Teen Films

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Teen Films


The teen film has been a fixture in American cinema since the mid-twentieth century, yet serious study of the genre did not begin until the 1980s. David Considine wrote the first exhaustive study, The Cinema of Adolescence, in 1985, illuminating many of the messages and trends contained in films about teenagers. Since then film scholars have pointed to the ways in which the Hollywood studios capitalized on youth trends and attitudes through movies that directly addressed the teenage audience—resulting, in Thomas Doherty's term, in the "juvenilization" of Hollywood. Others have traced the evolution of adolescence in American movies in relation to social and political trends, as Hollywood and independent studios systematically developed different youth subgenres to depict an increasingly diverse array of teen experiences, the teen film became a formally codified genre.


The appearance of actual adolescents in movies was not common until the 1930s. By that point Hollywood studios had firmly established their grip on American culture, and even more so on their contract players. But they had difficulty in maintaining public interest in young stars, who inevitably grew out of their youthful charms. This was the case with one of the first teen stars, Deanna Durbin (b. 1921), whose success started at age fifteen in films such as Three Smart Girls (1936), One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), and That Certain Age (1938). Then audiences became disenchanted with her films, and she retired from acting in 1948 at the age of twenty-seven.

Mickey Rooney (b. 1920), on the other hand, was one of the rare performers who retained his youthful demeanor for some time. His sensitivity was evident in realistic teen roles in The Devil Is a Sissy (1936) and Captains Courageous (1937), and he soon grew into far more prominent roles, showing range as both a cynical delinquent in Boys Town (1938) and as a plucky musician in Babes in Arms (1939). But Rooney's most endearing role was that of adolescent Andy Hardy, a character who became the optimistic antidote to the disturbing tensions among America's children on the eve of World War II. By 1939 Rooney was the number-one box office draw in the country. In just over a decade, he made fifteen films as Andy Hardy, with such telling titles as Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941), Andy Hardy's Blonde Trouble (1944), and Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1947). The eleven-year run of these films, despite their whitewashed mythologies of youth, would be the most significant depiction of adolescent life in America until the mid-1950s, and no other teen character in film to date has enjoyed Andy's durability and popularity.

Other teenage performers who rose to prominence in the 1930s and 1940s include Rooney's recurring costar, Judy Garland (1922–1969) (Listen, Darling [1938], Little Nellie Kelly [1940], Meet Me in St. Louis [1944]), and the striking Bonita Granville (These Three [1936], The Beloved Brat [1938], Nancy Drew—Detective [1938] and three other Nancy Drew films, and Youth Runs Wild [1944]). The prevailing moral codes of the time, as well as the Production Code, dictated that onscreen teens would be focused on their families, schools, and friends, rarely displaying any adolescent angst over their sexual development, alcohol or drug use, or rebellious impulses.

The one controversial topic the studios did feel comfortable addressing was juvenile delinquency. In cautionary tales like Wild Boys of the Road (1933) and Little Men (1934), the studios showed young people how mischief could lead to much greater trouble. In fact, an entire series of films was built around this topic, beginning in 1937 with Dead End, which labored to show crime negatively, even though audiences were enthralled by its charismatic young characters who openly resent and combat the gentrification of their neighborhood. The film was such a hit that Warner Bros. developed more films around these so-called "Dead End Kids," and had an even bigger hit with Angels with Dirty Faces in 1938. Universal then took up the series, and in seven more films over the next four years the studio added new characters to the mix and dubbed them the "Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys." None of these films was as notable as the first few, but in a curious parallel, Monogram began a different series in 1940 and later renamed the gang the "East Side Kids," even though most of the actors were now in their twenties. This series produced twenty-two films in six years, and in 1946 the actors embarked on yet another series with these characters, now called the "Bowery Boys," who had long since grown into adults. The series still remained a great success for Monogram, which released a remarkable thirty-one Bowery Boys films through 1953; Allied Artists carried on the tradition for another sixteen films until 1958. By that time a group that had started out as troubled teenage outlaws had entertained American audiences for over twenty years.


The output of teen films into the early 1950s was rather meager, although America's fascination with juvenile delinquency (JD) never disappeared altogether. In 1949 two significant JD films began to renew interest in the cinematic subgenre: City Across the River intended to shock its audience by directly addressing the problem of teen crime, and Knock on Any Door further explored the connected elements of society that breed delinquency. Yet these films were tame compared to the ephebiphobia (fear of teenagers) that swept the country in the mid-1950s, in the midst of the appearance of rock 'n' roll music and the booming postwar economy.

