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8 Clichés in American Teen Movies

Priya is pursuing her undergrad in law and business administration. She loves translated books, world cinema and French chic.

I grew up watching American Teen Movies. I loved movies like Princess Diaries, She's All that, The Prince and Me, The Duff, A Cinderella Story, Another Cinderella Story, LOL, etc. The more I watched, the more I realized that there were more than a few clichés in these movies.

I grew up watching American Teen Movies.

I grew up watching American Teen Movies.

1. Labels Exist

Here is the first cliché in American Teen Movies. You are labelled as you enter high school. The popular kids are either rich or hot, preferably both, and the guys in the clique are either in the Football or Basketball Team and the girls are on the Cheerleading Team. That, unfortunately, is the basis for getting into the popular group. And then you have the lesser known beings, as they call them, the ‘nerds’, technically, these super brilliant kids who for some reason are also dirt poor. Then there exists a class of Goths who are into punk rock and Green Day with emo hairstyles and black leather clothing, their roles merely to show a bit of variety in the school campus. And of course, every school needs a bunch of weirdos who play an auxiliary role in the environment, like being in the school band or eating trash out of the bin or something. You know the guys I am talking about. So the labels are hot, rich, nerd, goth and weird. There is no in-between like talented or sweet or anything but only these five rigid categories, a structure somewhat reminiscent of the caste system that existed in the Indian subcontinent.

2. Grades Are Secondary

The second cliché instructs you to focus on your life by trying to find your Prince Charming. In High School. I would have laughed only if it weren’t so stupid that you can’t even laugh. Be positively insular and self-oriented and self-focused and think about the guy or girl you love instead of thinking about your grades which will ultimately take you to college and later, by God's grace, land you a job. But no, grades are too secondary to even think about, isn’t it? I begin to wonder if I have ever watched an American Teen Movie where they discuss their plans to go to college. Sigh.

3. Frat Parties are a ‘Thing’

I am sure that they are a thing, but the way they show it in the movies seems like it is the be-all and end-all constitution of going to school. Drinking beer out of plastic red cups, playing beer pong, picking up girls left and right every other week keeps me wondering when they actually study. Or, if they study at all. I went through my entire schooling without going to a single frat party (not that we had any) and I didn’t die. But over here, we don’t believe in wiling our time by drinking and playing beer pong.

4. The Wonder of Sports

The fourth cliché is about the importance of sports. But only a certain sport. Ever watched a teen movie where our protagonist’s love interest was a tennis player? Or a chess player? Or even a swimmer? Neither have I. It seems like American public schools only endorse football or basketball depending on the movie you are watching. And not even football, like the David Beckham football; they play the lame kind of football where you keep pushing other people to get the ball across the line. I am still waiting for the day when the hot, blonde, popular guy plays tennis. Now, that’s a sexy game. It is indeed a shame no one realizes this.

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5. Experimenting with Alcohol...

Or cigarettes. Or drugs. Or technically anything that gets you high and wasted. While it is perfectly normal for a teenager to experiment with a lot of things, it is baffling how every movie would have a particular scene of the protagonist or her love interest or her love interest’s friend experimenting with the local crack. I am not moral policing here, nada, not by the slightest, but it just seems kind of a redundant inclusion in most movies. Never seen anyone experimenting with different study methods. But then again, that would make a boring watch.

Rebelling is how things are done.

Rebelling is how things are done.

6. Rebelling is the New Black

Ah…those blissful teenage years when you slammed the door in front of your parents, and then went to college and realized that slamming the door was a bad idea because your parents are now on a cruise in Italy and you are knee-high in debt. These movies show that rebelling is good. Rebelling is how things are done. Rebelling is what keeps you going. Sorry, you are no Mahatma Gandhi and you ain’t leading your people to freedom. Rebelling for the right things is important; standing your ground for things that matter is important, Not, sneaking away to have sex when your parents are sleeping and you are supposed to sit for your Bio paper tomorrow! That’s pure idiocy enough that I cannot express in any language. Grow up, kid, start taking responsibility for your life. You’ll realize your parents were right in many ways you couldn’t have imagined. Like when they asked you to eat healthy, and you rebelled by guzzling down a 2-litre cola bottle. Not cool, sir.

7. The Art of Zipping your Pants Down

The seventh cliché it seems, is that you have to lose your virginity by the time you are sixteen. Or at least that’s what these movies teach you. Go, find the guy/girl, have some meaningless (or meaningful) sex, break up and go on your separate way. Funny how I so, eloquently, just summed up the entire plot of an entire movie. Crazzy! Why is it so important that you have to lose it before you go to college or on your prom night or whatever these movies seem to indicate? I think it’s perfectly fine if you don’t. Don’t lose your virginity in high school. It’s a choice, and it should always be a choice. But these movies clearly seem to show that it is some kind of ritual. Disheartening, indeed.

8. Your Greatest Achievement counts in IRL (Not.)

Teen movies seem to portray that a teenager’s greatest achievement in high school is to go to some fancy Ivy League college….Hhahaahah-No, they portray that a teenager’s greatest achievement in high school is to be crowned Prom King or Prom Queen. If that is not distressing enough, I really don’t know what is. I, and I am certain many would agree with me, that goals should contribute to your growth, it shouldn’t be some lame, random title you would hold for one day in your school and screw up the rest of your life by living in the fringes of society and running around for scraps. Also, don’t annoy the smart boy. He’ll do well, you won’t.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Priya Barua


Priya Barua (author) on December 03, 2018:

Thanks for the comment @Sagheer

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