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Series: The Secret Life of the American Teenager

A teen drama on ABC Family mainly focusing on six teens in high school, one of whom is pregnant. Created by Brenda Hampton of 7th Heaven fame. In Development Hell for ten years, it finally got picked up by ABC Family. It ran from 2008 to 2013.


This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Ricky's birth parents.
    • Adrian's parents can be seen as this from a point of "neglect". Rueben wasn't there for Adrian in her first sixteen years of life. But shows up almost demanding love and respect. In one scene in season two , he tells Adrian that Ricky's unfaithfulness is a result of her inability to get along with John's mother, Amy. In season three, he tells her that he will leave her and her mother if she gets an abortion. He also pressures Adrian into accepting Ben's marriage proposal before he shows up. Though in season five, he tells her that she can marry any guy she wants to in the future when she wants to.
    • Anne and George are often seen as this when it comes to their neglect of Ashley and her mental instability and low self-esteem.
    • Ethan was stabbed by his father.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Boy, does Brenda Hampton love to use this trope.
  • Alcoholic Parent : Ricky and Ben have this in common. Ben's mother Sarah also had these. His maternal grandparents died in a car accident as a result. Thus, Leo warns Ben not to drink.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Ricky always has at least two girls into him. There was even a point early on when he had just recently knocked up Amy, was having sex with Adrian, on the verge of dating Grace, and made out with Lauren who was fighting with Madison over him.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Grace. Adrian, meanwhile, is a majorette.
  • Amicably Divorced: George and Kathleen, as well as George and Anne.
    • Leo and Betty and Ben and Adrian
    • Also Kathleen and Jeff have an amicable split in season four.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Shailene Woodley's "Teenage pregnancy is 100% preventable" PSAs.
  • As Herself: Bristol Palin showed up for one scene when Amy was at a music program for teen moms.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Henry and Alice
  • Attempted Rape: Grace, who avoided it by threatening her attackers with a broken bottle and by getting some last-minute assistance from Ricky. The whole thing was picked up on a nearby building's security camera and, for no apparent reason, the local news and general populace treated the footage like it was the funniest thing ever.
  • Babies Make Everything Better - Kind of averted for a while with Amy and Ricky, but ultimately played straight.
    • Subverted for Ben and Adrian. It's hinted that the characters were only pretending to be happy, but were really trying to make the best out of a messy situation. The baby's death seems to have had a horrible effect on both.
    • It's averted with George and Anne. They get back together shortly before Robbie is born, but ultimately decide that they're better off divorced.
    • It's temporarily averted with Cindy and Ruben, as Cindy realizes that trapping Ruben with a baby was wrong and ends up cutting him out of Adrian's life completely for sixteen years, thus struggling to raise Adrian as a single teenage mother. But Adrian does bring her parents back together as a teenager and they do end up happily married.
  • The Baby Trap: Adrian's mother, Cindy, who was also a teenage mother, was revealed to have gotten pregnant with Adrian to trap Ruben in a relationship. However, they were high school sweethearts and it's never revealed why Cindy felt the need to trap Ruben in the first place. Nevertheless, once he found out Cindy was pregnant, he offered to marry her and she guiltily back pedaled, resulting in Adrian growing up not knowing who her father was for the first sixteen years of her life. But ultimately, they did end up getting married. History repeats itself when Adrian plans to try this on Ben in an attempt to save their marriage since they only got married because Adrian was pregnant, and their relationship started to deteriorate after their daughter was stillborn. Since things were great when she was pregnant, she seems to think another baby will fix things. Ultimately, she gives up on the plan when her doctor talks her out of it and when Ben finds out her plan and keeps rejecting her advances. Though, it seems he was later willing to go along with it and was disappointed when she genuinely wanted out of their marriage.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Turned Up to Eleven in the Season 4 episode "And Circumstance". The last ten minutes is completely saturated with it. Madison slept with Lauren's boyfriend, Henry hooks up with Adrian, Ben ends up in bed with a completely new girl named Dylan, though they explicitly stated that Ben and Dylan simply fell asleep together and didn't have sex...
  • Berserk Button: Amy apparently hits one of Ben's in "Loose Lips", when she basically reminds Ben that Adrian used him as revenge against Ricky and implies that Adrian still wanted Ricky, meaning that Adrian didn't love him.
    • Adrian hits an even bigger button with Ben in "Hole In The Wall" when she clears out their stillborn daughter's nursery, including a small, stuffed bear Ben's deceased mother, Sarah, gave to him as a small child. The scene was Ken Baumann's best acted scene in the series to date.
  • Betty and Veronica: Season 1 strangely had both Ricky and Jack between Grace (Betty) and Adrian (Veronica). In Ricky's case, Amy is sort of the Third-Option Love Interest.
    • Parts of seasons 2 and 3 have Ben flirting/making out with Grace (Betty) while being on and off with Amy (Veronica). He also knocks up Adrian, kinda making her the Third-Option Love Interest.
  • Big Damn Kiss: For shippers of the couple, Ricky and Amy's kiss onstage at the former's high school graduation. It wasn't their first kiss, but it was a big deal since they got engaged seconds before the kiss.