The Wild One (1953), despite featuring characters past their teens, was the first in a torrent of JD films, which became ubiquitous by the end of the 1950s. In 1955 two of the most powerful JD films appeared: Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle. Rebel spoke about current teen tensions in sincere tones rather than didactic monologues, and, with the death of its star, James Dean (1931–1955), just days before its release, it had an automatically profound marketing campaign. The ensuing veneration of Dean as an icon of young coolness—and his performance as Jim Stark, which embodied that image—made the film an indelible symbol of youth in the agonizing process of self-discovery and the forging of identity. Blackboard Jungle used the more typical scenario of an inspiring teacher who tries to gain authority over his delinquent charges, although some of them are beyond reform. The film was significant not only for its use of rock music, but for its integration of nonwhite teens into the story, which enabled it to make a searing statement about uniting against tyranny.

Then followed a plethora of films that dealt with teenage delinquency and rebellion in alternately crazy and compassionate fashions. Few of these films, Teenage Rebel (1956), Untamed Youth (1957), Juvenile Jungle (1958), Riot in Juvenile Prison (1959), This Rebel Breed (1960), Wild Youth (1961) garnered even a fraction of the attention that Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle received, and they were for the most part formulaic. Most of these films served as fodder for drive-ins and movie theaters that had difficulty booking films from the major studios, and the main reason exhibitors continued screening them was to bring in the lucrative teen crowd.

One studio in particular, American International Pictures (AIP), was quite adept at attracting that crowd. AIP began in 1956 and soon capitalized on the JD craze (Reform School Girl, 1957), and then the beach movie movement of the early 1960s (Beach Party, 1963), as well as the youth protest films of the later 1960s (Wild in the Streets, 1968). In many ways, AIP showed the larger studios that appealing to the young (especially male) crowd was the least risky of cinematic options, and studios have been following that logic to this day. Although this strategy may have worked financially, it yielded an abundance of artificial, fanatic, and often idiotic depictions of teenagers.

AIP can be given only so much credit for establishing specific subgenres of teen films, which were proliferating at many 1950s studios eager to address adolescent concerns in whatever way seemed to resonate with youth. There were by this point at least five styles of teen films that would persist into the 1960s. Hot-rod movies like Hot Rod Rumble (1957) or Joy Ride (1958) catered to teens' fantasies of speed and adventure. The rock movie, with music that was louder, more sexual, and more racially diverse than that of previous generations, also became a great vehicle for exploring teen rebellion. Examples included Rock, Rock, Rock (1956), Don't Knock the Rock (1956), Carnival Rock (1957), and Go, Johnny, Go! (1959). The teen beach movie essentially picked up where the rock movies left off, with an emphasis on music, partying, and sexual stimulation, as in Gidget (1959), Where the Boys Are (1960), Muscle Beach Party (1964), and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Horror films appealed to youth as well, likely because so many of them featured characters dealing with bodily changes, alienation, and anger, as in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), Teenage Monster (1958), Bloodlust! (1961), The Crawling Hand (1963), and Teen-Age Strangler (1968).

The teen melodrama was a category of teen film that had very little coherence but a nonetheless distinct identity. These were films that took adolescent conditions seriously, rather than bundling them together with juvenile high jinx or fads. Tea and Sympathy (1956) was one such film, dealing implicitly with the subject of teenage homosexuality, of which a seventeen-year-old boy is "cured" by an understanding older woman. With Eighteen and Anxious (1957), Unwed Mother (1958), and Blue Denim (1959), the studios began addressing the controversial yet not uncommon problem of teen pregnancy. Teen melodramas became even more relevant as they became less repressed, taking on further adolescent conflicts: racism in Take a Giant Step (1959); sexism in Billie (1965); interracial dating in West Side Story (1961); sex education in The Explosive Generation (1961); mental health in Splendor in the Grass (1961) and David and Lisa (1962); sexual deviance in Peyton Place (1957), A Summer Place (1959), and Lolita (1962); and family problems in All Fall Down (1962), Take Her, She's Mine (1963), and Under Age (1964). Despite their earnest themes, however, most of these films did not (or could not) get at the deeper psychological and sexual issues affecting their characters, and often offered conservative and shallow solutions to their problems.

