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YMMV: The Secret Life of the American Teenager
  • Anvilicious: Often, whole episodes will include multiple characters will repeatedly state the moral the writers are trying to convey with the situation.
    • Sex is the most prominently discussed topic in the whole show. There's even a short PSA at the end of every episode, said by Shailene, that talks about pre-marital sex. Sometimes, other actors will delivers the PSA, such as when Ricky's actor talked about victims of sexual abuse.
    • I think that the PSA is delivered multiple times throughout an episode before an ad break begins. It is now delivered by a few of the other major actresses besides Shailene.
    • The character of Grace is rather anvilicious in her portrayal of an extremely good and pious Christian girl. There's also her brother Tom, who is both adopted and has Down syndrome. He is meant to be an endearing character, but many viewers find him to be a Jerkass. He also helps cement the idea that Grace's father died because she had sex.
    • In a Season 4 episode, Ben gets drunk for the first time and passes out in a crowded restaurant. The show spends the next three episodes dwelling on this mistake.
    • In Season 4, Ben starts dating a girl named Dylan. She and her friends smoke pot and they are caught doing so by her parents and Ben's dad. Cue a few episodes of characters preaching about the dangers of marijuana.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Adrian's spaz dance to "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" in Just Say Me.
    • The marching band showing their support for pregnant Amy by giving her a musical escort to class
    • Adrian wears Ricky's shirt to school one day after he's caught on video without it (Makes Sense In Context). She then sees him flirting with Grace so she comes up to them and says something like "This is his shirt! And this is where he left it!". She then proceeds to rip off the shirt, chuck it at Grace, and then walks down the hallway in nothing but her bra.
    • In "Dancing With The Stars", Amy calls Lauren and tells her that she's sending Lauren's old flame over to see her. Lauren reacts by starting to sing, complete with background music. The guy (Jesse) is completely unfazed by a singing Lauren answering the door.
  • Bile Fascination: How many people here think the show is honestly good, and how many people just tune in to see the drama train derailing?
    • Or because they have a crush on Shailene.
  • Complete Monster: Ricky's dad Robert "Bob" Underwood is one of the worst Abusive Parents in this Teen Drama. A vile Domestic Abuser, he physically and sexually abused both his wife Nora and his son Ricky for many years before he was convicted and sent to prison. After he gets out he discovers that his now-teenage son has fathered a baby with his girlfriend. He offers to sell the child, his own grandkid, to human traffickers to pay for his drug habit.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: Amy revealing her pregnancy to Ashley in "I Feel Sick". The news actually affects Ashley greatly, and she breaks down in tears after Amy leaves the room. The episode ends with Ashley giving Amy a hug, for the first time in the series.
  • Die for Our Ship: Ben for the "Ramy" ship is probably the biggest example. Though many Ramy shippers just ship him with Adrian.
    • Adrian for the "Ramy" shipping as well.
    • Grant, and even moreso Daniel, for the Grace/Jack shipping qualifies as well.
    • Now that Ben has a new love interest named Dylan, alot of Ben/Adrian shippers and non-shippers alike have an extreme dislike for her. Though that might have more to do with Ben/Dylan and the actress' acting than anything else.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Ricky Underwood. For awhile at least, since much of his jerkass behavior has caused him to lose his favoring with the viewers, if not in-universe.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The scene in the 5th episode where the local news crew laughs at Grace for trying to defend from potential rapists. The show does explain it's not funny, but to even show in the first place is just sick.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Leo, Betty, and Grace's new stepdad Jeff. Moose also counts, if only for his lack of dialogue. Also, Ashley.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Amy and Ricky, mainly since they have a baby together, Ben comes across as a stalker and they definitely have the same mindset.
    • Granted thinking two characters should be together just because they have a baby together is pretty dumb but given the alternative...
    • This popularity also stems from Ricky being seen as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. (Though to be fair, others see him as a Draco in Leather Pants)
    • They started dating in season three, and in the season finale they got engaged.
  • Fridge Logic: Anyone else notice that these high-school characters don't actually attend high school so much as meander through the halls, opening/closing lockers and conveniently running into people to talk/argue with as the so-called plot demands?
