From the time this page appeared in July 1992′s issue of Sassy, to the publishing of the book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried by Susannah Gora, we have been constantly trying to put a finger on what exactly it is about the teen movies from the 80s that draws in the viewers. Remember, 80s teens were sometimes children of divorce, which was a fairly recent thing in terms of commonality, they were latch key kids, they were coming away from a time where disco, drugs, and multiple sex partners were prevalent, and to boot, there were a myriad of government and global disasters. Remember watching the Challenger explode on live TV? I do. We were crammed in our cafeteria in elementary school, a room that served as a gym and a show room, with benches and tables that pulled out from the wall. White Formica, of course. This particular generation has been touted as being apathetic, when actually, what was happening was that values were falling away from the communities you could see on Leave it to Beaver and the Andy Griffith Show. Families were falling apart, presidents were lying, recession was happening, and violence was becoming more common. It is one thing for Generation Y to grow up with it, but it was something completely different to watch the world turn on a dime in front of you.
But what was it that made these movies so great? According to the American Film Institution, these movies are “the cultural phenomena that helped make us what we are today.” (Gora 2). The settings show teenagers trying to be young adults, even though they were still kids, to cut out a piece of their own future in some way, and to find love and support to move away from their parents. Margie is actually quite wrong in saying that the parents ignore these kids, and that is why they are the way they are. Does it happen in these films? Why, yes. But not all. If you actually watch them, you will see that conversations happen – they HAPPEN. Parents ask about crushes, daily lives, offer advice, give compliments, and seem to care in some of these films. Is this wishful thinking on the part of the teenage audience? Is it unrealistic? Either way, this is not the common thread. Each movie portrays struggles, across cliques, economic status, and naturally, with the self. The family is never truly central.
In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, even Ebert reviewed the movie, saying, “It doesn’t hate its characters or condescend to them” (Gora 44). I found this to be the most realistic snapshot of high school life out of all of these movies. You can see that these teens are not mature enough to handle adult events, but the attempt is still made. Heckerling wanted viewers to see the issues teens faced, these common problems that were bigger than what a teen could handle (Gora 21). Everything is not happy; each are pursuing relationships and reputations. This movie was based off of a book by Cameron Crowe of the same title. Good luck finding it for under $300. Is Judge Reinhold the Napoleon Dynamite of the 80s, or what?
Sixteen Candles gave us just enough weirdness in the family to add comedy to a depressing plot, which equated to a constant reminder of what it felt like to be embarrassed as a teenager. This movie also begins a downhill trend in unrealistic love stories, and patterns, where the poor girl likes the rich boy, or vice versa, or any way you want to slice it. Low self-esteem becomes prevalent, but thankfully, there is always some unaware second character who has no idea how bad they actually have it in life – the typecast nerd.
The Breakfast Club offers a heavy-handed view into kids vomiting up their angst. Many parts of this movie are heartbreaking, and some are so funny it just sticks with you. If anything, two of the best lines are, “We’re all pretty bizarre – some of us are just better at hiding it is all,” and “Screws fall out all the time – the world’s an imperfect place,” which do the best job of summing up teenage life and balancing it out for the viewer. Apparently Judd Nelson used method acting, and was “in character” even off set, which was an annoyance to some of the other actors and staff.
I really didn’t care for Pretty in Pink the first time I saw it. Watching it now, I can see that it does have a rich circle of characters, ideas, and concepts. The melodrama unveiled typical teen reactions that I can plainly see now that I am older. If you pay attention, you see cameos from Gina Gershon and Andrew Dice Clay (who never speaks a word). Duckie is the original emo – his bedroom touts a mattress on a dingy floor, with spray paint on the walls. I do want to know, what is with the 75 layers of clothing? In her book, Gora drops two pieces of gossip that would have changed this world of movies forever. Jennifer Beals was asked to play the part of Andy, and when the film was tested, Blaine and Andy did not get together. The audience was not quiet about their opinion, and the film ending was rewritten so that the pair did get together, which is what the rest of us grew up knowing.
Some Kind of Wonderful is absolutely that – the realism here is that you can see abusive relationships, which do happen to teenagers. What you rarely see is someone who accepts another person’s “weirdness” – I think we all reach for a level of normalcy; however, Mary Stuart Masterson’s character gets total redemption by being realized as the object of affection despite the fact that she is an outspoken, punkish “tomboy.” Be yourself, yo – someone out there loves you exactly the way you are. Best message of the bunch so far.
So Christina thinks Ione Skye was miscast as the lead girl of Say Anything. So dead wrong. Watch the movie – see her awkwardness as she meanders her way through a relationship she does not want to define after never having had a relationship. That alone makes the whole movie for me – nothing is ever so unsettling than having giddy feelings you don’t know what to do with at the start of a relationship. I feel sorry for anyone who has never felt this way about a budding romance. What makes the movie even better is the message. According to the producer, James L. Brooks, Say Anything presents a “different kind of white knight”; not, “I’ll take you away, but I’ll enable you to be you” (Gora 270). Just like in Some Kind of Wonderful, the basic idea of “I love you as you are.”
Heathers is my all time least favorite. While I recognize the fantasy here, the dialogue can be overly witty or sarcastic, which is something else that takes away credibility. The phrases that are coined here suck, and humor is not prevalent. These things take away from the bullying, which is rampant in the film. I can recognize this as satire, but something is missing – why were these bitches, well, bitches? What exactly happened to them? And I can tell you this much – a bully is usually being bullied by someone else. This doesn’t come out of nowhere. And if you look at other films, not all people who have money take it as a privilege to be an abuser.
Also, let us not forget Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Weird Science. And let us also not forget the incredible soundtracks that came from these movies. To that, I say Danke Schoen.
Read Gora’s book for more hot gossip, factoids, and important movie bits you may have missed!