Every Generation Can Relate: Teen Movies

Every Generation Can Relate: Teen Movies

Since the 1950s, teenagers have been a major aspect of many Hollywood productions - because the stories are often timeless.

The teen drama/comedy is a staple of American entertainment. Bands play to teenage audiences, movies are made about relatable (or as relateable as people who were teenagers thirty years ago can write) teen lives, Hot Topic relies on the 13-17 market to stay afloat. However, there is a lot more room to move around in the genre than there is in most. Science fiction usually leans into interglatctic war, Westerns are usually just Gunsmoke or A Fistful of Dollars, whereas the teen genre can range from raunchy comedy such as American Pie to deeper, meaningful dramas like The Perks of Being a Wallflower. And with one such film getting a ton of early Oscar buzz and breaking the positive review record on Rotten Tomatoes, it's time we looked at what the teen movie genre can do beyond sell tickets to high school students.

The first successful teen film was the James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause. The film was considered provocative for the time, though by today's standards is pretty tame. This came out in the 1950s, which was a decade best known as “the birth of the teenager” where sock hops and Archie-like times were had by all. Rock and roll was beginning, and rebellion was being shown on the big screen. Over the next few decades, more movies looked at teenagers and their lives, but were often stylized with other genres to appeal to a wider audience such as West Side Story and A Clockwork Orange, the latter of which was banned in Britain due to the film's violence. In 1972, George Lucas (the same one who made Star Wars) released his love letter to late 50s/early 60s teen life, American Graffiti. This was an instant hit, helping inspire the creation of the show Happy Days, which was set in the same time period and also starred Ron Howard, who would go on to work with Lucas again on Willow, and with Lucasfilm on the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story. American Graffiti continues to make several “Top 1970s Movies” lists, and is also studied in many film schools. Thanks to the film and the ensuing television program, there was a renewed interest in the teen market, but it would take over a decade to hit it's heyday.

The master of the teen movie genre was the late John Hughes, best known for his 1980s work with the “Brat Pack.” Starting his career with National Lampoon, Hughes had a fondness for his teen years, often writing about them in articles for National Lampoon's flagship magazine (some stories would be adapted into the Vacation series, the majority of which were written by Hughes). At the time, the risque teen comedy was a big deal in Hollywood, Porky's and Fast Times at Ridgemont High were the most recent successful films about teens. Instead of making a movie like those, he opted to focus on middle class America, and went on to write and direct Sixteen Candles – bringing his name to the top. The film was followed by a string of hits, some more comedic than others. His magnum opus, however, is undoubtedly The Breakfast Club, telling the story of five different teenagers together in Saturday detention “for whatever it was we did wrong.” To this day, the story of “the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal” is still being discussed and parodied and inspiring other films. Thanks to John Hughes, several actors have made their carreers, such as Matthew Broderick, Emilio Estevez, and Molly Ringwald. Hughes made such a name for himself, that unproduced John Hughes scripts are a hot topic, considering his string of failures following Home Alone.

In the modern era, the genre has returned after a small break. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a big success in the independent circuit, and coincidentally, was at one point, a John Hughes project before his death in 2009. This is a much more serious take on the genre, dealing with topics such as depression and the always saddening experience of having friends years ahead of you in school. Since then, we've seen films like Edge of Seventeen and television programs like Stranger Things. This year, Lady Bird was released, and quickly became one of the most talked about movies of the year. The film covers the final year of high school for a girl who goes by the name “given to [her] by [her” of “Lady Bird.” The film broke the previous record of most positive reviews of a movie on Rotten Tomatoes, beating out Toy Story 2 (this is individual reviews, not most positive reviews ever, which doesn't mean it's a better film than say, The Godfather). Lady Bird is gaining quite a bit of Oscar traction, a rarity for a movie about high schoolers – and in some critic awards, it has already brought home the gold. Also this year, Spider-Man: Homecoming combined the staples of 80s teen comedy/dramas with the superhero genre, right down to the final battle taking place on the night of the Homecoming dance. Much like The Breakfast Club, modern teen films show teenagers not as just troublemaking kids with cars, rather as three-dimensional characters that can easily be related to.

Teen movies are nothing new, nor are ones that are considered amazing movies in general. However, this is a very different playing field than it used to be. With more freedom to make the movie you want to make, and more distribution models such as Netflix and even Vimeo, a younger generation of filmmakers can work in a genre that they easily can relate to. From writing about their own experiences to making up timeless stories, the formative years of one's life will always make for good entertainment. We all have those teen movies we remember and know word for word, because somewhere, we find ourselves in the stories. There is so much that can be done with this genre of film, even up to the fantastic. That cannot be said about many others. Lady Bird may win big this year, and join the ranks of other classic films telling the story of young people growing up into the real world.

Cover Image Credit: A24

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.

When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...


"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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