As a teenager who has claimed to have 'gone through it all' - or perhaps the entire tube of spot-fighting lotion - I would of course possess some knowledge regarding the scandalous subject of teen films. Call them whatever you like. Coming of age landmarks. Girl-gets-her-first-kiss-and-likes-it. Drama over nothing whatsoever. At the end of the day, the genre is still the same. So, is it any wonder that teen films continue to entertain us, both young and old (though a 70 year old watching American Pie would be pushing it a bit), and provide us with a meaningful purpose whilst enjoying our downtime?
To those whose memories of their teenager years have long faded or don't have the heart to care over oh-so-dramatic characters, teenage films will hardly stir any hints of a snort or a grin, whereas the rest of us will be spitting out our not-so-wise large gulps of Coke onto the leather sofa. That's alright because teenagers - including films about them - aren't for everyone, although I like to believe (like any goody-two-shoes would) that I would get on like a house on fire with people of all ages.
Therefore, the pale and lifeless-looking teens in Twilight are partly to blame: who would willingly associate themselves with teenagers whose gormless complexions have seen better days? Oh well, time cannot be wasted on thinking about people whose interests solely lie within the BBC 2 channel - films which have defined my generation and others before me are of higher importance!
Whenever schoolwork or handing life's little problems pile more pressure than you can cope with upon you, there is nothing wrong about breaking down and having a little cry. Then watching a film. Believe me, the likes of teen cinema have dragged me out of more depressive currants than any life guard would. Like being transported to a different world within a book, films offer me a glimpse into somebody else's life which, depending on whether it is fictional or based on a real story, is usually much worse than what I sometimes contend with. Have I ever been threatened with a gun whilst clad in the most slim-fitting red dress, like something out of a Special K advert? No way. Was my name mentioned in a pink-coloured book in which classmates were ridiculed and dissed? As if I've ever laid eyes upon such a thing.
Unsurprisingly, films are more dramatic than the events would probably be in real life but, as ticket sales and cult followings suggest, it works well for everyone: we, the cinema-goers, get a thrill out of watching an amazing film, whilst the production companies earn millions from our pockets. But, despite being short of a few pennies, we still love the films which are our go-to friends (if such a title is suitable for a DVD) whenever the going gets tough, or we seek a temporary escape from hard-going reality. And, during the six traumatic years of teenhood, we rely upon the necessities more than ever as they are the few things which remain stable and rarely let us down. Family, friends and chocolate fall within the category and - you guessed it! - teen films are also included, their foolproof ways a consistent source of pleasure and downright good entertainment.
Yet, in order to be classed as a definite teen film, there are several unsaid rules which must be obeyed and followed to the strictest fashion. They are:
- Every film pledging to reach out to teenagers have to promote a message, or at least teach us something which we wouldn't learn in Maths class. From staying true to friends or developing confidence, teen viewers need to have recognized the importance of whatever the film is aiming to teach us. Whatever adults might think, teenagers want to use their brains every once in a while. Even when it comes to the dos and don'ts of apple pie.
- A film must be so extraordinary that we cannot think, eat, sleep or do anything without it interrupting our must-do activities. Think of a stalker: what do they want? For a teenager obsessed with the greatest piece in cinema ever, they need the film above everything else!
- An audience has to yell with joy when the two leading stars kiss each other in the film's steamiest or most iconic scene. Now that is cinema at its greatest.
- Romance, shyness or misery are mandatory in a teen film. There are absolutely no excuses about not doing this one; ignoring or disobeying it would go down as a crime. Otherwise, how will we be able to relate with the characters - and witness our wildest dreams being brought to life?
- Lastly, where would we be without mind-blowing soundtracks? Whether it is the timeless vocals on Don't You Forget About Me or the perfect sing-along Supermodel, these songs are permanently embedded in our brains, as unforgettable as the films in which they were featured. Music + classic teen film = a happy teenager. If only maths could be as easy (and fun) in real life!
Perhaps one of the best known and loved teenage films of the 90s - otherwise recognized as the definite era for teenagers, in which young adults came into their own (and I was born!) - Clueless combines comedy with love and kindness towards others. Shrieks of laughter and amused smirks come thick and fast during the film which, after watching it once, you know that you have to see again.
