Monday, March 4, 2013

Guilty Pleasures: Trashy Teen Flicks

Hi my name is UndieGirl and I love trashy teen flicks. I don’t just mean films about teenager or marketed to teenagers – I mean those embarrassingly cliché movies that are all about growing up, getting laid (or not) and negotiating the hormone fueled years between the ages of 13 to 20. Every little piece of drama is heightened to the point of ridiculousness, there is an oversupply of red cups and there is often a musical number of no apparent reason. They’re unoriginal, sexist and a little bit silly but I love them none the less – so let’s hear it for the trashy teen flick one of my many guilty pleasures.

Now I learned from a semester of arguing with my Teen Cinema tutor that the teen film genre encompasses a wide range of films but when I refer to the trashy teen flick I am talking about a very specific kind of movie. You know the ones, they’re set in high school (or possibly some kind of summer vacation or after school job). The main characters are somewhere between the ages of 13 - 20.  There’s talk of college (or university) and parents that just don’t understand. Someone will decide to loose their virginity and someone won’t. There are food fights and bitch fights and bro fights and generally just a lot of violence. There are cliques and makeovers and quests for popularity. There’s sex, alcohol and everything feels like it’s the end of the world when really none of it actually matters (unless it’s a teen horror then it matters a little bit).

There are more tropes and clichés in the trashy teen flick than I could possibly list but despite the lack of originality I can’t help but love these films.

The there is just something about teenagers that we can all relate to (even if we don’t want to admit it) – everyone was a teenager at some point and even if these films are usually American-based middle-class exaggerations we all felt the heighten emotions and the alienation that comes from the sudden influx of hormones. While we might point and laugh at the ridiculousness (teenagers just take everything so seriously) we still understand what they are going through and it’s nice to relive those emotions – especially when it’s second hand.

The thing I love about trashy teen films is that the represent this period of extreme flux. Sure the stories being told have a beginning, middle and end but also they don’t. I mean you know that most of the relationships that happen in these films are never going to last but that doesn’t matter because it’s always true love at sixteen. The teen years this strange period when you are expected to act like and adult but then you’re not treated like one. It’s in between and as a result these movies are in between as well. You’re kind of thrown into the middle and at the end there is a kind of conclusion but it’s always left open like the real story is just about to begin.

But I also just really love the clichés. The stories are excessively familiar. Maybe someone has to learn that popularity/fame/money isn’t everything or maybe that it’s okay to be who you are or that you should be careful what you wish for. There is always the popular “sex quest” because you must loose your virginity before going away to college. Or it could be all about getting your sporting team (or dance group of choir or any other kind of team) to the national championships. Then again maybe it’s just a classic boy meets girl (or girl meets boy) in that case it you were probably meant to be with your best friend all along or you probably shouldn’t have judged that book by it’s cover. We’ve seen these stories a million times before, we know exactly how they are going to end but that’s okay. It’s the familiarity that makes them so enjoyable.

The best part of the teen film is that it encompasses pretty much every other genre out there. The most popular are comedy (American Pie, Mean Girls), and horror (Scream, The Faculty, Carrie) but that’s not the extent of it. There are so many more including: musical (Grease, High School Musical, Bye, Bye Birdie), action (Kick Ass, Sky High), romance (A Walk to Remember), romantic comedy (10 Things I Hate About You, Can’t Buy me Love), coming of age (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Whip it, Strike!, The Breakfast Club), sports movies (Friday Night Lights, Bring It On), serious drama (Rebel Without a Cause, The Virgin Suicides), noir mysteries (Brick), black comedy (Heathers), supernatural (Twilight, The Lost Boys, Teen Wolf), science fiction (Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), dystopian (The Hunger Games), fantasy (the Harry Potter series, Ella Enchanted, Percy Jackson), zombies (Warm Bodies), thriller (Gossip, Swimfan, Donnie Darko), animation (Brave).

Okay so I just really like teen movies okay? I’m not ashamed of it and you should be either. I’m not saying you have to love trashy teen flicks like me but if you do I would love to hear from you. What are some of your favourite teen films? Or maybe you have a favourite trope? Let me know in the comments.