Analysis Of Teenagers Lifes’ Based On Movies

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Being a teenager was not easy, in the 1950s teens were more often than not being marginalised by parents, they weren’t aided to, had little television shows aimed at them and were often left out and unincluded. However, strength and momentum started to build on this generation as they developed their styles, interests and image. Through the use of music, proms, and wild parties, teenagers began to discover what they were able to do and welcomed it with open arms. However, this phase did not last long as they started to be condemned from doing any of these reckless activities. Marginalisation turned to indifference and progressed into condemnation. Meaning, parties were shut down, teen dances were banned, and a lot of students were expelled for activities that in today’s age would be called normal. A giant portion of adults disapproved and were strict regarding the values and lifestyle of students.

In due time, this suppression created anger and formed into rebellion. Leading to -in those times- illegal house parties, fast cars and general delinquency in the streets. Also due to how the media displayed violence it was consistently suggested that those of African American decent were to blame. They were racially profiled and stereotyped by the mass media to be knife-wielding hoodlums. From this, young people learned and inflicted, thus bring the rise of juvenile delinquency with them. One film that outlines this widely discussed topic is ‘The Blackboard Jungle’.

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In ‘The Blackboard Jungle’, main character, Dadier is hit with multiple hurdles, these being the unmotivated students, lousy school facilities, unproductive administration and futile teacher education. The film makes it evident that Dadier was not prepared to deal with the lack of classroom discipline as well as under-achieving students. To top it off, the school was also very dangerous: within the film he rescues a female teacher from attempted rape, he and a colleague are then attacked in an alleyway by a teenage gang as well as having to combat a student carrying a knife in the classroom. Throughout 1955, the film was insulted in many ways, it was banned, denounced and scapegoated because of the use of violence as well as uncovering the depleted use of the educational facilities. However, this film outlines many of the worries of the post-war era: the public-school crisis and juvenile delinquency.

During the 1950s, juvenile delinquency was being widely discussed in the United States, it was more often blamed in the rise of youth culture as well as popular culture, stating that young people gain ideas and insight to violence through the use of music, film and comic books, and questioning whether ‘teen pics’ such as ‘The Blackboard Jungle’ were corrupting Americas youth. Ultimately without question, the film was included into the moral panic about young people and delinquency.

‘The Blackboard Jungle’ was loosely based on Author Evan Hunter’s experience as an English teacher at a high school in New York City. According to hunter, he found teaching both ‘challenging and deeply disheartening’. He claimed he has a student who could not write his own name and many of those who could not read a single word, though Hunter did not experience any of the violence insinuated in his books, he claimed that these incidents were all ‘within the realm of realistic plausibility’ and wanted his novel to mirror conditions in many urban schools.

The problem with parenting and teenagers at that time was that most of the time, parents saw themselves as bodyguards and protectors rather than guides. They become so overprotective about general activities and the public sphere that it makes the child ultimately believe they are too brittle to cope with any reality that life throws at them.

Another factor being rebellion. Teenagers, in all ages of time do not enjoy being told what to do, feeling as though the parents are making decisions for them and taking away their right to choose as well as privacy. Some may say what is privacy for teenagers, however this is a very important factor. It is widely known that teenagers enjoy having their own space and freedom of choice; giving off the impression that they like to be in charge, however they know that the need an authority figure to help and be a guide. Many parents at that time make the mistake of being way too overprotective as well as inflicting very strict rules and regulations for them to follow, leading to disobedience and delinquency.

In the 1950s being at wild parties and having fast cars was all the rave. Often, those who do not have these aspects or were ‘not good enough’ to have them were left out and seen as ‘nerds’ when in reality they were only complying to rules and wanted a good education. From this came bullying. Students that did not have an interest in going to parties or showing off were repeatedly made fun of and humiliated for being a compliant to school regulations as seen in the film ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’.

The breakfast club stars 5 very different teenagers: The Athlete – Andrew Clarke, The Princess – Claire Standish, the Basket Case – Allison Reynolds, The Brain – Brain Johnson and The Criminal – John Bender. About how a group of kids all from different high school groups ended up together to give us an insight to what teenagers really think about. The film covers quite a few examples of stereotypes, the mise-en-scene of this film was all about the looks. For example. the first time Andrew’s stereotype was shown was in a locker. Clothes laying around the floor, lockers open, untidy equipment- showing what would typically be the life of an athlete. Same goes for looks and outfit- Claire- being the ‘princess’ of the group was always seen to be wearing a nice outfit, make up as well as pearly earrings to show of the typical ‘spoiled’ stereotype.

The breakfast club finds many ways to break down social barriers, firstly by pointing out the differences in the group to the extent of their lunches- from sushi to a crisp sandwich. Then giving them something in common, such as the boredom of being in detention. However, an important factor in the film is that the parents are barely ever seen within the film. Only at the very start they are seen dropping the kids off to detention, but these seconds are enough to describe what the family’s personality is like. For example, Brian’s family car was briefly shown with the number plate ‘EMC 2’ a reference to Albert Einstein’s famous equation. But much of what the kids talk about during the detention- and what seems to be upsetting them all the most- is how they deal with their parental figures.

The breakfast cub analyses the worries of a teenager by allowing them to have something in common. They all have different and unique problems regarding their lives at home and how they have been programmed to behave.

