« OSS117 | Main | Fairy Tales are not real »

Not another teen movie

I recently had the occasion to watch a Danish film called “Kick ‘n Rush.? The film was billed as a teen movie. I became interested in comparing this “teen movie? with movies such as “American Pie? and other such American “teen movies.? I wondered if it was possible that the teen experience as represented on film was universal in cultures across the ocean from each other. What I found surprised me a little. Instead of finding a romp that doesn’t really represent anything that I lived in high school, I found a realistic, thoughtful, and insightful film about being a teenager which is applicable not only in Denmark but also the small town in Wisconsin that I grew up in.

The characters in the movie play the usual pranks and have the occasional meaningless flings and talk about sex just as much as the characters do in American Pie. However, they try to find meaning in their lives and often fail miserably due to their lack of understanding. There is also the omnipresent question in teen movies about identity and where one fits in. One of the main characters is a brilliant soccer player; however, due to his being misguided as many teenagers are and not feeling comfortable with the identity that is given him by his parents and society, he does drugs and parties too often. One of these parties causes him to play miserably when a professional scout is there watching the game. All of his friends and his family are disappointed since they expected him to live up to his destiny. However, even after they try to console him and reconcile their expectations he has become too distant: he ends up dying because of drugs. While the other friends party as well they find ways to manage their lives, and in the end on notices that they are changed by their experiences. I found this a very interesting film because it was a mixture of the typical American teen movie with some heavy doses of drama that made it a powerful movie as well. Furthermore, I started thinking about all the challenges of being young in today’s world. Now that I have grown up, I can look back on my experiences as I teenager and I understand them a little more.

When I was in high school, I had straight A’s my first semester much as I had all through Middle School. However, the second semester something happened and I started losing interest in school. I had been shy all through grade school, and I could no longer handle the social awkwardness that I had felt for so long. High school is for many a very awkward experience. You have to try to figure out where you fit in. Are you a jock, a nerd, or a preppy? Oftentimes the definitions that are given to people change who there are and how they act in given situations. Jocks are supposed to beat up nerds so many do, just as Emilio Estevez’s character beats up one of the friends of the “nerd? in the movie the Breakfast Club.

My case is a little different. In order to find out who I was, I started hanging around people who didn’t care as much about school as I had previously. We had a lot of fun, we didn’t do drugs or drink or anything. We just weren’t too enthusiastic about school. I still ran cross-country and track and was very good at them both. We were a marginalized group of friends, we weren’t geeks, but we weren’t cool. Over the course of the next year, I developed different friends. These friends liked drinking and cigarettes and all had older brothers who could procure them for us. Some of these friends were “jocks?, others were “preppies? and most all of them were popular. I however was not popular; I had just known several of them through various encounters. I didn’t really feel that I fit in with them either, I wasn’t really as charismatic or as gregarious as any of them were.
My final change came at the summer between my junior and senior year when I tried smoking pot for the first time. Looking back that was one of the most significant events in my life, not because it was unique, but because it corresponded with a growing disdain for being a successful student and trying to fit in. I tried lots of drugs the last two years of high school, and that was pretty much all that I did. On the other hand, I had developed a rather large social network that included the previous friends that I had. I was beginning to know a lot of people. I even had a few girlfriends during this period. However, in this final phase in my exploration I had to go to truancy court several times, got several underage drinking fines, lost contact with my parents for awhile and eventually had to go to night school for three hours a night just to graduate from high school.

I think that even though the social system is constructed to develop people who fit into society, there are other ways to be happy and still conform relatively to the society. Sometimes, the institutions of modern America such as the high schools are too restrictive in that they give teenagers too little room to define themselves. The consequences of not feeling as though you fit into whichever group you have been cast into can sometimes have serious consequences such as for the soccer player in the movie. Sometimes it takes time, and sometimes you have to test the boundaries of this society and see where you fit into it. While my dabbling in different social groups preventing me from really attaching myself to any of them and also had a strong negative effect on my future, I feel happy that I was able to develop an image of myself that is not completely dependent on narrow, constrictive identities that are too often represented in American films and society.