This week, fueled by indignation, caffeine and procrastination, we attacked the age old question of why adults are ashamed to read teen books . . . but not to indulge in movies with names like Van Wilder. In other words: why there is more guilt involved in buying a book about teens versus watching a movie about teens.
Because it grinds our gears.
Brenna: man, all my thoughts on this are very serious and kind of annoyed
Tess: we can make funny comments to your serious stuff
Brenna: like, if American Pie were a book, it would be in so much trouble. but it’s a movie, so everyone just lets it be how it is
Tess: it would be banned. but there are things you can get away with visually that you can’t with Teh Words
Maggie: Oh, yes, what with the whole your-sex-is-on-fire-and-also-in-a-pie way
Tess: because you can imply cock-and-balls without saying PENIS
Maggie: you just said it.
Tess: i did. i like to but i was just writing something that involved me trying very hard to avoid the word, actually.
Maggie: I was thinking about Ferris Bueller, because I often do, because c’mon, who doesn’t. and I was thinking that adults also don’t feel at all guilty about saying they love that movie. While they creep up to me in my signing line and say, "I know I’m not a teen, but I love your book."
Tess: though, Ferris Bueller came out with a lot of adults WERE young. so it’s also a nostalgia thing.
Maggie: I don’t think that is as young as you think. I think it’s the audience that watches Charlie Bartlett. 20s. I didn’t watch Ferris for the first time on my own, I saw it because my parents were watching it for the millionth time.
Brenna: I like Charlie Bartlett
Tess: But Ferris Bueller came out in 1986, so you DO have to take into account that most people who love it have loved it for a long time.
Maggie: I am trying to think of other teen movies. The American Pie ones are a really good example. and there are a million of them. Actually, there are a lot of teen comedies aimed at 20 somethings and college kids.
Tess: yes, i was going to say. though i think most of them recently were directly inspired BY American Pie. Before that I can think of only stand outs like Clueless. (yes i called clueless a stand out)
Maggie: I move to strike your opinion from the record. As you are too cultured
Tess: bc my fav teen movies are ALL based on famous literary novels
Brenna: all the teen dramas I can think of revolve around things like dancing
Tess: ooooh Dancing Movies!
Maggie: Adventures in Babysitting. the 80s were good for teens. I wonder how much of that is just because those aren’t the movies I pay attention to now, though
Tess: yeah, they were. All the Molly Ringwald movies. though, my friends and I scorned Molly Ringwald bc our mothers loved them.
Brenna: now, it seems like a lot YA books that have been optioned are actually going into production, so maybe it will be good again.
Maggie: Nick and Norah, for instance. I think the point is that, movies with teen protagonists do exist, and they are being marketed to adults. and adults don’t have shame associated with it. so, why? (look at Maggie trying to bring it back to the topic)
Brenna: what makes you feel like they’re being marketed to adults?
Maggie: places that they’re being marketed. time slots for the ads. not on the back of breakfast cereal and in teen mags. and that’s about it. No one is quite sure how to reach teens that aren’t reading teen cosmo.
Tess: Maybe… THAT is the problem. With movies, it’s kidling or adult.
Maggie: Oh, that’s a good point, Tess.
Tess: but with books, you have several levels of kid before adult
Maggie: And teens are going to see Iron Man. not some special teen movie because if it was Iron Man with teens, it would be lame and middle schoolers would go see it and it would be called Shark Boy and Lava Girl or whatever
Tess: And if Iron Man was a novel, it would be adult.
Brenna: because it’s about adults
Maggie: that is because you cannot censor Tony Stark
Tess: thank god
Maggie: I think we can reverse engineer this to where if adults feel anything is watered down, they feel embarrassed
it is not the teen concept it is the culture/ maturity/ intelligence thing they have no problem with Harry Potter because it doesn’t feel lightweight. It is for kids, but it is no holds barred, substantial, well made. Also, there are a lot of adult characters moving around in the background. I think with something like Shark Boy or whatever, there are 2D adult figures but it is a child’s world like Captain Underpants.
Brenna: but that’s for children–young children
Maggie: Yes, but WHY. what makes us think that? I think that’s the key to why adults are afraid to be seen reading YA
Tess: being branded immature. not serious
Brenna: because the story is very superficial and overwrought
Maggie: angst. too tight of a teen lens.
Tess: Because the story is very superficial and overwrought = The Lord of the Rings. Titanic. Avatar.
Brenna: yes, so there’s something specifically going on when people are told that something is for teenagers. that’s really where I was going with that, by the way
Tess: I think it’s because Shark Boy and Lava Girl are 10 years old. Why would a real adult want to watch a movie with a 15 year old protag? adults have better things to do.
Maggie: You should talk more, so I can form an intelligent sounding response
Tess: well, Marketing Works.
