Up until the 1940s, teenagers weren’t really a thing. We don’t mean that people used to time-warp from age 12 to 20. We mean that the cultural concept – this ethereal, not-quite-child-yet-not-quite-adult period in human development – simply wasn’t considered to exist prior to the Great Depression. Up until then, you were either a child or you were an adult.
That all changed with a single spread in the December 1944 issue of Life.
In a historic attempt to quantify this “new” American youth phenomenon, Life excitedly told of the “teen-age” girl – specifically the white, middle-class teen-age girl.
The expose then went on to paint a picture of American teenagers as we all know them from every teen comedy ever, from their crippling obsession with phones, to their insistence on playing their ding-danged music too loud, to their tendency to be completely bored with just, like, everything.
Fast forward several years, and the word “teenager” had officially entered the national lexicon, thereby cementing John Hughes’ future career and instilling in all of us the firm belief that everyone else’s teenage years were way better than our own.