Planned Parenthood and the Population Media Center, which uses media to promote social change, mostly through liberal causes, are targeting teens with a new marketing campaign using a television show “with a moral.” But the moral has nothing to do with virtue, hard work, or self-control, the stuff of traditional morality tales. This show promotes promiscuity, risky behavior, and self-destructive choices, tied together with a glitzy, seductive bow.
The new TV drama, East Los High, airs on the online platform Hulu and advertises “dance, sex, romance, and mystery.” Set in an inner-city Los Angeles school, it features two teenage cousins who decide they love the same boy. Hulu’s description declares, “From this forbidden love triangle, Maya, Jessie, and Jacob, along with their close friends must face true-to-life decisions.”
Jessie, a Hispanic girl living in east L.A., starts the show as a somewhat innocent high schooler. By the second episode she contemplates giving up her “membership to the virgin’s club” with her new crush, whose previous girlfriend just got caught having sex with another guy. After a few more episodes, Jessie “transforms into a sexy vixen to get what she wants.” The series centers around the teenage protagonists’ romantic lives, which are focused on having sex.
The show’s producer, Katie Elmore Mota, said in an interview the show was made in cooperation with leading sexual and reproductive health organizations such as California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, California Family Health Council, Planned Parenthood, and others. She said the show was designed to help teens learn about “reproductive health.”
But it really aims to indoctrinate young girls with the lie that they can do anything they want, with no consequences.
At the end of the show, viewers are directed to the East Los High website. Planned Parenthood ads plaster the site, along with “resource links” for abortion and birth control. A tool for locating the nearest Planned Parenthood abortion center accompanies images of characters having sex. The show’s Facebook page announces one of the high school girls “doesn't regret having had sex, she just wished she would have used birth control.”
Even during the breaks in the show, the producers run ads for Plan B one-step morning after pills, with smiling girls saying, “If my birth control fails, I know what to do. … Now no one is going to get in my way.”
The show targets young Hispanics specifically, with the first all-Latino cast in a show of its kind. It was one the five most viewed shows among Hulu’s 4 million subscribers.
Targeting minority populations is nothing new for Planned Parenthood. It has placed 79 percent of its abortion facilities within walking distance of black or Hispanic neighborhoods. Historically, abortion has been most prevalent among the African-American community, which makes up roughly 12 percent of the population but accounts for 35 percent of abortions. Although a much larger percentage of the U.S. population, Hispanics currently only account for 21 percent of abortions.
Valerie Huber, president and CEO of the National Abstinence Education Association said the show sends damaging messages, especially for Hispanic teens who already have high rates of teen pregnancy: “This show is definitely normalizing teen sex, and is encouraging sexual experimentation.” She said the underlying message of “You are not popular without sex” sends a dangerous signal to teens already pounded with sexual pressure.
It also continues to spread the message “everybody’s doing it,” Huber said. “But that is not the case. Almost 75 percent of 15-17 year olds have never had sex” and increasing numbers of teens are making healthy decisions to wait for sex.
“You would think, since this show is targeting this age group, they would want to encourage that, not play into the stereotype,” she said.