  • Black Comedy: Unintentionally.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Surveillance footage of the attempted rape of Grace and her attempts at self-defense is treated as a hilarious blooper reel by the local news and populace.
  • Brain Bleach: George's expression when Anne tells him that Amy and Ashley were discussing masturbation is a comical plea for some of this trope.
    • ALL of "Just Say Me", especially the montage of all the girls with HUGE smiles on their faces, since they've just finished masturbating. This montage is also strangely accompanied by the song "Mister Sandman".
    • Many viewers feel they need this upon finishing each episode.
  • Break the Cutie: Ricky and Adrian, as pre-series examples. Ben during the series. This guy started off mostly as a comic relief character. By season 4, he had a failed marriage, a stillborn daughter, and had experimented with liquor — all before his 18th birthday. Losing his mother years prior to the Pilot also seemed to have done this to him in some ways as well.
  • Broken Aesop: The message of the show in the first season with Amy's pregnancy with John, espescially from the PSAs, appears to be "Use Protection" but since Ben and Adrian use two different forms of contraceptives but still ended up with an unwanted teenage pregnancy and stillborn infant daughter, along with Grace blaming herself for her father's untimely death the real message seems to be "Don't have sex ... EVER! It will ALWAYS lead to pregnancy and or death!"
  • Broken Bird: Ricky, as a male example. Adrian as well.
  • But Not Too Gay: Griffin and Peter have had exactly one appearance since they hooked up, even though Griffin is supposed to be Ashley's best friend. Though at least they did get a decent onscreen kiss in said appearance.
  • But We Used a Condom: Adrian was on birth control and Ben used a condom the night of the Mother/Daughter dance in which their daughter was conceived, but apparently the condom broke and Adrian was in-between switching different types of Birth Control pills.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Mostly with teen sex.
    • Amy has sex once, does not enjoy it, and gets pregnant.
    • Grace has enjoyable sex once and her father dies in a plane crash the same night. Though the plane crash is (hopefully) not the direct result of Grace having sex, her Downs Syndrome-afflicted brother shouts at her, "You killed him!" She believes it on account of her own idiocy, though. Terrifyingly, this seems to be just the beginning as it appears that the concept of sex = death is catching.
    • The pattern of sex equaling death seems to have continued. The girl who knows the most about sex does it first with her best friend since second grade; shortly afterward, he goes away for cancer treatment and it's implied that he died. This affects her to the point where it wrecks all of her social relationships for several episodes.
    • No one can lose their virginity on this show without something bad happening. Ricky and Adrian have sex all the time and nothing bad happens except when Ricky takes Amy's virginity and gets her pregnant and when Adrian has sex with then-virgin Ben, she gets pregnant and loses the baby.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Every once in a while, kind of surprising considering how dull the show usually is.
  • Clingy Jealous Person: Ben to Amy in seasons 1-3. Adrian to Ricky in seasons 1,2, and 4. Ricky to Adrian in season 2. Amy to Ben in season 2. Jack to Grace in seasons 1-4. Ashley to Ricky in season 3. Grant to Ashley in season 3. George to Anne. Dylan to Ben in season four. In fact, she even outright tells Ben that she can be a very jealous person.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Alice and Henry, until their break-up in season four.
  • Concert Kiss: Ricky and Amy kiss onstage at the former's high school graduation after she accepts his marriage proposal.
  • Conflict Ball: Amy's friends, despite knowing that Ricky knocked up their best friend, decide to fight over him incessantly for no apparent reason.
    • Ben reacts to seeing his girlfriend's baby's father at her home, holding the baby, as a clear sign of her probable infidelity to him.
    • It is always implied that when anyone looks at another character of the opposite gender, they have been sleeping together.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Subverted by Adrian, who had been preparing for the baby for a while. But still pretty convenient for the writers.
  • Cool Loser: Ben and Grace to varying degrees, especially in Season 1.
  • Crapsack World: Jerk-Asses, Stalkers With Crushes, All Girls Want Bad Boys, Betrayl, Abusive/Neglectful Parents ...etc.
    • Though, even this differs from character to character, with some characters having mostly trouble-free lives. A jarring example is that of Amy and Ricky, in the later seasons.
  • Daddy Issues: Ricky's issues with his biological father Bob and Adrian's issues with her childhood and Ruben. Lampshaded by Ricky and Adrian in Episode 9 of Seeason 1.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "Just Say Me"
  • Dating Do-Si-Do: Seriously, all of the characters have had some kind of romantic interaction with those of the opposite sex.
    "I'm beginning to feel like part of a dating matrix that's never been explored before."
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Ricky, and also Adrian.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Jack's father died before the series began, but he gets on well with his stepfather.
    • Adrian didn't meet her father until she was 16. He initially wanted nothing to do with her, since he had another family. He eventually changed his mind, divorced the woman who was his second wife, and married Adrian's mom. It would appear he's now this trope for Adrian's ex-stepbrother.
    • Grace's dad dies in a plane crash in the season 2 premiere. Her mom remarries less than a year later. Because of that, Grace went from outright hating her new stepdad to being very distant and cold towards him, to getting along with him. Of course he and Grace's mom divorced in season four, so now she has a disappeared step-dad as well
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Ben ... just Ben. He may not be the nicest guy in the world ... but still. Amy - "Well he's too nice "
    • Adrian - "Ben, I know you're the better guy. I know. I just really want Ricky."
