Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lessons I Learned from Teen Movies, Part I

There's nothing I like more than learning a good lesson. (A trait I'm sure I picked up from the American Girls and Stan Marsh.) Here's what I learned from some of the teen movies I've watched over the years.


Synopsis: A sixteen year old Beverly Hills airhead tries to mentor a new girl, learns some life lessons, and finds love in the most unlikely of places.

Lessons Learned: Using a computer for things other than the Oregon Trail and Midnight Madness doesn't make you a dork or a shut-in. Computers can make things pretty. (I have it on pretty good authority the Weinstein Brothers were taking a break from writing Clueless fanfic when they came up with the idea of equipping each Project Runway contestant with an HP Tablet.) Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg, I credit Cher with transforming computers from dull to chic.

Also: incest is best, Wally Shawn is capable of expanding his range beyond "INCONCEIVABLE," and everyone's favorite diva Cher has a hidden past as an infomercial goddess.


Synopsis: Kevin Williamson pays homage to the slasher genre in this 90s send up of horror movies.

Lessons Learned: Jason Voorhes' mother was the killer in Friday the 13th. I repeat, Jason Voorhes' mother was the killer in Friday the 13th.

Can't Hardly Wait

Synopsis: Right after graduation, high schoolers attend a party. Preston hopes that after years of unrequited love, the newly dumped, popular girl Amanda will discover a love of literary nerds, while outcast Denise finds love in the unlikeliest of places.

Lessons Learned: Ways to start a relationship: common interests, no. Biting the bullet and taking them to dinner and a movie, no. Waiting years until they're dumped and vulnerable and then moving in for the kill: yes. Finding yourself trapped in a bathroom with nothing else to do: yes.

And people are surprised that flowers, chocolates, and sonnets have been replaced by negs and Facebook pokes.

Empire Records

Synopsis: A day in the life of a group of high school kids working at an alternative record store, trying to deal with their various problems, and attempting to save their store from the forces of corporate evil.

Lessons Learned: Damn the man! Save the Empire! Gamble with your boss's hard earned savings in Atlantic City! And do it with maximum navel exposure. Years from now, the Museum of Sex is going to feature another exhibit on cultures and their fetishes, and right alongside the Chinese and foot binding, the Japanese and their love of necks, the men of the 1990s and their belly buttons will be right there next to them.

Cruel Intentions

Synopsis: Decadent prep school students manipulate the lives of kids around them in this Dangerous Liaisons remake.

Lessons Learned: I learned that you can avoid sleazy 90s teen movies your entire life and somehow still have to watch them for class when you attend an Ivy League institution of higher learning. And director Roger Kumble learned that when you're making a movie about prep school kids that you should think a little bigger. After all, give Katherine Mertreuil a few more Barney's shopping scenes and give Sebastian a pet monkey, take Sebastian's journal and give it a nameless narrator, and you've got Cecily Von Ziegesar's oeuvre. Poor Roger probably still can't watch Gossip Girl without wishing he'd given Sarah Michelle Gellar a few more scenes in her school girl uniform and found a good publishing company to collaborate with.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Synopsis: A lovable high schooler plays hooky, avoids the wrath of Principal Rooney, and tries to show his best friend how to appreciate the little things.

Lessons Learned: Life moves pretty quickly. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.

Also, if you want to steal other people's lunch reservations and mess with vintage cars that don't belong to you with impunity, it helps to spout off pithy aphorisms at random intervals.


Synopsis: A high school pariah with telekinetic powers takes revenge on her fellow students at prom.

Lessons Learned: When taking revenge on your peers, less is more. Carrie White's vengeance was theatrical but she could have done just as much damage and lived to tell about it with just a piece of chalk. Next time, be less like Carrie White and more like Mathilda Wormwood. (Though to be fair, when Mathilda exacted revenge on Miss Trunchbull, she hadn't just been pelted with tampons.)