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Teen Movies. The Concept of Genre in Film. Form: Some Conventions. Teen movies typically contain features such as: conversations at the school lockers ("Dazed and Confused") the prom ("Carrie") cheerleaders (“Bring It On") the shopping mall ("Mall Rats")

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teen movies

Teen Movies

The Concept of Genre in Film

form some conventions
Form: Some Conventions
  • Teen movies typically contain features such as:
    • conversations at the school lockers ("Dazed and Confused")
    • the prom ("Carrie")
    • cheerleaders (“Bring It On")
    • the shopping mall ("Mall Rats")
    • the juvenile delinquent gang (“The Outsiders")
    • the sensitive, alienated teenage hero (Jim, in "Rebel without a Cause").
  • This is an extremely limited list. Any others?
form hybridity
Form: Hybridity
  • The nature of the teen movie genre changes very rapidly over time and there are crossovers or hybrids with neighbouring genres, for example
    • horror ("Buffy, the Vampire Slayer")
    • sports ("American Anthem")
    • musicals ("Grease")
    • romance ("Romeo and Juliet").
    • Any others?
form polarity
Form: Polarity
  • French film critic Robert Benayoun once described the 'normal qualities of youth as naiveté, idealism, humour, hatred of tradition, erotomania (abnormally strong sexual desire), and a sense of injustice‘
  • This description points to the two poles of the genre:
    • at the one end, the craziness characterised by freeforall fun, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll
    • at the other end, the equally important innocence, uncomplicated contact with another human being, and the unformed, impossible dream of a better world tomorrow.
  • To what extent is this true of ‘American Pie’?
form liminality
Form: Liminality
  • The stories of most teenpics are about what theorists call 'the liminal experience‘, that is that intense, suspended moment between yesterday and tomorrow, between childhood and adulthood, between being a nobody and a somebody, when everything is in question, and anything is possible.
  • Importantly, for a teenager, the liminal experience does not feel like a passing phase; it is a complete and significant moment.
  • Which character in ‘American Pie’ do you think is most keenly aware of the liminality of their existence?
form evolution
Form: Evolution
  • Content analysis of teen movies from the 1950's through to the present reveals continuity in characteristics, but there has been change in the specific detail of storylines, paralleling the movement from more conservative to less conservative censorship.
  • An example of this is the increasing obviousness of erotomania in the action and dialogue of the movie. Of course, the language used may also reflect this change, as will the fashions.
  • The teen movie also acts as a vehicle for transmitting other forms of popular culture, such as fashion, art, music and leisure pursuits, and these are constantly in update mode.
  • To what extent is American Pie still relevant to modern teen experience, or is it already outdated?
institutions creation of the genre
Institutions: Creation of the Genre
  • 1956: the rise of the privileged American teenager. Sam Katzman made "Rock Around the Clock“, the first hugely successful film marketed to teenagers to the pointed exclusion of their elders. The beginning of this form of popular culture is due to three factors:
    • The emergence of teenagers as a social group distinct from adults, who had disposable income and different consumer desires.
    • The catalyst of Sam Katzman's idea for a movie, Rock Around the Clock to exploit this new social group.
    • The collective decision of the 'Hollywood machine' to further pursue this exploitation, ie. to juvenilize movies.
institutions crossover
Institutions: Crossover
  • Controversy over rock 'n' roll music, its reputed connection to violence and juvenile delinquency. Modern parallels?
  • crossover between teen movie and pop music industries. Alan Freed, a famous disc jockey and entrepreneur of the Fifties, began the practice of the 'tie-in'. He publicised teen movies by playing their songs on his radio show and used rock 'n' roll teenpics as 'warm-ups' at live concerts.
  • Elvis Presley had made three teen movies by the end of 1957: "Love Me Tender", "Loving You", and "Jailhouse Rock". All three pictures were in the top twenty list, and all featured top-selling songs. In fact, the movies' titles were also song titles.
institutions transmission
Institutions: Transmission
  • The popular culture of teen movies is transmitted through marketing, promotion and distribution by the motion picture industry. This includes:
    • film production corporations, such as Warner Bros. and United Artists, who own and operate studios,
    • distribution corporations like Cineworld and Odeon, who also own and operate movie theatres, and independent operators, such as the Electric in Birmingham
    • video distribution companies and retail/rental outlets, for example, Blockbuster
institutions transmission10
Institutions: Transmission
  • Other forms of media assist with the transmission, including:
    • newspapers (eg. the Screen Thursday section of the Telegraph)
    • magazines (film magazines, like Variety, fanzines, Rolling Stone, Empire)
    • television (screenings of teen movies, advertising, and programmes with specific content about movies, like "Film 2006" on BBC1, or "The Cinema Show" on BBC4).
institutions transmission11
Institutions: Transmission
  • Western Europe’s visions of leisure, fashion, lifestyle and cultural identity have long been influenced by the diffusion of American ideas from the entertainment media, including the teenpic.
  • The thirst for American input, together with the economic buying power and the crossover promotion with other forms of media, have all contributed to the growth of teen movies as a popular culture.
institutions censorship
Institutions: Censorship
  • Various groups and institutions control what is seen:
    • Official:
      • The filmmaker will stay within broadly 'acceptable' bounds, otherwise the teenpic will not be approved for release by studios and distributors.
      • Language, sexual references and violence will determine the government censor's classification (PG, 12, 15, 18) and therefore who can have access to the movie.
institutions censorship13
Institutions: Censorship
  • Various groups and institutions control what is seen:
    • Unofficial:
      • Parents may have control over whether or not their teenage children are allowed to watch particular movies, applying their own censorship values.
      • An individual's peers may also have a controlling influence over which teenpics are 'cool' to see and which are not. Factors affecting this decision might include the relative conservatism of the group (not wanting to watch a movie containing sex scenes), the prevailing interests of the group (nobody is interested in surfing, so will not go to see a surf teenpic), ethnicity (teenpics produced in country of ancestry may be of greater interest), or gender and sexuality (teenpic storylines may appeal to a specific gender or sexual preference).
audience teens as a mass
Audience: Teens as a Mass
  • The teen movie, or 'teenpic', is a genre which exploits the teenage market as a mass audience.
  • What theory helps to explain the media’s effects on a “mass audience”.
  • What are the advantages/limitations of this theory?
audience not just teens
Audience: Not just teens
  • In addition, there may be a 'nostalgia factor', where adults who were, say, teenagers in the 1970's, may become consumers of a teen movie like "Dazed and Confused", produced in the 1990's but set in 1976, or Fifties teenagers who may be consumers of the film “American Graffiti" (1973) because they were teenagers during that era.
representation ideology
Representation & Ideology
  • Individuals' secondary socialisation continues through the medium of the teen movie. From characters and situations in a movie, a person learns, and may be influenced by, knowledge of:
    • Behaviour (how does a teenager 'push the boundaries' of what's acceptable in the context of adult-determined norms?)
    • Attitudes and values (what do teenagers think about other people, groups and issues; what is important in their lives?)
    • Gender roles (how does a person express masculinity, femininity, sexuality?)
representation ideology17
Representation & Ideology
  • Consider American Pie:
    • What social values/ideals are promoted by this movie?
    • Who has power? Who is powerless?