  • Domestic Abuser: Bob Underwood
  • Downer Ending: The series ends with Amy and Ricky breaking up and Grace and Jack doing the same.
  • Dream Team: Whenever Ashley and Adrian get to have a scene together.
  • Dull Surprise: Apparently, being in this show removes your ability to express genuine emotions. Never mind pregnancy, the "something in the water" seems to be horse tranquilizers!
  • Dysfunction Junction: Amy's pregnant at 15, Ricky takes advantage of females because his father sexually abused him, Amy's parents have a poor relationship, Tom has Downs Syndrome... try finding a character on this show that doesn't in some way fit this trope.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Inverted! However you feel about Adiran, the fact is she at least tried to make her life work when she was pregnant. And the result? Her baby upon birth. Amy, however, did nothing but bitch and moan during her pregnancy, and yet has the happiest ending on the show.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: It's more Everybody Talks A Lot About Sex, but there's plenty of actual sex going on as well(though to date, there hasn't been any sex onscreen). The original title of the show was The Sex Life Of The American Teenager, but Brenda Hampton said Googling that name brought up a lot of porn sites, so it was nixed. (Even The Walt Disney Company, ABC Family's parent corporation, didn't approve of the original title too.) As it is, there are few secrets on this show, either.
    • Behold how many times they say the word "sex" in a single episode.
  • Foreshadowing : "Ben and I are just here ... to get free condoms." "Ricky is never going to marry you!"
  • Forgotten Birthday: Everyone forgets Amy's 16th birthday when she's in New York. Her mom felt horrible about it afterwards, saying "Everyone forgot my sixteenth birthday and it stayed with me forever!" Amy is mildly irritated, but gets over it pretty quickly.
  • Freudian Excuse: Too many examples to count. Look at how many characters have sex as a primary motive behind a lot of their actions.
  • Friendless Background: Adrian. And pre-series Grace and Ricky, also qualify.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Everyone's houses and apartments are very nice and wonderfully decorated, despite everyone having various jobs that should create economic differences between them. Ricky's apartment gets a pass because it used to belong to Leo's wealthy parents. A few headscratchers in particular are Adrian and her mom having an upscale apartment in season one , even though they were supposed to be kinda poor. Daniel and his friends also manage to have lavish apartments, despite being college students.
    • With the latter, it's been implied that the apartments are owned by the college, which could mean a lower, affordable rate. Still, college apartments in general are usually nowhere near as nice as Daniel's place.
  • Gene Hunting: Adrian's hunt for her father.
  • The Ghost: Mike, Leo's chauffeur. He's gotten several mentions and has driven several of the characters around (off-screen, of course), but he's never put in an appearance.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Amy and Ashley
  • Golddigger : It's often subtly hinted throughout the series that this was why Amy was in a relationship with Ben. Ashley called Amy out on this in season one. When Ben tells Ricky that Amy loves him, Ricky replies "She loves your money". The episode was not-so-subtlely titled "Money For Nothing, Chicks For Free".
    • Adrian was hinted to have the same reasoning, when Ricky tells her not to marry Ben because of her upbringing in which she was poor and bullied because of this. She even told Ben, " ... If you keep saying those things to me ... and buying me expensove jewlery ... then maybe I can fall in love with you."
      • Adrian was accused of doing this by other students in their High School in an episode titled "Don't Go In There".
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion
    • To be fair, both Amy and Adrian did at least seriously consider abortion, which is more than a lot of shows do.
    • Despite being billed as the "bad girl", Adrian decides to go through with her own pregnancy.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Nearly all of the parents, in that the teens almost never have any rules to abide by. If there ARE rules, they're almost never enforced.
  • Hands-On Approach: Ricky is a fan of this. In a season one episode, he helped Grace with a baseball bat. In a season three episode, he helped Amy with a golf club. The second one is kind of a subversion though, since they were already together at that point
  • Happily Married: Sanjay and Margaret (a.k.a. Ricky's foster parents) probably have the most solid relationship on the show. Jack's mom and stepdad, Madison's dad and stepmom, Grant's parents, Dylan's parents, Leo and Camille, and the couple who adopt Kathy's baby as well.
  • Have I Mentioned I am Gay?: Griffin. No matter what's going on in an episode, he always has to bring up that he's gay at least once. Never mind that everyone already knows.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lauren and Madison though they have a temporary split when Madison sleeps with Lauren's boyfriend Jesse at the graduation party
    • Ben and Henry though they also have a temporary split when Henry slept with Ben's soon-to-be-ex-wife Adrian at the graduation party
  • High School
  • High School Dance: A bizarre example in that it's not a typical guy/girl dance, but a mother/daughter dance. Everyone is just sitting around talking until the guidance counselor makes a speech about her grandmother and great aunt who lived through the Holocaust and how everyone needs to stop being vindictive bitches. This inspires the ladies to dance the Hora (because remembering the fun times they had dancing is what kept Grandma and Great Aunt's spirits up during their horrible experience). It can been seen here, beginning at about the three-and-a-half minute mark.
    • A more typical example happens in season four when the students attend the "Senior Dance", which is essentially prom.
