What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that East Los High is a gritty teen soap featuring an all-Latino cast and set in inner-city East Los Angeles. The plot approaches big issues like drugs, sex, teen pregnancy, and violent crime in a thoughtful way that's also respectful to the characters' Latino-American and urban culture. Likewise, all of the teens' decisions in matters like these have realistically drastic consequences to be dealt with. There's no nudity in sex scenes, but the act is simulated, and teens talk frankly about sexual appetite and plans for future conquests. Street violence is graphic, involving shootings and fistfights that hurt and, in some cases, kill. A teen's involvement with drugs puts her life in danger, and some drug use is shown. Ultimately the show raises more questions than it answers, but by portraying edgy, realistic issues like these, it encourages both parents and teens to address them head-on.
What's the story?
EAST LOS HIGH centers on a group of teens struggling to survive their senior year of high school in a tough inner-city neighborhood. The story follows a smart, innocent teen named Jessie (Janine Larina), who balances her hopes of popularity against her desire for a brighter future away from East Los Angeles. She harbors a crush on the school hottie, Jacob (Gabriel Chavarria), who's involved with the vicious popularity queen Vanessa (Tracy Perez), until a viral video reveals her true colors and he breaks up with her. Other recurring characters include Soli (Noemi Gonzalez), Jessie's best friend; Maya (Alicia Sixtos), Jessie's long-lost cousin who left home under uncertain circumstances; Ceci (Danielle Vega), Vanessa's sidekick who follows the diva's lead on terrorizing their social nemeses; and Christian (Hector David, Jr.), Jessie's attractive dance teacher.
Is it any good?
East Los High's characters run the gamut of personalities and likability, but doing so gives it credence as an arguably "real-life" drama. Every social niche is represented, from the conniving social diva to the troubled street kid, and it manages to do so with far more substance than stereotypical fluff. The end result may or may not be a social setting your teens are used to, since it's so specifically set in East Los Angeles, but it will raise a number of issues that likely trickle into their lives, giving you good reason to start discussions about sex, drinking and drugs, relationships, and even bullying.
More positive messages can be gleaned from the show's lighter moments between characters, which have a humanizing effect on factors we tend to generalize. Even within this specific cultural and socioeconomic demographic, we see immense diversity among the characters. Are most of the teens sexually active? Yes, but there are some holdouts who resist peer pressure and heed the dangers of unprotected intercourse. Are drugs a major problem in the inner city? Absolutely, but many of these folks are hardworking people just trying to make an honest living. Does violence exist on the streets? Yes, but it's as much a point of worry for those who live amid it as it is to outsiders looking in. The bottom line? This isn't a feel-good drama, and it touches on some pretty tense topics without sugar-coating them, but in doing so, it raises awareness, prompts conversations, debunks some stereotypes, and sends strong messages about real-life consequences.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how realistic this show is (or isn't). Teens: Based on your experiences, are the characters' lives believable? Do teens really talk and act like they do here?
What are your family's rules about dating? What dangers exist with casual or unprotected sex? What messages do you get from the media about sexuality? How do you reconcile that with your own values?
To what degree are we shaped by our surroundings? Do you see the same problems in your school or neighborhood that plague these characters? How would you deal with similar scenarios differently than they do?