegetic. But it's hardly different from Angela's voice-overs on My So-Called Life, or Carrie Bradshaw's even. It is precisely this invisibility that makes me wonder if blogging has 'come of age' to become something quite mundane and even expected for teen girls (like writing in diaries). From LiveJournal launching in 1999 through maybe the mid-2000s at least, the typical view of personal blogs seems to have been that they were either narcissistic at best or dangerous at worst. As for Jenna's blog, it's never quite clear what or where her blog was before it was public--it was always called "I am Jenna," and it must have been public to get comments from 'anonymous'--who seems to know her offline as well. And, yes, that's a really interesting point about the handwritten letter--I wonder if the typed letter represents the older generation of her mother and her lack of connection to her daughter's (digital) life? Or then again maybe a letter was chosen for purely cinematographic reasons? ... and, could you explain the connection to The Newsroom? I haven't been watching that show.

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