When you’re in peak adolescence, the world seems like it’s going to end at any second. Every test you fail, every sports game you lose, every dance you go to without a date — everything’s amplified by the thousands until you graduate and realize it all meant so little. But while you’re there, it’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one that sees things through a movie lens, which is why shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Gossip Girl” have been so successful in their reign of television. “Dare Me” merges the good and bad of the modern teenage drama into a mixture of sorts: it’s a blend of high school pettiness, toxic friendships, sports competitions, crime, cheating and random dance scenes. Based off the book of the same name by Megan Abbott, the television adaptation centers around a group of teenage girls, each a mirror image of a type of high school girl we’ve seen in the past. Seeing as they’re all on the cheerleading team, they carry a sense of superiority with them as they go throughout high school. That is, until a championship-winning new coach takes over, and the team struggles with the new structure.
At its best, the show is well-paced and unpredictable. The lighting is dim and ominous; it captures the essence of the typical teen drama and makes us feel like something is always lurking around the corner. Its tone makes you feel on edge while watching it, and it’s hard to tell what the main conflict is going to be. The small, ongoing passive-aggressive moments edge toward the feeling that something’s going to implode at any moment — the main quality of the show that keeps viewers locked in. It’s evident that the show is primarily targeted toward a young teenage audience, but it’s entertaining enough that someone else may continue to watch it without being too invested into the lives of each character like the targeted audience would.
However, it was a struggle to figure out whether the topics of the show were suitable for a younger audience to be watching in the first place. As the girls train for the cheerleading competitions, several of them show clear symptoms of having an eating disorder, but none of them are called out for their unhealthy habits. For instance, one of the girls is seen bent over the toilet in an attempt to vomit, and when she struggles to do so, is kicked in the stomach by one of the cheerleaders to help her out. While it’s clear to healthy adults that this is abnormal behavior, it may not be to impressionable teenagers. The best way the show can succeed is to find the correct target audience, and as of now, it seems to be floating in a limbo between demographics.
Like most other teen dramas, it’s the script that lacks the most attention and care. Each comeback and motivational quote is reused and recycled from other dramas, and if anything’s predictable about the show, it’s what each character is going to say next. With a script that hits harder and flows smoother, the show could likely draw itself in the direction of an upper teenage audience. As of now, “Dare Me” comes off as a coming-of-age story with toxic themes that tweens might have to avoid (depending on their current mindstates). There’s entertaining aspects of it for all adolescent age groups, but the task at hand remains in the hands of the creators, who need to determine the direction they want to take the show in and who they want to lock in as their target audience.