When it comes to the teen movie genre, I grew up on standard John Hughes fare, with some Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Little Darlings thrown in. I still hold a movie like Some Kind of Wonderful to be a pretty good teen movie, but I also love Heathers, Clueless and Bring It On -- movies that, by turns sweet and sardonic, don't play the teen genre totally straight. Kevin Maher in The Times argues that teen movies of late have lost their innocence, mostly for the better: "The prom night party and pivotal attempt to snag Mr or Mrs Right have been overtaken by casual sexual humiliation and an inquisitive desire to make philosophical sense of universal chaos. Comedy is out. Honesty is in." Citing darker movies like Mean Creek and Donnie Darko, he sees the teen genre as dealing with coming of age or social alienation in more serious, emotionally honest ways in this post 9/11 and Columbine world.

Though I take his point about the distance between "teen media image and teen reality," I think he overstates the "murderous, antisocial and apocalyptic urges that [swirl] around the modern teen experience" a little; I found as much rage and alienation simmering in Heathers and Little Darlings (yes, even the latter), it's just the tone and teen patois that are so markedly different. Maher celebrates the "birth of the tougher adolescent epic" but I find some of these supposedly darker movies sometimes take themselves too seriously when it comes to the numbing facts of life that surround most teenagers. Some of the best, most honest dramatizations of adolescent life in my view, have actually been on television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life (all of which have ended, sadly). These shows disclosed plenty of the darkness, frustration and humiliation that comes with growing up in a difficult world, but they never lost their wit and sense of perspective in the process.
categories Movies, Cinematical