On the eve of Valentine's Day, I've been thinking of great tween couples, and I keep coming back to the television show The Wonder Years. It did a fantastic job of capturing the range and intensity of tween emotions. Although the pilot was set in 1968 and the show debuted in 1988, the romance between main tween characters Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper was timeless.
Kevin, played by Fred Savage, and Winnie, played by Danica McKellar, serve as good reminders that while many aspects of being a tween have changed over time, some experiences and feelings remain exactly the same. They embodied the excitement, possibility, uncertainty and awkwardness that define the tween years.
When writing about the intensity of tween romance, Kevin and Winne sprung to mind. They're the greatest tween couple of all time, in my opinion. I was a tween in middle school when The Wonder Years first aired, and characters Kevin and Winie and their friend, Paul, were in middle school. In the pilot episode, Kevin and Winnie share a timid first kiss in the woods. The show captured the thrill and trepidation that went with it.
"I guess sometimes the ground can shift between your feet. Sometimes your footing slips. You stumble. And sometimes you grab what's close to you and hold on as tight as you can." - Kevin Arnold/narrator
The Wonder Years is about growing up in a complicated and confusing time, and the pilot episode includes Winnie losing her brother in the Vietnam War. It's a good reminder that while the present seems complicated and hard, there have been turbulent times before and children and parents have weathered them. The show nicely captured both the tumult of the late 1960's and the tumult and internal struggles that come with being a tween. Life at 12 can be hilarious or heartbreaking, often in the same day. The writers of the series really understood that. While it is easy to forget the all-consuming nature of those new feelings, the vital importance of friends and the difficulty of navigating middle school hallways, shows like this also make it easy to remember exactly how it felt.
The Wonder Years is now streaming on Netflix. It was interesting to go back and watch, and realize that I am the age of the adult narrator, voiced by Daniel Stern. Not only is it a fun blast from my tween past, but a good reminder of what my tween has ahead in her immediate future.
What is your favorite tween show from your childhood? Leave your memories in the comments below, or tell me who you think was the greatest tween couple of all time.
If you liked this post, you may also like: Back to School Book Review: Middle School Survival Guides
Prior post: St. Valentine's Day, tweens and parents: Navigating uncharted romantic territory
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