  • Honorable Marriage Proposal: Ben, convinced that he is in love, proposes to Amy shortly after finding out she's pregnant with Ricky's baby. Since they're 15 and have only been dating a few weeks at that point, their parents don't approve. In fact, no one thinks that Amy needs to be married just because she's pregnant. None of these things stop Amy and Ben from secretly getting married. But since it's with fake I Ds, the marriage is invalid and they end up breaking up later anyway
  • House Husband: George becomes this after Anne's business career takes off. Anne discovers that she enjoys that more than staying at home and George discovers that he likes staying home more than he likes working in the furniture store. However, it is not treated as a strange thing.
    • Ben becomes this after Mercy's death.
  • Idealized Sex: Averted and played straight. Amy's first time is awkward and brief, while Grace's first time is apparently the most amazing thing ever.
    • Avaerted with Adrian and Henry. She describes it as "not that bad".
  • Infodump:Seriously, nothing actually happens on Secret Life. The show is 90% dialogue!
  • Informed Ability: Amy informs the football coach that the football team is merely a warm-up act for the amazing marching band. Despite four of the main characters being in marching band (Amy on French horn, Ricky on drums, Ben on triangle, and Adrian as a majorette), we never see any practicing going on, individually or as a group, even though it's stated explicitly several times that Amy in particular is skilled on her instrument.
    • Part of the marching band gave pregnant Amy a musical escort to class, but that doesn't really count.
  • Informed Attribute: Ben and Amy being talked up as a Nice Guy and a Nice Girl.
    • Ben actually has done genuinely nice things for others throughout the series, but the writers seem to enjoy boucing him between Nice Guy and Jerk with a Heart of Gold when it comes to relations with the other characters.
  • Insane Troll Logic: "He had a horrible death because I had incredible sex. It's just the way life works."
    • "He drinks. No wonder their baby died."
  • Jerk Ass: Almost every character could qualify as this depending on the season and the episode.
  • Jerk Jock: Jack and Ricky, to varying degrees and at various instances.
    • Ricky is more of a Jerk Musician (doesn't he play drums?), but other than that, he does fit the trope.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ricky
  • Kids Are Cruel: Just ask Amy Juergens during her pregnancy with John in season 1.
    • Or Ben and Adrian following their daughter's stillbirth in season 3
      • Apparently, Adrian was bullied in Elementary School for being poor and not having the same type of clothing as the other kids.
  • Lamaze Class: For a show with three pregnancies in three seasons, it's surprisingly averted. When Amy is in labor at the hospital, she says she was supposed to go to the class next week. For the other pregnant characters, it isn't even mentioned.
  • Last Minute Baby Naming:
    • Amy gives birth to her son at the end of the first season and, having not thought about any names, her sister offers up the name John. (Possibly justified in that Amy hadn't been certain for most of the pregnancy that she wouldn't give the baby up for adoption.)
    • In the second season, Amy's brother Robbie is born, and is named on the spot after her grandfather.
    • Also, Ben and Adrian's stillborn daughter. They didn't discuss names at all during the pregnancy, but it is revealed in the following season that they named her Mercy.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Amy looks a lot like Ricky's mom. This is lampshaded constantly.
    • Many viewers were left scratching their heads, muttering "I don't see it", when Ricky's mom started constantly saying how much Amy looked like her. Decide for yourself with Amy and Nora
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Try describing one episode to a friend who has never seen the show.
  • Long Distance Relationship: Kathleen and Jeff most of the time, since the latter goes on extended medical missions to Kenya. However, the strain of the long distance is part of the reason they get divorced in season 4
  • Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: Ricky's never before mentioned former foster brother Ethan showed up to deliver a lesson about potential hazards of sexting.
  • Love Dodecahedron
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Ben, Adrian, Jack, Tom, Grant ...etc. Who isn't an example of this trope, in this show?
  • Love Triangle: Ben/Amy/Ricky, Amy/Ricky/Adrian, Adrian/Ricky/Grace, Ricky/Ashley/Grant, Amy/Ricky/Ashley, Amy/Ben/Adrian, Ben/Adrian/Ricky, Jack/Grace/Grant, Grant/Grace/Daniel, Jack/Grace/Daniel. Brenda LOVES to do this!
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Attempted via a masturbation campaign infamously known as "Just Say Me".
  • The Masochism Tango: Ricky and Adrian, Amy and Ben.
    • Amy and Ricky - Most of what the viewers see is them constantly argue, especially over trust issues, Ricky storm out their apartment during arguments and implied Ramy sex. It is never explained what either of them like about each other besides physical attraction, which was there when they hooked up at Band Camp.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: The women who only have sex with someone they claim to love (Amy, Grace, some of the parents) are presented as good characters. The one female who has casual sex and claims to enjoy it (Adrian) is selfish, manipulative, and an aspiring homewrecker.
    • Grace admitted to liking sex once, after she slept with Jack. However, her father died in a plane crash that very same night. Since then she's only had sex because she loved the person. She's never admitted to liking it.