Most of Hughes films contain some factors that are known to be horrible in the 21st century. For example, in Sixteen Candles, had a casual appearance of a date rape, a character that was a racist stereotype as well as a character whose medical condition was a walking joke. Similarly in The Breakfast Club – Claire gets a merciless grilling from Bender about her virginity, and unusually falls for her tormenter, whilst Allison gets a makeover to make her look like the brunette version of Claire – also showing the stereotypes through this as Andrew seems to fall for her, only after her appearance had changed but not her personality. The most important factor in this film was stereotyping, through this we’ve begun to understand how stereotyping can be harmful to children and adults, even unconscious stereotyping can be harmful for education and even development.

Another anxiety that this film covers is bullying. Within the film- John Bender taking Brian’s lunch or when he mocks Claire about her virginity. We even see bullying in the teachers when Principal Vernon threatens Bender with physical assault and then locks him in the school closet. However, one of the most important changes in attitudes towards bullying is how it was portrayed in the film 21 Jump Street. Channing Tatum plays the role of a bully that enjoys receiving the dominance and high self-esteem from bullying but when arriving at his new school he is met with dislike and scorn. The black mark attached to mental illness also changed when this film was introduced. ‘When you grow up, your heart dies’-Allison Sheedy, The Breakfast Club. The emotions explored in this film though are often uncomfortably realistic, still Hughes delves deeper when the characters are uncovering truths about themselves. Funnily enough, he also captures the change of moods of a teenager, when Andrew feels comfortable enough to talk about himself and expresses it physically by ripping off his shirt and running around the library.

The issues that the film has covered – class, authority, parents and peer-pressure – seem to never leave the teenage experience. The understanding way the film has covered these issues leads us to believe that it will resonate with future generations, almost as much as it did back then, and still will during adulthood. Another film that explores the anxieties of a teenager in a lot of context is the film ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’.

Ten things I hate about you mainly features a teenaged woman who is repeatedly told is a ‘feisty rebel’ and for the beginning part of the film she lives up to that title. Though this film did break some barriers with its scripts, for example: when the heroine- Julia Stiles is in her English class and they discuss Hemmingway. Most of the girls found him romantic, however, she on the other hand claimed he was an “…alcoholic, misogynist who squandered half of his life hanging around Picasso trying to nail his leftovers.” I believe this was a great step for ‘teen pics’ of their kind as youth weren’t often portrayed as smart or though-evoking. Instead they were more often than not seen as dumb and sluggish creatures, in other words- stupid. This film explored teenage anxieties in a different way to other films, for example, in The Breakfast club the problems faced by them were more personal- being their relationships with their parents, however, in this film, they explore how teenagers are represented. It is often believed that if a student argues or disagrees with the teacher/superior, they must be wrong and therefore deemed as stupid. On the other hand, intelligent youths are expected to ‘respect their superiors’ and ‘know their place’, labelling them as smart and responsible.

The film introduces these young stars as a fresh representation of the teenage life, steering in a different direction from typical teenage behaviour. Though the theme through this film was mostly about dating, and it is shown as a form of peer pressure, and the main character -Bianca- constantly states: ‘I am the only girl that doesn’t date’.

The value of individualism is also explored a lot throughout the film with the character of Kat. The tone is mostly happy; however, she begins to doubt her individualism and independence when she begins to get close to Patrick, bring back the stereotypical aspect of the film by giving it an ultimate happy ending. But Kat’s independence represents the oppression of women in the patriarchal society that was back then, and then as society was advancing, making it no longer an issue. The film was initially a romantic comedy as well as being a feminist film. It portrays feminism without feeling as though we are being lectured but instead, we are inspired my Kat and cheer her on.

I believe that this film has recognised and led to the increase in female freedom as well as empowerment. The independence this influences impacts heavily in the females of the film and outside the film. This then creates a film that explores concepts such as trust, and the value of individually that this film gives women.

The filmmaker’s portrayal of an independent, unapologetic, sexually active teenager feminist was indeed a ground breaking example at the time when only a few films dared to cover the complexities of a teenaged girl. Even to today’s date, feminism is associated with man-hating: a completely wrong concept. However, one of the concepts that are more on the negative aspect is the portrayal of the girl’s single parent. The lack of understanding is evident throughout the film, he doesn’t seem to understand that anything sexual needs two people choosing to participate. As well as this, his fears regarding drinking and smoking have been magnified comically; even though this was meant for a comical affect, Bianca points out many times that this ideology creates a hold over any teenaged girl.

The three of these films cover the different ages of teenage anxieties. In Blackboard jungle the problems consisted of serious issues such as stabbings, severe delinquency, unparalleled to the problems in the foreseeable future. Moving up in time, The Breakfast Club covers more emotional deeper feelings of acceptance and the questioning of identity rather than the physical problem. And finally, Ten Things I Hate About You covers another branch of anxieties being feminism and the oppression of females- the way they are expected to behave. Overall, these films were a very important feature of the previous decades, allowing many forms of teenagers to believe that they weren’t the only ones who were going through these issues. The films gave a sense of hope to many teenagers, after all the feeling of being recognised to such a deep level must have given them a sense of reassurance- that they weren’t alone. 


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