    • The only rooms they're ever seen entering are the bathroom and the counselor's office. When the plot requires as such.
    • To be fair, a few of the main characters were seen in a biology classroom at the beginning of season 2, complete with teacher and everything. Though even then, they were only thinking about sex.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: "If you have sex with Adrian, someone really will die." See Harsher in Hindsight to see what happened in the Season 3 finale.
  • Glurge: The pious, patronizing message of the show. "See, we understand that you modern teenagers are all rebellious, sinful children, but we want you to know that we care about you and your problems and we want to help you and let you know you're not entirely terrible people."
  • Guilty Pleasure
  • Harsher in Hindsight: "If you have sex with Adrian, someone really will die" - Around a year later, Ben does end up having sex with Adrian which results in Adrian being pregnant and their daughter's stillbirth.
  • He Really Can Act: Never on this show, but Shailene Woodley has proven capable in other roles.
    • Franca Raisa, in the Season 3 finale where her baby is stillborn.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: "Ben and I are here to ... get free condoms" - In season 2 Ben and Adrian have sex in Ben's car, resulting in the latter's pregnancy. Oddly enough, as explained in "But We Used A Condom", they didn't need any ...
  • Hollywood Homely: Ben is implied to be this. Though many Ken Baumann fan-girls would tend to disagree.
    • Amy and Ashley to varying degrees as well.
    • The whole cast except for Grace and Jack considering their band geeks.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: The show claims it's true to life, but whoever wrote it fell victim to this trope. It's more like a wish-fulfillment fantasy (with Amy as a stand-in) for teenage girls who actually have to deal with the realities of teen pregnancy.
    • Ricky and Adrian's characters who have suffered terrible childhoods both use sex as a form of self-healing and to feel "loved".
  • Jerkass Woobie: Ricky, who along with being sexually and physically abused by his drug-addicted father Bob, had to watch his father beat his alcohalic mother who was also addicted to drugs. They both abandoned him serveral times and it was implied his mother Nora was a prostitute. He later told a teacher about the abuse and eventually his father was arrested. Due to his childhood, he later takes advantage of dozens of females, dating them, calling them, befriending them, even telling them "I love you" to get them into bed and most of the time never calling or seeing them again. He used Adrian for sex, mistreated her, lead her on, cheated on her and dumped her when she gave him back a "taste of his own medicine". In his talk with Marshall, it is stated that Ricky does this to people because he wanted to victimize them the same way his father victimized him. He later feels terribly guilty about this, as shown in "Round Two", and begins a monogamous relationship with Amy, his son's mother.
    • Adrian who was abandoned by her father, ignored by her mother, grew up in proverty and was bullied because of it, moved around alot and didn't make much friends, and it is implied her best true friend since 2nd Grade (and later 1st lover) died some time after getting diagnosed with cancer and moving away for treatment. She later went on to have a terrible relationship with Ricky. And despite the fact that she uses and takes advantage of others to try to get what she wants - including having sex with numerous other girls' boyfriends, scheming/plotting, and manipulating people - you can't help but feel bad for her since her daughter Mercy was Stillborn.
      • Ben - Ben becomes a bit of a Jerkass in season 4, but, you can't help but feel bad for him due to losing his daughter Mercy at 17 and his mother Sarah at age 10. It is implied at some points in the series his clinging to Amy was a result of losing his mother. And he was later willing to work out his marriage with Adrian but she kicked him out of their condo so she could pursue Ricky. He let her have the condo and is still paying off her $50,000 "friendship ring".
      • Ashley - Despite the fact that she obsessively pursued her nephew's father and later sister's boyfriend Ricky, Ashley can qualify as a woobie since the start of the series - sister's pregnancy, her parents divorce, her apparent lack of self-esteem ...etc.
  • Jerk Sue: Amy. Seriously, there are probably unwed teenage mothers "with stillborn offspring" who bitch and moan less than she does!
    • In season 4, this actually becomes a fact.
    • Ricky. Who, despite being a 99.9% Jerkass, is apparently a great guy. And most of the blatantly and self-righteously misogynistic lines in the show come from him.
