Tuesday, March 19, 2013

UndieGirl on Tropes: Wild Teen Party

A little while ago I confessed my love for trashy teen flicks and I figured why not show this genre a little more love by highlighting on of my favourite tropes.  This is another one of those tropes that I love in movies but loathe in real life. A wild teen party seems like a good idea but it’s really really not. It is however overly dramatic and often hilarious, which is what makes it so fun to watch.

The Wild Teen Party can be found in pretty much every story with a significant interest in teen characters. It’s what happens when teenager are left without parental figures (or sometimes they are ‘cool parents’ that don’t even care about sex, drugs and rock n’roll). There is a large space – usually a suburban house – and there are a lot of teenagers doing a lot of things that society says they are too young to do (alcohol, sex, drugs). Stuff is broken, family portraits are defaced, virginities are misplaced and someone will probably learn a lesson.  

These parties usually start in one of two ways – they are even thrown by notorious party animals or a smaller party gets out of hand. Or maybe it’s Bogey Lowenstein’s wine and cheese night and the party shows up out of nowhere. The police are often called and for some reason there is always a keg with a never-ending supply of red cups.

While the party host will often “learn a lesson” about responsibility and/or receive some kind of punishment the onscreen depictions of Wild Teen Parties very really deal with serious issues (unless it’s an after school special). If there’s a fight – no one will be seriously injured. If there is a pool no one will drown. No one ends up in hospital with alcohol poisoning (there is very rarely anything harder than pot available) and any serious property damage will be easily fixed the next day with some teamwork.

There are, of course, as many variations of this trope as there are examples but there are a number of things that are fairly common including:

  • A keg of beer – for some reason this is a beverage of choice for Wild Teen Parties.
  • Red cups – red cups are such a stable that they have become symbol of the Wild Teen Party.
  • Band/Expensive DJ equipment – when the party shows up so does a fully equipped DJ or a garage band.
  • Alcohol makes you cool – the geek/nerd guy (or less often girl) just needs a little alcohol to let loose and become the most popular person at the party.
  • Everyone dances – there is always a bustling dance floor filled with teenagers grinding up against each other.
  • Locked in the bathroom – someone will probably lock themselves in or get locked in the bathroom.
  • All party crashers are Bikies – I don’t know why Bikies are the universal symbol for bad crashers but they are.

And that’s not even making a dent in the seriously long list of staples this trope employs.

Sure it’s a tad over done but not without reason. The Wild Teen Party is a perfect representation of everything teenagers are. They are out of control, they are oversexed and they have very little regard for the consequences of their actions – the teenage years are basically one long Wild Teen Party.  

Okay so now you have an idea about the Wild Teen Party I am going to leave you with my favourite example of this trope, which happens to come from one of my all time favourite television episodes.

In the second episode of the short-lived but much loved television series Freaks and Geeks, the Weir parents head out of town for the weekend leaving Lindsay and Sam alone in the house. Lindsay, keen to impress her new freak friends, especially Daniel, agrees to host a keg party. Lindsay makes Sam agree to tell his parents but after watching a presentation on drinking driving at school Sam grows increasingly worried about the party. To save his sister from herself, Sam switches the keg to non-alcoholic beer.

The party happens and despite the fact that they are not actually consuming alcohol the guests, Lindsay included, start to act drunk. It’s hilarious to watch because it really highlights the fact that teenagers use alcohol as an excuse to do things they wouldn’t normally do. They act like idiots without any kind of chemical help because all they really needed was an excuse. In the scheme of things this party isn’t all that wild but it’s a fantastic comment on this trope while still adhering to most of the conventions. It’s amazing really, you should watch it.

And that’s all I have to say about the Wild Teen Party – let me know your favourite examples of this trope in the comments.

Till next time, keep partying.