I recently finished watching the entire 3 series run of The Inbetweeners, a program that was broadcast on E4 from 2008-10 about four comprehensive school friends who suffer the common (and not so common) misadventures of being far-from-popular teenagers.
First, introductions are in order.
Will – The New Kid at School: Intelligent, conscientious, awkward, a bit condescending and a bully magnet.
Simon – The Romantic: Possibly the most normal of the group, but ruled by his heart and his hormones.
Neil – The Dim One: Gullible, free-spirited, unscholarly, but definitely the happiest of the group. (Oh, and he’s also a dancing machine.)
Jay: The Big Talker – Misogynistic, foul-mouthed instigator on the outside; constantly belittled by his father, insecure and seeking acceptance on the inside. (I couldn’t find a similar BBC America clip of Jay, maybe since almost everything he says is so offensive.)
Together they almost comprise a functional adult – Will is the conscience, Simon is the heart, Jay is the imagination and Neil is the happy outlook on life (To be honest, that’s not a very adult trait though, is it?)
So what have I learned about the UK from watching The Inbetweeners? That English teenage boys are constantly embarrassed by and annoyed with their parents? Wait, that sounds like American boys, too. How about their relentless attempts to get served alcohol and convince girls to have sex with them? No, they’re like that here as well. I’ve got it – even though they’re supposed to be friends, young English males never stop ridiculing and basically taking the piss out of one another. Strike three – playfully insulting your friends is a major way that American boys bond too.
There is one major difference I found however; on American shows, the kids who aren’t part of the popular crowd are usually portrayed as either mysterious loners or rule-following nerds. The Inbetweeners boys are not cool nor socially adept, but they aren’t innocent goody goodies either. Their lives are apparently a stew of emotions, urges, and anxieties suspended in a thick broth of swear words. Like many teens, they ineptly dabble in drink, drugs, sex and vandalism – with more painfully humorous results than most of us ever experienced. The point is that these basically good kids seem to be quite similar to the more troubled young people I’ve talked about before from shows like Skins and Misfits. So the question is “Are English young men actually more edgy and/or rebellious than their American counterparts or are they just portrayed more honestly?”
If you’d like to watch this funny, clever series, it’s available online at YouTube or Megavideo. Please be aware it’s not for the easily offended and features adult language and some surprising episodes of nudity.