      • Grace got over it and has admitted to enjoying sex a lot and has become almost as casual about as Adrian, since she's slept with each new boyfriend sooner than she slept with his predecessor. To hear it from her however, Adrian is kind of a slut, and Grace only has sex with a person she loves, and getting a new sexual partner means she fell out of love with her previous partner and now loves the current partner. Or at least that's the reasoning she gave for cheating on Grant with Daniel. So Grace could be considered an aversion, since we're supposed to see her as a good character(despite what she did to Grant) who enjoys sex and has a casual attitude towards it.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Ricky and especially Adrian, to varying degrees.
  • May-December Romance: Grant's parents
  • Men Can't Keep House: Averted with George. He is good at housework and cooking and he enjoys it.
    • Ricky is also quite capable, thanks to years of helping out around his foster home.
    • Inverted with Ben and Adrian.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Ben's mom died before the series began. His dad later remarries an ex-prostitute. It takes a while for Ben to warm up to her, but they eventually have a good relationship. Though Leo and Betty divorce in season four, so now Ben has a missing stepmom too
    • Madison's mom also died before the series began. Her dad remarried shortly after her mom's death, so she was not very fond of her stepmom for quite some time. Eventually, she and her stepmom started trying to find some common ground.
    • Adrian's mom, sort of. While she loves Adrian and tries to be there for her, her job as a flight attendant takes her away for long periods of time. However, Adrian loves her mom and outwardly appears to be accepting and understanding of this situation.
    • Ricky's mom Nora ... at least until season three
  • Mommy Issues: Ricky, Ben and Adrian.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ashley. Damn, but India Eisley brings an ungodly amount of sex appeal into her role.
  • Nature Abhors a Virgin: So very much.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Just about episode preview. It will either be very uninformative or it will cut footage together in a very misleading way.
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Ben, at least in season 1.
    • Ben's Jewish?
      • Ben's paternal grandfather was Jewish and it is implied, several times, in the series that Ben and Leo are of the same religious faith.
  • No Pregger Sex: Averted with Ben and Adrian who frequently have sex. Their friends initially ask them if they find it weird, but the couple is adamant that it's not.
  • No Sparks: Happens twice with Ricky and Adrian. The first time it happens, she blames it on pregnancy hormones (pregnant by another man, Ben, to be specific), while he sees it as affirmation that they should just be friends, an idea he was already mulling over. The following season, she feels sparks with another guy, but thinks she needs to kiss Ricky one last time to be sure they're really over. He obliges, and neither of them feel anything.
  • Operation Jealousy: Ben (and later Adrian) had a plan to fake an engagement to make Amy and Ricky jealous. But in "Sweet And Sour" both give up on this and try to do what is right for their unborn child, with Ben instead giving Adrian a $50,000 "Friendship Ring". He later proses to Adrian, for real, in "Guess Whos Not Coming To Dinner".
  • One Thing Led to Another: Ricky and Amy's one-night stand and Ben and Adrian's one-night stand was this from Ben's perspective.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Grace is played by Canadian Megan Park and you can tell.
  • Papa Wolf: George, especially in "Loose Lips".
    • "If someone touched my kid, I'd kill 'em" - Ricky Underwood
  • Parental Abandonment: Ricky's parents. Oh goodness, Ricky's parents. A sexually abusive, drug-doing dad who showed up in a couple of episodes before getting caught in a drug bust and going right back to prison. An alcoholic, drug-doing mom who is implied to be a prostitute, though she got out of jail in season three and she and Ricky mended their relationship. Fortunately, he ends up being adopted by his great foster parents
    • Adrian's father was not there for her during her first 16 years of life while taking care of her step-brother and other woman's kids during his marriages. Her relationship with mother has shades of this as well. They both barely came to visit her or talk to her after her Mercy's stillbirth.
      • George's father apparently abandoned him and his family, as George says he wasn't around in "Be My, Be My Baby".
  • Parental Incest: As stated above, Ricky's dad used to molest him, claiming it was "teaching him what it means to be a man." This lead to Ricky constantly sleeping around in an attempt to feel in control of his sexuality.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Ben and Alice though they had sex as of the season 4 Finale, but decided to never speak of it again
    • Starting in season 3, George and Nora
  • Previously On
  • Progressively Prettier: Amy. The show even points it out, strangely focusing on how much larger her breasts are after to the pregnancy.
  • Ready For Love Making: Adrian does this in an attempt to get Ben to impregnate her again, in season 4.
  • Really Gets Around: Ricky and Adrian, both having slept with much of the main cast of the opposite gender and then some. It was joked about on a clip on The Soup.
    • Ben and Ashley are surprisingly promiscuous; Ben has something with all the girls (and actually beat Ricky on that front), and Ashley is very flirty with the boys, especially considering she mainly seems to go after her sister's exes.
  • Retcon: During the Senior Dance [Prom], Ricky tells Amy that he was scared their first time because he thought he might actually have feelings for a girl. Never mind that when rumors were going around that they slept together he at first denied it, then insisted it meant nothing and tried to blame it on her.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: Compare the first two seasons to the newer ones.
  • Right Through His Pants: Played painfully straight. When the Modesty Bedsheet is lifted, it's revealed that the girl is wearing a bra (occasionally a tank top) and modest panties and the guy always has his pants (in some cases jeans) intact.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: After being shopped around for ten years, the show was picked up by ABC Family at the height of the "Pregnancy Pact" and teen pregnancy media frenzy.
