Sunday, December 13, 2009

If It Weren't for Those Pesky *Teenagers*...

Like it or not, we are defined in a very big way by our teenage years. Whether we spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture or distance ourselves from them, there it is. There is something about the hormones, the rapid growth and change, the rollercoaster passion and despair of teenagedom, from which we do not easily recover. The term has only been around for about sixty years, but isn’t it true that most major wars and revolutions before then were propogated by people under twenty-five? Hormones, man.

As it stands, teenagers as a socio-political entity, as a marketing term, have been around just under as long as film, and that fact has only deepened teenagers’ ability to affect us long after our twentieth birthday. I’m talking, of course, about teen movies. Serious, comic, serio-comic, some teen films have captured or defined whole generations at a time, and continue to do so long after their intended audience grew up and produced teenagers of their own. So I’m going to go through, decade by decade, and discuss some of the greatest teen movies of all time. Movies that somehow managed to perfectly capture their moment in time or define how the rest of the decade would look, all within the allotted hour-and-a-half-to-two-hours.

Now, I will readily admit my bias in that, of all the teen movies in the world, Clueless and Mean Girls are in a dead heat for first place in my heart. Then again, you probably knew that. Strong female characters and great costumes in a smart, satirical comedy with some slapstick mixed in. And everyone is friends in the end! At this point in my development I’m not sure if I was drawn to them because of my personality, or if my personality was intrinsically shaped because of those movies. Either way I don’t care, because they’re brilliant. Clueless came around when I was nine, just on the precipice of that oh-so-coveted teendom, and taught me how teenagers dressed, talked, and acted. Mean Girls caught me on my way out, at eighteen, when I could look back at my high school experience, still so fresh in my developing heart and say, “oh my GOD they’re right!”

I am at the moment an officially grown ass woman but a large part of me still wants to look like Cher and learn my life lessons from the safety of my couch. And in a world in which I am still adjusting to not having anything in common with teenagers, going back to those movies is comforting. Young people look different already, and I am just not ready for that. So I’m going to go back, back, back in time and try to glean those movies that defined generations with the brilliance and humility of something taken much more seriously than mere entertainment, or teenagers themselves. I’ll start in the fifties, with the advent of “teenagers” as we know them today, and work up from there.


ali d said...

You will never be a grown ass woman, B. Not if I can help it.

I still, on days when I can't figure out what to wear, covet (covet covet) Cher's enormous walk-in closet and outfit creation software. Forget Giant Mecha Robots - can someone PLEASE get on that?

Jstone said...

To me American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused so perfectly capture what high school was like its disturbing.

Chris Evans said...

"a large part of me still wants to look like Cher "

Who DOESN'T want to look like Cher?

Oh wait, we're talking about Clueless.

*saunters away*