Secret Lives of Americans

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Secret Lives of Americans TV Poster Image
Life-altering revelations are full of emotion, surprises.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Viewers see subjects wrestle with uncertainty and worry when they contemplate revealing their secrets to people in their lives. Their friends' and family members' reactions to their news can be mixed, so all kinds of emotions are in play. In a subtle way, the show encourages kindness by showing viewers that what you see isn't always what you get with people and that many are fighting battles in secret. Communication is key to the subjects' relationships with their loved ones.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the subjects show courage in breaking their silence and making themselves vulnerable to what others will think of them. Their friends and family don't always respond in predictable or supportive ways, but those who do give invaluable support.

Violence

References to violent acts such as hate crimes and terrorism. Some footage of the events of September 11, 2001.

Sex
Language

"F--k," "damn," "s--t," "ass," "pissed off."

 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults are shown drinking at parties. Some stories involve drug use and alcoholism.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Secret Lives of Americans is an emotional docuseries that witnesses people revealing secrets about themselves to their closest friends and family. Most of the footage is captured by the subjects themselves using cameras, laptops, and cell phones, so it has the feel of a lengthy confessional. While the show does make entertainment of people's turmoil, it's not without their permission, so there's no sense of voyeurism or unwanted attention. Some stories raise sensitive issues such as racial prejudice and gender identity. Language is a concern, as "f--k," "s--t," and "damn" are audible at times. Because of the unpredictable nature of each episode, you may want to preview before your teens watch.

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What's the story?

SECRET LIVES OF AMERICANS is a docuseries in which people reveal long-held secrets about themselves to family and friends. Each 30-minute episode tells the story of one such subject who's wrestling with when and how to open up about something very personal and life-altering. The series is filmed from their points of view and told entirely by them and their confidantes, and it lets viewers observe what happens when the cards fall and the truth comes out. 

Is it any good?

If reality TV is any indicator, raw emotion is a powerful selling point in drama, which bodes well for this intense series. There’s no telling going into an episode what will come of it, as the subjects' secrets can be anything from life-threatening illnesses to hidden religious beliefs, and their loved ones' reactions are similarly unpredictable. In cases where family and friends use the moment of honesty to rally around the person, though, the outcome is heartening and reveals the best of people.

Because of the surprise nature of the content of Secret Lives of Americans, this series might warrant a preview before your teens watch. Some matters might raise sensitive subjects or perhaps present topics in a manner that doesn't resonate with your beliefs. That said, it's always moving to see people turn fearful situations into positive building blocks in their relationships, and the subjects' plights do encourage compassion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why the subjects of Secret Lives of Americans would choose to reveal their secrets in such a public way. What do they get out of this experience? Does watching their emotional roller coaster change how you feel about their situation? Does this process facilitate communication, or might it hinder it?

  • What, if any, content would you say is too personal to share with the masses? Why do different people seem to have different thresholds for what they will share with others? Where do you fall on that scale? Are there things you keep to yourself, or are you an open book?

  • Why is reality TV so popular? What makes people want to witness others' emotions? Does doing so make us feel better about our own lives?

  • How does Secret Lives of Americans promote communication? Why is this an important character strength?

TV details

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