  • Romantic False Lead: Bamy and Radrian were this apparently.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Has Ben mentioned that he loves Amy yet today?
    • He learned this from his father, who married a (recently retired) prostitute he'd known for about three months.
    • Haven't practically all of them mentioned that they are so in love with the person they just started talking to?
  • Screaming Birth: Partially averted. While Amy does quite a bit of screaming during the two episodes she's in labor, the actual birth itself isn't shown.
  • Season Finale: As noted further up the page, the show is usually a lot of infodumping, but something significant/show-altering always happens in the season finale.
    • Season 1: Amy gives birth to John, George and Ashley move out of the Juergens family home.
    • Season 2: Leo and Betty get married, Cindy and Reuben get married, and Adrian finds out she's pregnant. They try to play the last one off as a maybe/maybe not Cliff Hanger, but practically every viewer could tell.
    • Season 3: Adrian and Ben's daughter is stillborn and Ricky and Amy have sex for the first time. Well, technically, It's the second time, but the first time they'd done it while being in a committed relationship with each other
  • Serious Business: Every little thing that happens is going to become a major discussion point for every single character, even if it really shouldn't concern everyone.
  • Sex Equals Love: Both averted and played absolutely straight.
  • Shipper on Deck: Bunny, Margaret, Nora and Grace for "Ramy".
    • Ruben and Cindy for Ben and Adrian.
      • Kathleen for Grace/Jack.
      • George was this for Amy/Ben but as of season 4 has switched over to Ramy after warming up to Ricky.
  • Shout-Out: A really obvious example; Molly Ringwald's character mentions her forgotten sixteenth birthday and just how bad it made her feel.
    • Adrian's sorrow in "When One Door Opens" (and to an extent, the last few minutes of "...Or Not To Be") is a bit reminiscent of the Hey Arnold! episode Olga Comes Home, but over a dead baby than a grade.
      • "This one time at Band Camp ..." The series, as a whole, seems like a shout-out to the American Pie movies down to the character's personality traits and relationships.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: Ashley is somehow the only person to notice her sister is pregnant. She also crafted a coffee-drinking young rebel facade while she goes to dance for... messing with her mother. Most of her dialog also puts her in Little Miss Snarker territory.
    • It's worth noting her intelligence eventually devolves to the level of her peers.
  • Shotgun Wedding: A rather unusual example with Ben and Amy, who get married with fake I Ds, even though Ben isn't the father of the baby and no one thinks they have to get married. Of course, since it was with fake I Ds, the marriage is invalid. A more typical example is used with Ben and Adrian, though neither felt "forced" into it... at the time.
  • Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: A bizarre subversion of this trope, in that the high school characters are indeed in school, they just never seem to have any classes. The setup seems to consist of all of them wandering the halls, opening and closing their lockers and running into people to Infodump with.
  • Six Student Clique:
    • The Head: Jack
    • The Muscle: Ricky (could also be filled by Jack)
    • The Quirk: Ben
    • The Pretty One: Grace
    • The Smart One: Amy's supposed role. Ashley's actual role, to a point.
    • The Wild One: Adrian
  • The Snark Knight: Ashley. And when contrasted with the idiocy surrounding her, you could easily infer that Secret Life is set in Lawndale.
    • Adrian also has had shades of this alongside her role as Fille Fatale.
  • Smug Snake: Ashley is this or The Snark Knight.
  • Soap Opera
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: What is up with that 15-second theme song that doesn't fit the show at all?
    • In the episode "Just Say Me", a montage plays of the girls laying in their beds and beaming, since they have just finished masturbating. Apparently the best piece of music the writers could find to accompany this is the song Mister Sandman.
    • The students contemplate their futures, set to an acoustic version of Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend.
  • Speed Sex: According to Amy, her first time with Ricky was "like two seconds". He must have just been having an off night, since he's shown to be quite the ladies' man with everyone else and now that he and Amy are officially together, they have great sex.
  • Stalker with a Crush: This show never runs out of these ...
    • Ben's obsession with Amy borders on this at times in seasons 1-3.
    • Adrian has had behaviors bordering on this to Ricky in seasons 2 and 4.
    • Tom to Adrian.
    • Jack has shades of this in his behavior to Grace.
    • Grant transfered schools to get closer to Ashley in season 3.
    • Ashley to Ricky in Season 3.
    • Dylan has behaviors like this to Ben, in season 4.
    • Omar towards Adrian.
  • STD Immunity: Despite all the sex, sex talk, and Ricky and Adrian in particular having multiple partners, STDs are simply ignored. One would think from watching the show that pregnancy is the only possible consequence from having sex.
    • They finally addressed STDs in season three: Amy told Ricky she wouldn't have sex with him again unless he got tested. He did and he doesn't have anything, so this trope still stands.
    • Apparently Jack had something, but he "got it taken care of", and the experience doesn't appear to have fazed him at all.
    • Adrian seems to be the only character smart enough to use condoms regularly.
  • Teen Drama
  • Teen Pregnancy: The sole reason the show exists. Despite that, Amy and Ricky's baby is rarely ever seen on screen.
    • This show seems to have some kind of disturbing quota of one pregnancy per season.
    • First there's Amy's pregnancy with John in season 1.
