Why I’ll Never Stop Watching Teen Movies)
I am not a teenager. I am so much not a teenager that you could triple the age of an 18 year old and still not quite get to how old I am. And yet, despite my graying hair and status as grandmother, I have a lifelong love of teen movies. Sure, I still have a somewhat nostalgic love for the movies of my adolescence (Better Off Dead, The Outsiders, Sixteen Candles) but I also get excited about the release of a promising teen film now, when I’m old enough to have finally stopped having nightmares about forgetting my locker combination. Analyzing the reasons why adults love teen movies sounds boring when we could all just go watch 10 Things I Hate About You instead, but here are a couple of observations.
On the most obvious level, teen movies are nostalgic time capsules; at least the ones that are set when they were made. I’m not sure any genre gives a better recap of fashion, music, or language than teen movies – albeit a heightened version. It’s comfort food to revisit the music of Dazed and Confused or the oh-so-2000s styles of Save the Last Dance, and who doesn’t enjoy comfort food now and then?
But I think my love of teen movies is more than just nostalgia for the aesthetics. Teen movies capture a moment when the stakes are high on everything. There is an intensity to first loves and best friendships, to petty humiliations and small victories, and every decision feels like it could have lifelong consequences. I love that about teens. I appreciate when filmmakers remember and communicate what it feels like to be at that place in life.
Of course, not all teen movies are seeking that kind of emotional authenticity. Some of them just want to rack up the body count at Camp Crystal Lake or let the nerd lose his virginity to the hot senior. I don’t enjoy those as much, but some of them will be included in what I’m about to do here at Zeke Film – which is to watch or rewatch teen films from across the decades and write my reactions to them. Youth may be wasted on the young, said the cranky front porch guy in It’s a Wonderful Life (a significant portion of which is a teen romance/coming of age film), but youth movies will never be wasted on me. Count on it: I’ll be the old lady at the nursing home trying to gather a group for yet another screening of Say Anything.