  • Just Here For Molly Ringwald
  • Les Yay: Adrian and Grace. They have better chemistry than designated couple Grace and Jack. They've even kissed twice now
    • Adrian and Ashley. The affinity between them can sometimes be read as this.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Adrian
  • Memetic Mutation: I HAD SEX AND DAD IS DEAD! HE DIED A HORRIBLE DEATH BECAUSE I HAD INCREDIBLE SEX!
  • Narm: Buckets and buckets of it.
  • Relationship Writing Fumble: Jack and Kathleen. The writers probably meant their relationship to be simply friendship or perhaps Kathleen being a surrogate mom to Jack, since Jack is living in her house. However, they come off as having UST to many viewers.
  • The Scrappy: In a cast full of despicable characters, it really says something that Ben seems to be universally the most hated, followed by Madison.
    • Nope! Now it's Ashley! *Suprise* Especially since she use to be one of the more beloved characters.
    • During the first and second season, there was a lot of hate for Amy due to her constant whining and general bitchiness towards everyone. She toned down significantly by season three, as did the hate towards her.
    • Season 4 has people (both the fanbase and in-universe) viewing Adrian as the devil incarnate.
    • Dylan in season 4, as well.
    • Tom, just because he has Downs Syndrome doesn't give him a reason to be a dick. Though he does have a few heartwarming / Pet the Dog moments with Adrian.
    • Ricky for bieng a Jerk Sue almost all the time.
  • Seasonal Rot: The season that has the most fan and critical complaints has to be season 2.
  • Snark Bait: The series has become the spiritual heir of 7th Heaven's snark from the Television Without Pity forums.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Most people watch this just to get a rip off the laughable acting and the hilariously awful Soap Opera plots.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Ben and Amy had an ok relationship for the first few episodes (if you ignore the facts that a. Ben only originally asked her out because he was hoping to get some sexual experience before going after the real object of his affections, Grace and b. Amy was not being upfront either, since she didn't tell him she was pregnant). For the most part, they were believable as two earnest, awkward teens in their first relationship. Then Ben proposed to Amy after they'd been dating a few weeks, upon discovering she was pregnant with Ricky's baby. Now the audience was supposed to accept that Amy and Ben had a deep and true love to last their whole lives and they and the other characters wouldn't shut up about how right they were for each other. It's not too surprising that the majority of the fan base quickly became very irritated with the couple.
  • Tear Jerker: Season 3's finale, "... Or Not To Be", has this, due to Adrian and Ben's baby being a stillbirth
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: "Just Say Me", full fucking stop. The pro-masturbation/female solidarity theme would have made for an excellent (if uncharacteristically) feminist concept, but it's utterly ruined by the fact that it's used as a Lysistrata Gambit to get their philandering male counterparts to stop cheating/hooking up (the rationale behind this being that they are depriving them of someone to cheat/hook up with.)
    • The whole Ben/Adrian pregnancy. Numerous unexpected pregnancies in fiction are "bad boy knocks up the innocent virgin girl." The whole gender flipped "bad girl" gets pregnant during the guy's first time is rare. It had the potential to be interesting, just because it's a different dynamic. However, the abysmal writing and the fact that it's the THIRD pregnancy in three seasons makes the whole thing repetitive.
      • And now that Adrian's baby was stillborn, the entire plot is ultimately rendered pointless as it takes everything building up to that and throws it away.
    • Adrian and Rueben's adversarial relationship in season one might fall under this category as well.
    • Really, pretty much the entire series could be classified as this. The way it was being promoted made it seem like it would focus on the struggles of a pregnant teenager, but it just turned out to be another romance-focused teen drama. Amy's life is hardly affected by her pregnancy and her child is rarely seen.
  • Wangst: Pretty much every character has fallen victim to this.
    • Amy freaking out over not being able to go to a funeral really takes the cake, especially since it was the funeral of an acquaintance's dad, a man she had never even met.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Amy abandoning John and leaving Ricky and her family behind to pursue her "dream" in New York in the finale. Also counts as a confusing Bittersweet Ending.

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