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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 58

[58th of 100]. This piece of confection shouldn't be as memorable as it has become in the cumulative. A teen movie should be of the moment, break the box office on the strength of its recognizable teen stars, and then be quickly forgotten as a footnote in film history. But sometimes a teen movie -- of the kind that traffics in American high school tropes and cliques, reflective of contemporaneous music and fashion and bywords, and marinated in candy-colored whimsy -- becomes emblematic of its generation and then simply resists becoming a footnote. The teen movie really is a phenomenon that came to full form in the 1980s, but it has its precursors. In the 1960s, we had To Sir With Love and the various Beach movies. In the 1970s, we had American Graffiti [retroactively for the teenagers who grew up in the 1950s] and Carrie. In the 1980s, we had the real beginnings of the teen movie as we know them with The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and in the Philippines, Bagets. In the 1990s, we had Clueless and American Pie and Pare Ko. In the 2000s, in the glut of teen movies that defined that decade, we had Bring It On, and finally this: Mark Waters' superbly crafted ode to cliques, plastic personalities, and navigating the jungles of high school life. When I saw it in 2004, I knew I was watching a classic, something meant to be chewed on for years and years to come. Perhaps what made this film worked is its anthropological stance. Borrowing the techniques and roots of Fast Times at Ridgemont High [which Cameron Crowe wrote based on his reportage going undercover in a high school], co-star and screenwriter Tina Fey drew on the nonfiction book, Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, and elevated the material to a scintillatingly comic drama, as we follow a homeschooled girl reintegrate herself to the whimsies of American high school life, and find it as complex and dangerous as the African jungles she just left behind. Fey, Waters, and their formidable cast managed to make what may be the most effective teen movie of them all. So effective in fact that since the movie's premiere in 2004, no other teen movie in the 2000s has effectively inherited the torch of generational touchstone, not The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, nor Superbad, not even Juno. In the 2010s, you have contenders in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or The Fault in Our Stars, or Love, Simon, or The Kings of Summer, or Lady Bird, or Booksmart. But we can be very comprehensive in our list-making and we will still feel that this 2004 movie stands above all in a class all its own. I know people who know every quotable line ["Four for you, Glen Coco! You go, Glen Coco!"]. I know people who celebrate its rituals ["On Wednesdays, we wear pink"]. I know people who gauge parenthood by it [ "I'm not like a regular mom, I'm a cool mom!"]. I know people who keep calendar to its notions [“On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was”]. I know people who judge vocabulary by it ["Stop making fetch happen!"]. I know people who understand the notion of the pariah by its demands ["You can't sit with us!"]. Quote-wise, it is the teen equivalent of The Godfather. I love the movie because it's joyful, because it's endlessly quotable, and because it's surprisingly deep: it understands, in its heightened, comical ways, the fraught world of adolescence, and alas, also the hapless adults that they become. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich