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Research paper topic: The Decade Of Realizations: Amercian Youth During The Last Century - 1469 words
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.. of the time. Samantha has a crush on popular and successful sportsman, Jake (Michael Schoeffling). Jake is dating Caroline (Haviland Morris), a girl Samantha considers to be perfect but Jake wants more than a superficially beautiful girlfriend (I want a serious girlfriend, somebody I can love thats gonna love me back) and so chooses to pursue Samantha, despite, the fact he has never spoke to her before. Eventually, they become a couple, the narrative is complete, and everyone is happy.
The film series has further similarities to teenage magazines of the time, for example, McRobbie describes four categories of Jackie boys which can be applied to the films: First, there is the fun-loving, grinning, flirtatious boy who is irresistible to all the girls [Ferris Bueller and sportsmen Jake (Sixteen Candles) and Andrew (The Breakfast Club)]; second the tousled, scatterbrain zany youth who inspires maternal feelings in girls [Duckie (Jon Cryer) in Pretty In Pink and Ted / Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) in Sixteen Candles]; third, the emotional, shy, sensitive and even arty type [Blane in Pretty In Pink, Cameron (Alan Ruck) in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Brian in The Breakfast Club]; and fourth, the juvenile delinquent usually portrayal on his motorbike looking wild and aggressive but sexy, and whom the girl must tame [Bender in The Breakfast Club] (McRobbie, 1991, p.99) These films and teenage magazines share a common criticism: the triviality of problems featured but as Willis suggests for most young people today pop music and pop culture is their only expressive outlet (Willis, p.1), these sites are the only places where teens can discuss, and have discussed, such triviality that seems so important at the time. The films and magazines offer escapism, a look into other peoples lives but at the same time, they offer an image of reality to those teenagers who live such lives; those who have relatively stable home life, who are safe from violence and drugs, and who attended a high school like those shown (even to black teenagers in this situation, the films offer a level of reality if not actually representation). The problems featured may seem trivial when compared to later films like Kids (1995, dir. Larry Clark) but they feel very real and important to teenagers with nothing else to worry about, and they also lead further into the notions of innocence discussed earlier. The images of rebellion shown also seem innocent and almost harmless as they seen directly transplanted from the 1950s; for example, Charlie Sheens Wild On in the police station in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Bender pulls a flick-knife, rather than a gun, in The Breakfast Club. Feeding into this, what is considered rebellious also seems petty: playing truant, ending up in detention, and being grounded by parents.
However, if these are the worst punishment, the individual is likely to experience, then, as discussed earlier, this will seem more serious. In the early 1980s, the image of being a rebel for these teenagers was probably more important actions and a persons image was essential in determining their social status. Around these images were clichs or teen tribes (Bernstein, 1997, p.61) as Bernstein calls them, which were (and still are) almost subcultures within the school and out-of-school environments. There are clichs present in all of the films being studied from the perfects, geeks and average people (the central character) in Sixteen Candles, the previously discussed riches and trash in Pretty In Pink (the only division is money not lifestyle choices) and the broader cross-section of clichs in The Breakfast Club (as defined at both the beginning and the end a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal); Ferris Bueller's Day Off is notable in this respect because although the secretary describes the groups on the school as sportos, motor heads, geeks, sluts, buds, dweebies [and] wastoids, no clichs are ever shown, the school body merely seems to consist of (mostly white) middle class, uniformly-dressed students and as Fishman notes there are few true individuals in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Fishman, 1998). A further example of the clichelessness in Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the friendship between the super-cool, popular Ferris Bueller and neurotic, hypochondriac Cameron; in reality, it is unlikely that they would remain friends due to outside peer pressure. The Breakfast Club in its representation and examination of clichs suggests that each clich is self-centered not caring about the problems of other clich, that each group tends to be prejudiced against the others (another example of this is the earlier example used from Pretty In Pink quote our hating them for having money is the exact same thing as them hating us for not) and that individual friendships will not be strong enough to overcome the pressure of the clichs (as is suggested at the end). However, the people we see in clichs bring up the suggestion who dont we see? There is a severe lack of ethnic minorities in all the films with a couple of black extras per film and the only non-white character across the series is Long Duk Dong(Gedde Watanabe) in Sixteen Candles who is a ludicrous racial stereotype, although Bernstein tries to justify this by suggesting Hughes deals with many other Caucasian characters with equal malevolence (Bernstein, 1997, p.57).
Sixteen Candles also features a continuing joke about a girl (Joan Cusack) in a back brace, mocking her disability. Less visible are the lack of sexual minorities; the characters are compulsively heterosexual and like politics, sexuality cannot be seen like race or disability so is not evident in any extras. If characters were homosexual, it would not be problematic to the status quo of white, conservative, middle class society that the films represent and promote. There is no narrative reason why the character of Samantha in Sixteen Candles could not be replaced with Samuel for example, except the film would then be seen as a gay film rather than mainstream and no longer innocent even if the rest of the story remained the same. What, if anything, then did these films offer the youth of tomorrow? Despite differences in demographics, high schools still are organized in to clichs and what we see is barely removed from what we suffered at that girls / or that bullys / or that teachers hand humiliation, triumph, momentary regret, tearful farewell.
Any high school, that anyone of us is one of its types (Reed, 1989, p.145). The films offer the idea that such problems can be solved in 90 minutes and also suggest the grass is greener on the other side; if the teenager is living in an inner city terrace house with little money or prospects, then the almost mansions in suburbia shown would be appealing. The characters provide role models and the constant repetition over the last fifteen years (on terrestrial television only Sixteen Candles has been on Christmas for the last three years); the films are still known and influential (Courtney Love labeled The Breakfast Club the defining moment of the alternative generation Bernstein, 1997, p.55). Finally the bubblegum (Bernstein, 1997, p.53) genre offers escapism into a pastel, sweet world where potential issues and the like are swept aside in favor of fashion and romance, and further like the teenage magazines analyzed by McRobbie, they assert a classless, raceless sameness, a kind of false unity (McRobbie, 1991, p.83) as long as the class is the middle class and the race is white. Bibliography Bibliography Bernstein, Jonathon (1997) Pretty in Pink: The Golden Age of Teenage Movies St Martins Press: New York Brake, Mike (1980) The Sociology of Youth Culture and Youth Subcultures Routledge and Kegan Paul : London and Boston Fishman, Arielle (1998) John Hughes' Depiction of the Impacts of Class and Family on Suburban Teens http://www.80s.com/saveferris/essays/fishman.txt McRobbie, Angela (1991) Feminism and Youth Culture: From Jackie to Just Seventeen MacMillian : Basingstoke and London Messner, Adam (1998) Youth Culture And Teen Movies- A Comparative Overview http://www.80s.com/saveferris/essays/messner.txt Reed, Joseph (1989) American Scenarios: The Uses of Film Genre Wesleyan UP : Middletown Thorburn, James (1998) Eighties Teen Movies - Nostalgia, Thy Name Is Judd Nelson http://www.80s.com/saveferris/essays/thorburn.txt Willis, Paul Symbolism and Practice: A Theory for the Social Meaning of Pop Music CCCS : Birmingham (stencilled paper) Filmography Sixteen Candles (1984) directed and written by John Hughes, Universal Studios (US) The Breakfast Club (1985) directed and written by John Hughes, Universal Studios (US) Weird Science (1985) directed and written by John Hughes, Universal Studios (US) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) directed and written by John Hughes, Paramount (US) Pretty In Pink (1986) directed and written by John Hughes, Paramount (US) Some Kind Of Wonderful (1987) directed and written by John Hughes, Paramount (US) Waynes World 2(1994) directed by Stephen Surjik and written by Mike Myers, Paramount (US) Kids (1995) directed by Larry Clark and written by Harmony Korine (US) Movies and Television.
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