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Posts Tagged ‘wil’

Gender, Sexuality, and Coming-of-Age in ABC Family’s “Huge”

In gender, teen soaps on August 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Sarah Todd

ABC Family’s short-lived, much-loved teen drama Huge gets camp right. Watching the show, you can practically smell the rough-hewn pine cabins and feel the rising moisture from freshly washed cafeteria dishes on your skin. The difference between camp time and regular time comes flooding back: one camp afternoon was equal to eight or so off-season ones. You may remember waiting in line to call home and pick up care packages from your parents (socks and Kleenex and stuffed animals), how friendships forged in the fires of camp shone with devotion after just a few days, how camp crushes were always big and sweet and extra-heartbreaking. In a major coup for camp-accuracy, Huge even includes a clogged toilet in the boy’s cabin that everyone kind of surreptitiously pretends isn’t happening.

But the real secret to the show’s authentic feel is the way that it quietly and respectfully explores the complex emotions of its teenage characters. Huge is all about change. Most, though not all, campers are at the wellness camp at least in part to lose weight—but the show is really about kids going through less visible, deeper transformations.

Like most adolescents, Wil, Becca, Ian, Amber, Chloe, Alistair, Trent, Piz, and company are struggling to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Camp provides them with a place to try on new identities or affirm old ones. Often, they surprise themselves. Wil, the fighter and proud feminist who initially planned to wage war against all camp activities, discovers that she actually likes basketball. Trent, the good-hearted jock, longs to be in a band, and befriends bunkmates he might never have acknowledged in high school hallways. Chloe climbs the social ladder by leaving her frizzy-haired, giggly old self—and her former BFF Becca—behind.

Huge conveys these changes not with dramatic speeches or blowout fights, but through small, carefully observed moments. The camera lingers on a character’s face after her friends walk away, or follows an exchange of gazes without tacking on an explanation. Huge isn’t afraid to leave characters and scenes open to interpretation, and it extends that approach to its complex depictions of teenagers exploring gender roles and sexual orientations. Read the rest of this entry »