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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Emotions and interpersonal relationships are explored honestly. Bonds between family and longtime friends are strong. A young woman is given the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, without drastic consequences.
Positive Role Models
Belly is a kind-hearted and loving character who has humble and realistic dreams: a first kiss, a happy summer, good times with her friends. Her mom, Laurel, is sometimes impatient with her but ultimately gives her space to become her own person. Conrad is complicated and tends to bottle up his angst. Overall, characters have realistic flaws and hurt one another by mistake, but their love for one another is clear.
Main characters include complex women such as Belly, her mom Laurel, and Laurel's best friend Susannah, though their lives revolve around familiar topics of romance, the men in their lives, and/or being mothers. Like series creator and writer Jenny Han, Laurel is Korean American. Laurel and her biracial (Korean and White) kids, Belly and Steven, all have leading roles. Otherwise, most characters are White, and race generally goes unmentioned, only coming up in rare instances like when Laurel says if she wrote about "the Asian American experience," her books would sell better. More is made of Belly's family's finances relative to Susannah's; Susannah is rich and often pays for things, which makes Laurel uncomfortable. A country club is a central location, which characters mention as a space for rarefied wealth. A main character is sexually fluid and makes no bones about "hooking up" with both boys and girls; another character uses they/them pronouns. Mental health issues are tackled when characters grieve over a death in the family, experience depression and panic attacks, and work through their feelings in various ways.
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Violence & Scariness
A mom smacks her son in the head lightly during an argument, after which he apologizes to her. Young men come to blows at parties; during one fight, a girl is accidentally hit in the face and has a bruise. An important character grapples with cancer (spoiler alert!) and dies. Several sad scenes as characters work through grief.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Romance looms large in this series, and characters flirt and kiss. Lots of talk about boyfriends and girlfriends. Expect romance, dating, and broken hearts. Characters discuss having sex. Teen characters undress (they're shirtless, and a girl unhooks her own bra; nothing sensitive shown) and then the camera cuts to afterward, with one character asleep as the other wears his oversized T-shirt. Teens tease each about wanting a "hot make-out session" and jokingly call each other a "dirty little slut." Discussions around parents' past cheating.
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Language includes "f--k," "f---ing," "s--t," "a--hole," and "bulls--t." Friends taunt each other with words like "bitch," "slut," and "loser" and use the middle-finger gesture.
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Products & Purchases
Characters mention Uber, drink Starbucks, eat Cheetos, mention Auntie Anne's and Twix, walk past Williams-Sonoma, etc. A fridge is stocked with Arizona tea bottles, and Cholula hot sauce is visible at a restaurant. Characters visit Brown University and mention Princeton and Stanford. Pop culture references include Armageddon, Titanic, Machine Gun Kelly, etc. The series is based on a book, which viewers may want to read after watching.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several characters, including teens, smoke pot; in one scene, moms share a joint. Characters drink at parties, often to the point of drunkenness. Teen girls pass a flask at a debutante lunch.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Summer I Turned Pretty is based on the same-named book by Jenny Han. Like the book, the show is primarily concerned with romance, especially a love triangle between a teen girl and two brothers. Expect lots of talk of boyfriends and girlfriends, flirting, dating, and kissing. Dialogue can sometimes be very frank, like when one girl teasingly calls another a "dirty little slut" for wanting a "hot make-out session." Adults are also involved in romantic complications, with a recently divorced woman meeting someone she becomes interested in. In several scenes, characters smoke pot alone or share a joint; they also drink at parties, many of them underage. Characters drink too much, slur their words, and act sloppy, sometimes fighting at parties (in one instance, a girl is accidentally hit in the face, and it leaves a bruise). An important character grapples with cancer (spoiler alert!) and dies; there are several sad scenes as characters grieve. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." Though characters are all flawed and make mistakes, the love between them is clear. The series has three main characters with Korean heritage, though the rest of the cast is mostly White. Class differences (and clashes) come up in the wealthy beach town they visit. An important character is sexually fluid and flirts with people of different genders; another uses they/them pronouns.
Is It Any Good?
As sweet and refreshing as a soda on ice by the swimming pool, this book-based drama tackles the confusion and loveliness of an awkward coming of age. Last year, Belly had glasses and braids -- but as her BFF tells her, she looks "a lot different" this summer, with "new boobs" and everything. Boys notice her, talk to her; movie night with the moms doesn't feel the same, and neither does hanging out with her family and longtime friends -- one handsome family friend in particular. Wonderfully, terrifyingly, Conrad seems to notice her, too, but what does that mean when he has personal drama of his own?
Han's same-named novel is beloved and bestselling, and here she shows she has a deft touch with spoken dialogue and pacing, too. As personified by Tung, Belly is beguiling and conflicted, on one hand wanting to play like a puppy in the pool with her good old friends and, on the other, feeling intoxicated by the sudden rush of power she feels. She wants to put on a white dress and please Susannah with a coming-out season at the country club and also to wear something slinky and short that will make all the boys notice her at the bonfire. In later episodes, the teens grow up even faster as they grapple with the death of a beloved adult. It's easy to love this ensemble and painful yet satisfying to watch as characters fight for what they want while trying not to hurt each other -- something that isn't always possible. It's enough to make viewers remember their own coming of age in all its embarrassment and glory, equal parts cringe and magic, just like this series.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.