      • Heather, Ben's friend who appeared for only one episode, was pregnant in Season 2. Her pregnancy was protrayed rather realistically harsh.
      • Adrian is the result of the teen pregnancy of her parents Cindy and Ruben. And is pregnant in season 3 as the result of having sex with Ben. She later gives birth to a stillborn.
  • Test Kiss: Played with. Amy worries that she might not be a good kisser after a guy doesn't call her after their date. Ricky offers to kiss her to calm her fears, and practice her technique if need be. When the two of them kiss, it quickly becomes clear that it's not practicing, but the resolving of UST.(Though they initially tell their friends that they're just friends and it really was just practice)
    • Also Ricky and Adrian in season four. See No Sparks.
  • Tomboyish Name: Dylan.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Ricky Underwood, who is portrayed by Daren Kagasoff.
  • The Unfavorite: In a jarring case, Ben is "the unfavorite" to Ricky by his own father. It's hinted at several times in the later seasons and that Ben does indeed have a problem with this.
  • Those Two Guys: A.K.A. "Useless Asian Friends."
    • Same goes with Amy's friends.
  • Two-Teacher School: The only recurring faculty members have been the football coach and a guidance counselor(which is strangely replaced every new school year) and even their appearances are brief.
  • Too Dumb to Live: At some point or another, EVERY MAIN CHARACTER IN THE SHOW.
    • Amy's sister Ashley and Adrian (when it was convenient) were probably the only exceptions.
    • Ashley, too is recently becoming Too Dumb to Live, including refusing to actually do any work after her dad cuts off her funds.
    • Adrian has had her moments as well, especially in season three.
  • TV Teens: Despite what the show promises, the teenagers are pretty much like this.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: ALL of the main characters ... and even some minor characters.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Ricky
    • Amy as well. She appears to have mellowed a lot in season three when compared to how she was in the first two seasons.
      • Until season four, when she started moving back to her old whiny ways.
    • Dylan even more so
  • The Unfair Sex: After Adrian and Ben sleep together, Ben is promptly called out by his father for the big mistake * cough* it was, while Adrian is told not to feel bad about it and Grace apologizes to her for not being entirely sympathetic, even though Adrian is supposed to be her best friend who slept with the guy she KNEW Grace was interested in.
    • Also, following Ricky sleeping with another girl, Adrian throws her cellphone through the butcher shop window and breaks it. Ricky agrees to pay for it himself because it's his fault since he cheated.
  • The Vamp: We, the viewers, are meant to believe that Adrian Lee is this, though when looked at objectively, Adrian is actually a sexy Latina with a healthy libido, a sharp tongue, a good head on her shoulders, and a Freudian Excuse shoehorned into her character.
  • Tsundere: In terms of temperment, both Ricky and Adrian qualify as classic Type A examples, espescially in seasons 1 & 2.
  • UST: It's hard to watch Jack and Kathleen without imagining them having sex all over the house in between shots. Most likely unintentional on the writers' part.
  • Very Special Episode - More like a Very Special Series.
    • ...made up of very special episodes. Like the episode about fake IDs. Or the subsequent episode about underage marriage. Or the episode about coping with child abuse.
    • A special mention goes to the PSA at the end of every episode encouraging kids to talk to their parents about sex and avoid teen pregnancy. (Except for the aforementioned child abuse episode, which had a PSA that offered an 800 number for victims of abuse)
    • The dangers of alcohol was stretched about for three very special episodes.
    • Then there was the texting episode, which featured its very own Long-Lost Uncle Aesop.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: Grace on occasion until she lost it in season 2, but it really didn't make her any smarter.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Inverted. Amy and Ashley live with George( or did until Amy moved in with Ricky and Ashley went on a road trip with Toby, while Anne and baby Robbie live in another town. The girls (and occasionally George) sporadically visit Anne, but Anne doesn't really visit them unless she's dropping off Robbie for his time with George.(Though she does have semi-regular phone communication with them)
  • Wacky Cravings: Adrian turns down typical breakfast fare for a Loco Moco during her pregnancy.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Ricky proposes to Amy at the former's high school graduation ceremony, with the proposal serving as the conclusion of his speech. She accepts.
  • Wedding Day: The Secret Wedding Of The American Teenager, obviously. Ben and Amy and their friends get fake I Ds and Ben and Amy use theirs to get married. It goes off without a hitch until their parents crash the reception and inform them that a fake ID marriage is an invalid one. The other weddings in the series (Adrian's parents, Leo and Betty, Ben and Adrian) don't get an entire episode focused on them, but parts of them are shown.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Between Good Bad Girl Adrian and Jerkass Ricky.
    • Also between Satellite Love Interest Ben and the rather Jerk Sue Amy. Their relationship hasn't been given the deepest of explorations to show why exactly Ben likes her. The most explanation for this occurs in The Pilot when Ben and his Asian friends discussing going after Amy because Ben wanted to lose his virginity and Amy seemed like an easy target. And on Amy's side of things, her friends advise her to make Ben fall in love with her, have sex with him and pawn the baby off as his so that she'd have a rich baby-daddy.
      • Ben and Amy's relationship basically consists of them claiming how much they love each other and bitching and arguing. Seriously, any moments of genuine affection between the two are very few and very far between.