Maggie: well, because we aren’t going back and watching disney movies with our friends. "Hey, buddy, want to come over for a beer and Return to Witch Mountain?"
Brenna: okay, derail for a second, I just thought of something. I just realized that I was a TON of teen/high school movies. they are all horror
Maggie: that whole genre of dead hot girl movies.
Tess: so basically, there’s a huge Teen Movie Genre that adults are part of the audience for
Maggie: that adults don’t feel bad about
Tess: in a way they aren’t with YA books
Maggie: so WHY, we scream, why!
Tess: ok, YA books are judged in a way that Teen Movies aren’t. because… books are supposed to be better.
Maggie: I got one for you. a reason. where do you find a YA book?
Maggie: YA section, you prig. where do you find a teen movie?
Tess: But i don’t think you can really hang anything on that argument, bc you can get any book you want on the internet. you don’t HAVE to do the walk of shame to the kids section
Maggie: but I was just talking with an author and she said that online sales are still only 2% of her sales
Brenna: I like the walk of shame into the kids section
Maggie: and how are you going to find out about those books if you are not reading YA blogs? if you’re just an adult?
Brenna: maybe that’s where the marketing really comes in
Maggie: because your coworker says, I read this book with a werewolf named Sam in it, and it’s a teen book, but it’s REALLY GOOD. I’m thinking that the shame comes BECAUSE of marketing. like Brenna says. You can go into any movie and you don’t have to get brown paper bags to cover your teen movie tickets and oh — i just thought of something
Tess: we believe what marketing says
Maggie: You know the movie I DO hear a lot of shame about? Twilight. not because it’s a teen movie, though
Brenna: okay, true–people apologize for liking it
Tess: Because it’s pretending to be Epic.
Maggie: because it’s seen as melodramatic and indulgent and fluffy
Tess: yes. like all teen romances
Maggie: and I think that’s because people feel guilty about being seen walking into the theater. that’s the closest thing to teen book guilt that I can think of with movies
Tess: but not for the latest Michael Bay
Maggie: okay, here is the question. take a YA book out of the YA section. hand it to an adult. they read it, like it. do they feel bad because of its inherent content still? not knowing where it came from?
Brenna: I don’t think so
Maggie: I don’t either.
Tess: I doubt it
Maggie: I think that answers the question.
Tess: But the question really is: why does it MATTER that the book comes from the YA section. when it doesn’t matter that the movie is about the exact same things. just marketing?
Maggie: because there is a lot of condescension towards teens.
Tess: If there were suddenly a new genre of movie: the YA movie… would adults feel that way about going to that line?
Maggie: they are seen as flippant, shallow, fickle.
Tess: I think they would. I.E. Twilight.
Maggie: the "like, what, huh?" market
Maggie: and anything that makes adults feel dumb, they feel bad about enjoying. well, teens, too. even Thing 1 will not participate in activities with Thing 2 that she thinks are too "pre-k". "because I’m older than that now, and I don’t do BABY THINGS."
Brenna: when I was young (possibly too young) I really liked Heathers* because I felt that it was not treating me like I was stupid. I also liked The Breakfast Club but not as much, because I secretly felt that it did think I was stupid
Tess: I was grossed out by Ally Sheedy’s dandruff. blood = yes please. dandruff = ugh
Brenna: Heathers is another one that as a book would have so many people in an uproar
Tess: no kidding. Because books are role models. movies are not. books MOLD OUR YOUTH
Brenna: okay, I think we may have found something
Tess: movies are sheer entertainment. movies can have bad parents, but books cannot unless it’s an issues book
Brenna: people are way less forgiving about "trashy" book than movies and when I saw "trashy" I mean what we talked about earlier, anything perceived as being "below" us
Maggie: I was going to say, I think commitment is part of it. it is like, we are indulgent if someone spends 1 hour playing Farmville on Facebook. if someone spends 15 hours doing it, we say, guess what, you’re a loser. if you spend 1.5 hours watching a purposeless movie, oh, it was so fun! if you spend a day and a half reading a book that is not enriching, you must be a loser
Tess: yes, you can only invest that must time in High Literature
Brenna: it must be unpleasant and difficult
Tess: Problem solved. Let’s bake cookies.
Brenna: I like cookies.
Our Top Three Favorite Teen Movies:
Brenna: Heathers, Better Off Dead and Donnie Darko
Maggie: 1. Ferris Bueller, because we all need role models. 2. Charlie Bartlett, because it’s nice to see someone’s family more eccentric than mine. 3. Adventures in Babysitting. Because we need the viking hats.
Tess: Clueless: because, like, duh. Ferris Bueller: I can make my hair into a mohawk in the shower, too. Stomp the Yard: Bad. Ass. Dancing. Plus. PATHOS. ❤
So, gentle readers, what are you favorite teen movies? And why?