For generations, screenwriters and producers have attempted to capture the reality of teenage life. In pursuit of a profit, films are often twisted to please viewers. Figuring out which adolescent films show the reality of teenage life can be difficult for the untrained eye. It can be very hard to distinguish which movies tell the truth about the formative years and which do not.
Since “sexy” and “comical” seem to sell well to adolescents, most movies center around two things: sex and partying. While there are teenagers who do participate in these two activities, there are many who do not. A movie that shows both sides of the teen world very well is A WALK TO REMEMBER starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. Even though the main character in this film has leukemia, high school life is very accurately portrayed. While there are scenes of teens drinking and partying, there are also scenes of well behaved kids; the ones who spend their Saturdays tutoring and who actually do their homework. This film has an advantage over others because it shows that not all teens are out to shatter their parent’s hopes and dreams by destroying themselves with illegal substances.
Some films do nothing more than to attempt to be funny. Movies such as
MEAN GIRLS starring Lindsey Lohan are completely over exaggerated. In this movie, a series of completely ridiculous experiences happen to the main characters. Never in my life have I ever known or even heard of a person who got hit by a bus, broke her spinal cord, and then attended the school dance a few days later. Yet, somehow
MEAN GIRLS' Regina character seems to pull this off.
Another stupefying movie is SUGAR & SPICE starring Marley Shelton. This teenage comedy is about high school, teenage pregnancy, and five cheerleaders armed with semi-automatic weapons robbing banks. There are only two accurate things in this entire film: the fact that cheerleaders exist and teenage pregnancy is possible. Other than that, this movie is a fluffy teen sugar fest with not an ounce of reality in it.
Films like these make it seem like popularity is the one key to happiness. Despite popular belief, scoring a date with the hottest cheerleader or football player in school is not the main goal in life for many teens. High school is the time when we go through trials and tribulations to find out who we really are. Unfortunately, I think that most teen films just show one side of how life really is.
THIRTEEN, starring Evan Rachel Wood, is one of the few movies I’ve seen that isn’t out to make people happy and earn money. Most teen movies promote sex as though unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases don’t exist, while underage drinking and talking back to your authorities is funny and acceptable. Hardly ever do
they show the consequences of AIDS and genital herpes. Nor do they show how illegal use of alcohol and drugs can destroy a family.
In this movie, however, a thirteen-year-old girl named Tracy who is struggling to find her identity goes to dangerous lengths to earn the friendship of a school goddess named Evie. Tracy quickly slips into an illegal world of stealing, sex, drugs and alcohol. The movie is disturbing and the ending is not happy, but sadly this is what life is like for a lot of teenagers.
Another intense yet effective film is producer Larry Clark's KIDS. Over the course of twenty-four hours, a group of New York teens absolutely destroy their lives through their bad decisions. When I first watched this movie I couldn’t even imagine a teen ever acting the way the teens in this film did. But after talking to a few kids at my school who grew up in Chicago, I learned how accurate this film really is. The behavior in this film is not commonly found in the suburbs, but it definitely shows an accurate view of city life.
Another film that is blunt with the truth yet fun and entertaining to watch is CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL starring Kirsten Dunst. In this film Nicole (Kirsten Dunst) and her best friend Maddy (Taryn Manning) see life as one long party. They think nothing of skipping class to drink themselves silly, coming on to strangers and generally shunning any kind of positive behavior. Enter hard working Carlos (Jay Hernandez) and Nicole’s self-destructive life style is completely changed.
CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL shows both the ups and downs of high school partying, and keeps viewers on the edge of their seats for all 135 minutes of it.
Movies have a huge effect on the way people view society. Without the media, no one would understand what’s going on around them. We receive our current events from newspapers and news broadcasting stations. We hear about new products from commercials, billboards, and ads in newspapers and magazines. We visually experience other people’s lives through television shows and commercial films. It’s sad to think that our youth is being perceived as shallow and dumb because producers and screenwriters want to make more money.
The best advice I can give to anyone looking for the reality in teenage films is to be open-minded. Keep in mind that everyone is different. Not all teens grew up in the same atmosphere and therefore not all teens have the same experiences. Something that may seem repulsive to a teen growing up in the country may be completely normal to a teen living in the city, and vice versa. Also remember to be realistic. Everyone is a teenager at one point in life, so asking and answering obvious questions shouldn’t be too difficult. Don’t let Hollywood alone define how teen life really is.
© Nicki Burnier (9/1/04)
Nicki Burnier is a sophomore at Dundee Crown High School in Carpentersville, IL. As a freshman journalism student, Nicki won the Illinois Women’s Press Association first place award in the News category for her cover story “Fox View Residents Prepare To Be Removed From Their Homes,” which she wrote for her school paper. The paper also awarded her Best News Story, and she was honored by the Illinois District 300 Board of Education.
This summer, Nicki attended a nationally-known journalism workshop at the University of Iowa. She continued to excel by winning Best Advance Story, Best News Feature Story and the highest honor given, the Award of Excellence. This year she will be the News Editor for her school paper, the first time a sophomore has ever held that position.
In addition to her love for journalism, Nicki enjoys cheerleading and athletics, particularly waterskiing. She has a diverse group of close friends representing all races and economic levels. She credits these relationships with teaching her to appreciate the opposing views that characterize great stories.
Jan met Nicki when she came to the IWPA’s May Luncheon, accompanied by her parents, to accept her award. Nicki is an incredibly talented young woman & FF2 is proud to include her in our growing list of contributors.