What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that while How to Rock's overall messages about self-esteem and empowerment are worth kids' time, there's a lot of mean-girl attitude and generally dislikable behavior on the part of the "in crowd" that's a bit iffy for impressionable young viewers. Name-calling, image obsession, and emotional bullying go mostly unchecked, though they do draw attention to the main character's evolution from a self-absorbed diva to a much more positive model of friendship and self-control. Ultimately it all just calls for a serious reality check for your kids, who might otherwise get a pretty inaccurate impression of how teens relate to one another. A talented cast and catchy tunes are bright spots in the show, although this does invite the probability of song downloads and a soundtrack in the near future.
What's the story?
Social queen Kacey Simon (Cymphonique Miller) learns what life is like on the other side of the popularity fence when her flawless image is disrupted by braces and glasses, and her former friends, Molly (Samantha Boscarino) and Grace (Halston Sage), cast her out of their lofty clique/band, "The Perfs" (short for "perfect," of course). Facing social uncertainty, Kacey falls in with an unlikely group of average kids who welcome her as the new lead singer for their band, Gravity 5. To her surprise, Kacey starts to see her old relationships in a new light and develops affection for her new friends -- Stevie (Lulu Antariksa), Zander (Max Schneider), Kevin (Christopher O'Neal), and Nelson (Noah Crawford). Old habits die hard, though, and navigating high school with ties to both the "popular" kids and a lesser social circle can get complicated.
Is it any good?
HOW TO ROCK attempts to address the hot-button issues of self-image and bullying, and it does push the message that being true to who you are and seeking genuine relationships are the keys to true happiness. Unfortunately, much of this may be lost on the show's decidedly younger audience, since grade-schoolers and young tweens likely (or rather, hopefully) haven't yet felt the full impact of the pressures of popularity and body image. What's more, with no real-life experience with the complicated nature of social circles at the teenage level, kids won't be able to separate realistic content from what's exaggerated for effect and thus won't feel the full impact of the bullying that goes on among the teens. And don't forget the mixed messages sent by the fact that the dreaded braces and glasses that spell social death for Kacey last all of 20 minutes, after which she's back to her beautiful self while still mingling with the social outsiders.
That's not to say that How to Rock is all bad. As casts go, it could do worse than this multicultural one, led by the multi-talented Miller. (Music plays a big role in the content, thanks to Miller's stellar voice, so marketing an inevitable soundtrack goes hand-in-hand with the show's content.) Plus, there are plenty of laughs to be had by way of the characters' generally silly behavior. Bottom line? It's not the worst thing on TV, but there are plenty of shows that try harder to reflect reality and downplay negative behavior than How to Rock does.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about popularity. How important is popularity to you? Do you feel pressure to look or act a certain way because your friends do? Who determines what's "cool" and what isn't? What, if any, repercussions exist for choosing individuality over the will of the group?
Kids: Have you ever experienced peer pressure? How does it feel to be on the receiving end of it? How might it feel to inflict it on others? Why do you think people try to influence others to act a certain way? What are some ways you can cope with standing up to this kind of pressure?
Were you familiar with Cymphonique Miller before watching How to Rock? Now that you've heard her sing, are you inclined to check out her music? How do series like these influence your likes and dislikes?