Loosely based on Jane Austen's 1816 novel Emma, Clueless tells the tale of a fifteen year old called Cher (as named after the famous singer) who lives and goes to school in Beverly Hills. Wealthy, pretty and popular, Cher and her best friend Dionne befriend a new girl, Tai, at their school who, as a studious geek, is worlds apart from the pair. But, being eager to help others, Cher has no problem with turning Tai into her mini-me!
While the clothes, expressions and attitudes are slightly out-dated in comparison to the present day, Clueless is timeless as ever, and is truly worthy being called a Teen Classic. Like a fine wine, it gets better and better each time you watch it because every word and meaning behind it becomes more relevant - and you realize why it has such a strong cult following.
Besides, who would ever tire of Cher's fabulous outfits? Not many could pull off a yellow checked jacket and skirt without resembling a wasp, but she definitely could!
2. Mean Girls (2004)
Having only just started at a new school after being educated at home for seven years, Mean Girls was literally my life in a film. A new girl from a different country (or, in my case, another county) starts at school for the first time (for me, secondary school), and succumbs to the bitchiest girls on campus (whereas I've had a few run-ins). Besides a pre-party animal Lindsay Lohan and her flame-red hair, Mean Girls was an exact copy of what I've gone through in the past two months or so. And, unlike the giggles abound in Clueless, Mean Girls is the film which I can relate to the most - and still enjoy it as much as ever!
Fifteen year old Cady has just moved back from Africa after spending the past twelve years there while her parents have worked as zoologists, and is just about to attend high school for the first time. Her first day was awkward as she got used to school life, but she soon makes friends with the less popular but nicer kids.
However, the Plastics - a clique of the three most popular (and meanest) girls at school - start chatting to Cady and allow her to hang out with them. This gives Cady the perfect opportunity to spy on the girls and find out what they are really like. Meanwhile, her well-meaning friends are all for it and encourage her to do it, but over time, it seems that Cady is turning into a Plastic!
A teen comedy with a message behind the high heels and glossy lips, Mean Girls explores the bad side of high school and how popularity brings the worst out of people. Yes, the kissing and sly backstabbing might be more dramatic than what you would expect in real life, but it is an honest portrayal of reality - and one of which we would rather pretend did not exist.
The expressions and phrases have long been part of the English language and, ten years after it was released, fanfare for Mean Girls is still going strong. Just tell me: what ever happened to 'fetch'?
3. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Often regarded as one of the best high school films ever, it is hardly surprising that I've included The Breakfast Club on this list which, not only introduced us to the legendary Brat Pack, but also the director and writer who created their films, John Hughes.
It isn't often when we stop to think about the people who created the films which we love and cherish so dearly, but John Hughes - who sadly passed away in 2009 - was the definite film writer for teens whose work spoke for us and expressed our feelings in ways we didn't know how.
If anything, he was the one who created the teen genre and made it accessible to people of all ages around the world. From the moment that The Breakfast Club was released nearly thirty years ago, cinema had changed forever: teenagers have a voice and, unlike ever before, deserve to have it heard.
Stuck in detention at seven o' clock on a Saturday morning, five people - from entirely different backgrounds - are thrown into a room together. There is an athlete, a brain, a basket case, a criminal and a princess - and, as each come from different cliques, none of them believe they share anything in common. To make matters worse, they are obliged to stay in their chairs, not speak or go to sleep for a period of over eight hours, making the most of the time to write a 1,000 word long essay about who they believe they are. Just exactly what you'd love to do at the weekend!
Over time, however, the five people - three guys, two girls - gradually get to know each other by talking or, for a while, arguing. The greatest thing about The Breakfast Club is that the not-so-easy subjects are brought up, such as suicide, abuse and virginity - the audience, mainly teenagers, are not shielded from discussions which would otherwise be more appropriate for adults. It was a landmark for teenagers and cinema when the film was released in the mid-80s', and that feeling of wow takes your breath away - to a certain extent, I'm still reeling from it a year on!
Of course, the famous scenes - dancing on tables is a scene I wish to recreate - make you envy them because, unfortunately, not all of us are privileged to hang out with cool kids on a Saturday morning. At times like this, I yearn for life to be more like The Breakfast Club!
Final word: just watch the film and be amazed by classic 80s' cinema. It's time well spent!