In Praise of Current Teen Films

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Liz Kelly

Yesterday’s post about “Red Dawn” got me thinking about the ’80s and, specifically, the seemingly rich (at least in hindsight) array of teen movies produced during the decade: “The Outsiders,” “War Games,” “Goonies,” “Better Off Dead,” “Lost Boys,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Heathers”… all pillars of my “we had better movies when I was a teen” argument (which I often deploy to my 14-year-old niece every time I’m dragged to a Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes release).

Was the message from Hollywood better, too, or is that the rose-colored glasses again?

In the ’80s, I think we paid more attention to the on-screen characters being portrayed by the brat pack than to the gossip surrounding them. (Or maybe my parents just didn’t keep my “Teen Beat” subscription up-to-date.) Those characters, especially in John Hughes’ flicks, were the underdogs, the individuals who functioned outside the cheerleader/jock dynamic. Molly Ringwald in “16 Candles” and “Pretty in Pink,” Corey Haim in “Lucas,” Mary Stuart Masterson as the drumming love interest of Eric Stoltz in my favorite, “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

The focus now seems to be on the off-screen antics of stars like Lohan and the ever-tabloid-present Olsen twins. All in a day’s work for watchers of celeb culture, but enough to make an aunt of a 14-year-old cringe.

In any case, I’m thinking of creating a Netflix account pre-loaded with some classic ’80s fare for my unsuspecting niece. The movies I named above are givens, but more suggestions would be most welcome..

It is funny that I came across this tonight (or this morning as the case may be) as the adorable and cuddly mrs tbogg and I were discussing what we refer to as The Holy Trinity of Teen Films from the 80’s (Pretty In Pink/ The Breakfast Club/ Sixteen Candles) just last week, all of which stand the test of time in that teens today are still watching them (as the fruit of our respective loins can attest). But my point at the time was that, when it comes to quality films for teens, the current crop is of a much better vintage. Cases in point (my list going back to 1998):

Ghost World
The Virgin Suicides
Donnie Darko
Mean Girls
Napoleon Dynamite
Love and Basketball
10 Things I Hate About You
October Sky

To use an expression that I hate, ‘reasonable people can agree or disagree’ about what qualifies as a “teen film” (for example some might include Rushmore, but I haven’t found a teenager who likes it. I’m guessing it’s more of a college /slacker crowd thing). I can only go by my personal teen’s choices (adding that, without asking her, her favorite viewing seem to be Memento and endless episodes of Buffy). I do believe that the first three (Thirteen, The Virgin Suicides, and Ghost World) will be rediscovered by teens twenty years from now and that those kids will encounter the same relatable moments and minor epiphanies that todays teens experience when watching them.

You may haggle the merits of the list as well as any omissions that “Omigawd, how could you not mention…” in the comments. Just click the timestamp and have at it…

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