      • It's been hinted since the begining of series that Ben had issues sorroundinbg the death of his mother and simply had some form of "transference". In a season five episode, called "It's A Miracle", Ben says that maybe he just wanted to help someone and feel important to someone and needed by someone, and that he wanted to be as admirable as he found his father.
      • On Amy's side of things she is protrayed as selfish and just went to Ben whenever she has problems with Ricky, friends and family.
      • Amy deserves special mention. She is obnoxious, whiny, rude and constantly complaining in BOTH her relationships with Ben and Ricky, though she's toned down on the complaining in her and Ricky's relationship in later episodes of season four
    • As a "he see in her", Jack and Madison. Seriously, a nice, generally attractive and smart jock falling for an annoying, shrill, dumpy girl who has no point on the show other then to make Amy look prettier in comparison. She had a similar situation with Lauren's hot older brother that can only really be explained through Where Da White Women At??
    • Grace and Ben. Really anyone and Ben.
      • Adrian said, at one point early on in season 3, that she sees Ben as "confident, admirable and honorable".
    • Given that the cast is almost entirely comprised of incredibly unpleasant, potentially insane and grotesquely stereotypical characters,one could argue that this applies to any given couple on this show.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There was a subplot in the first season where Amy was considering letting a gay coworker of her father's and his partner adopt her baby. It's forgotten pretty quickly.
    • That actually was resolved. The gay couple decided they'd rather try to adopt their foster children, who they already loved and wanted. Plus, they had one meeting with Ricky and quickly realized that Ricky was against ANYONE adopting the kid.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The season 3 episode "Loose Lips" takes this to extremes by consisting almost entirely of characters calling each other out. Every mistake that has ever been made throughout the series gets dragged out and rehashed (averting the Three Month Rule) to the point where not even the writers seem to know who we're supposed to be rooting for.
    • "Hole In The Wall" uses Ben as an example of this trope.
  • Whole Episode Flashback : While Amy's in labor, she and Ricky flashback to their meeting and the night their kid was conceived.(Both of these events were the same day). There's also brief flashes to what other characters were doing the summer this all went down, but it's mostly Ricky and Amy.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: There were two candidates for the father of Anne's son: George, her ex-husband and her new boyfriend. The boyfriend had been told he was sterile, but George had gotten a vasectomy years earlier, so everyone assumed that the boyfriend was, in fact, not sterile and the father. Then George confessed that he had lied about getting a vasectomy. This led the boyfriend to conclude that George was the father, so the boyfriend broke up with Anne and left. We are initially led to believe George is the father, but later find out it is the boyfriend, David.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Amy and Ricky ... They Do
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Adrian and Grace. Ben and Ricky.
  • With Friends Like These...: No one in this series are true friends. Most of the series is the characters constantly stabbing each other in the back.
    • But notable mentions are: Adrian and Grace - Adrian had oral sex with Jack and during their "friendship" she constantly slept with Ricky when Grace was dating him (though it can be argued Ricky was Adrian's love interest first) and slept with Ben knowing Grace had a huge romantic interest in him. She also called Jack, Grant and Daniel to have sex the night she felt Grace betrayed her and stopped being friends in "Flip Flop".
    • Ben and Ricky - Ben later had sex with Adrian in Season 2 and they all later found out she was pregnant in Season 3 as a result. Ricky later goes after Amy when Amy stops speaking to Ben. Ben constantly talks trash about Ricky to the other characters and have told both Amy and Adrian that the are too good for him.
    • Ben and Henry: Ben's own childhood friend Henry has sex with Adrian - Ben's soon-to-be ex-wife and mother of his stillborn daughter at Jessie's Graduation Party. Ben also has sex with Alice shortly after he becomes friends again with Henry.
    • Amy and Adrian - These two were never true friends. Even though Adrian came to see Amy, Ricky and their son (John) in the hosipital when he was born, when Adrian tried to befriend Amy, Amy made-out with Ricky and out of paranoia Adrian later had sex with Ben resulting in a pregnancy. And even though Amy held Adrian and cried with her when Mercy was stillborn, the girls went back to bad-talking the other and Adrian still pursued sex with Ricky later on.
    • Amy, Lauren and Madison - Madison and Lauren are directly responsible for spreading rumors about Amy/Ricky having sex and Amy's pregnancy. In episode 9, Lauren makes-out with Ricky during Amy's pregnancy. Madison has sex with Lauren's boyfriend Jessie the night of his Graduation Party.
    • On a sister's note - Ashley tries to have sex with John's father and Amy's later boyfriend — Ricky.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Bob Underwood
  • Your Cheating Heart: One of the show's favorite ways to create conflict. Most of the characters have cheated on someone at least once. It would probably be easier to list those that are always faithful than list the MANY instance of cheating.
  • Your Door Was Open: Frequently shows up. A notable example happened in the season one episode, "Maybe Baby" when nearly every regular character ended up in Amy's house, arriving in groups of two or three, just to tell her they would support her if she wanted to keep her baby. They have gotten better about it in later seasons (meaning it's more common to see people actually knock on the door and wait for someone to answer it) but it's not completely absent.

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alternative title(s): The Secret Life Of The American Teenager
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