There were some memories with television and movies
from when I was even just a bit younger that I'm glad to have had. I remember seeing Thriller
when I was maybe 9 or so (I've blocked out most of middle school and prior, see various reasons
). I was terrified, but enchanted
. When CNN
filmed live the rescue of baby Jessica from the well, I was there, on the edge of my seat. When Challenger blew up
, I was in middle school, aghast at what I was seeing, not wanting to believe it. We watched The Berlin Wall
fall while my brother was in Germany in the Army; he sent us pieces of stone and barbed wire.
When I was in high school, there was one movie that woke me up to the time I was living in , a time where nothing seemed to be happening . From the soundtrack alone, I awakened into the era of Alternative music when it was just paddling out, where it was just finding its own section in music stores. From one movie's inspiration, I began listening to bands like Sonic Youth, Urban Dance Squad, Rollins Band , Concrete Blonde , the Pixies, Leonard Cohen, and Cowboy Junkies. That movie was Pump up the Volume.
As cheesy as it is to find your historical significance in a poorly lit teen epic, for an introverted and socially inept bookworm like me, it was just what the doctor ordered. Even if it wasn't my cause, I needed it to break out of my silence . I needed to see teenagers behind something even as trivial as their right to be teenagers , their right to be who they are at that moment.
Then college came. College brings with it a lot of old school must-have's , like Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pink Floyd, smoking pot, and couch surfing . It's the place from which everyone wants to escape frequently from the "Real World" illusion that comes with not living with your parents, yet not be able to live by your own means . So you go inside your head, or out to bars, or from within the annals of your journal or class textbooks, not quite ready to deal with anything too harsh, too vivid, that someone can't bail you out of it.
So then again, I had my comfort movie, Reality Bites. It's about college grads who struggle with getting on with their lives . Looking back, I realize how hard it is to get going on a goal so simple as living, really living. I spent my first year out of college in denial, in confusion, and in New Orleans.
There are two Brat Pack movies that can be comparable to the two mentioned above, and they are also two other favorites of mine. The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire. I didn't go to high school or college in the 80's, so I wasn't so hip to the 'me' Generation , but I took enough away from those flicks to know what they were talking about, and the movies that I picked to relate to were not much different.
On a separate note, one of my favorite quick read type of books is called Or Not To Be: A Collection of Suicide Notes (if the title doesn't bum you out right away, definitely pick it up at your local Barnes & Noble). In it, it documents that people were killing themselves 200 years ago for almost the same exact reasons that they do today : love, stress, mental instability, money, loneliness, depression, and overall unhappiness with life .
For the most part and at least up until my own generation became the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder, teenagers go through the same growing pains that they always have. If teens today don't want to read books, I hope that they at least find a cinematic mirror of themselves, if anything to remind them that they are not in this alone.
From my experience with all the shitty sit-coms I've grown up watching, the only decent one for teens was sadly cancelled when it's ratings feel below the desired level. It was called My So-Called Life . It was on TV around 1993, so it reflected a bit of the grunge era that I was introduced to when I was attending college at that time. It had already been cancelled before I got to see it, but I taped it religiously, finding it to be the most honest of depth perceptive representation of how teens can be, what emotions and choices they are more than qualified to have and make on their own.
It made me jealous; I would have killed for a high school existence that these teens lamented, but at the same time I was thankful to see it. I could relate to struggles and feelings of being misunderstood . Who has been a teen and not felt that way?
Movies and shows like these introduce tension. They can stir us up , wake us up, even in the most trite of formats . I for one am more than glad that they were around, and I wonder if teens today will be able to say the same.