The sexual liberation that found its way to college campuses in the 1960s found its way to teen films soon thereafter, as in the devastating Last Summer (1969), a mature portrait of four teens whose repressed sexual tensions lead to assault and rape. The Last Picture Show (1971) also presented surprisingly sexual teens, in a 1950s setting no less, ruefully commenting on the American conditions of youth throughout the postwar era, during which sex often seemed an empty experience and marriage a simulated salvation. Ode to Billy Joe (1976) was one of the few teen films before the 1990s that explicitly addressed adolescent homosexuality, albeit in tragic terms. And in Rich Kids (1979), a boy and girl attempt to reconnect their broken families by acting out what they perceive to be adult activities, including intercourse.

Even as these films were telling teens that contemporary romance was nothing but trouble, a number of films were offering young men a more redemptive image of teen conditions in the past. Summer of '42 (1971) was a young male fantasy of sexual validation without lingering responsibility. American Graffiti (1973) enticed its audience to celebrate the supposed nostalgia of an era that was only eleven years earlier, before the fun of the 1950s faded into the cynicism of the 1960s. Grease (1978) also hearkened back to the 1950s, yet avoided confronting the teen troubles that were so prevalent in films from that era.

b. Marion, Indiana, 8 February 1931, d. 30 September 1955

James Dean's breakthrough came when, in his early twenties, he gave profound performances playing teenagers in East of Eden (1955) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Before he could thoroughly enjoy the fame these films brought him, his life was tragically cut short in a car accident. His final film, Giant (1956), had not yet been released. Dean's untimely death seemed to assure him everlasting status as a cult figure for youth.

Dean was born in Indiana but moved with his family to Los Angeles at the age of five. When his mother suddenly died four years later, he returned to the Midwest and lived with his aunt and uncle on their farm, returning to L.A. after high school in pursuit of an acting career. Taking the advice of one of his first teachers there, James Whitmore, he made his way to New York City, where he won praise on stage. In 1952 he was accepted into the prestigious Actors Studio, where he learned the Method approach for which he would become well known. As he moved through various plays on and off Broadway, he had occasional small (uncredited) parts in films like Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952) and appeared in television shows such as Studio One (1952–1953) and Danger (1953–1954). After a lauded appearance in the Broadway production of The Immoralist in 1954, Dean earned a screen test for East of Eden at Warner Bros., and then moved to Hollywood in early 1955 to work on Rebel.

Dean became the first performer in Hollywood history to earn a posthumous nomination for an Academy Award®, as Best Actor in East of Eden; the next year, he became the only performer ever to be nominated for a second posthumous Oscar®, as Best Actor in Giant. Even though Dean had only three starring roles to his credit over this brief period, his image as an emotional, expressive, and tormented young man soon made him an icon of his era. Over the next generations, young male stars tried to emulate his cool tension, affecting his style and attitude. His legend would be further augmented by the dozens of biographies written about him and the many films made about his life. Indeed, there are more films about Dean than starring Dean, including The James Dean Story (1957), James Dean: The First American Teenager (1975), James Dean and Me (1995), and James Dean: Race With Destiny (1997)


East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956)


Bast, William. James Dean: A Biography. New York: Ballantine, 1956.

Dalton, David. James Dean, the Mutant King: A Biography. San Francisco: Straight Arrow, 1974.

Howlett, John. James Dean: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975.

Riese, Randall. The Unabridged James Dean: His Life and Legacy from A to Z. New York: Wings/Random House, 1994.

Spoto, Donald. Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean. New York: Cooper Square, 2000.

Timothy Shary

While other films in the 1970s also resorted to nostalgic depictions of boys navigating manhood, such as Cooley High (1975) and The Wanderers (1979), films

about girls in the 1970s showed them as increasingly erratic and unstable as they ventured toward womanhood. The clearest manifestation of this trend was Carrie (1976), in which the title character uses her tele-kinetic skills ultimately to kill everyone around her before killing herself. The movie became a provocative warning about the latent power of girls living under oppressed conditions. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) presented another homicidal girl, and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977) endeavored to show the torment of a teenage girl in a mental hospital. Clearly, boys were having more fun in their recollection of the past than girls were in their experiences of the present.


Teen films went through a conspicuous resurgence in the 1980s, a time without social upheaval and yet during which teen experimentation with sex and drugs was on the increase. Films began to reflect this trend. MTV, a new and comprehensive system for reaching the teen market through not only music videos but concerts, clothing, game shows, live events, and of course commercials, also contributed to the renewed emphasis on teens.

Another key factor in the 1980s spike in teen films that is often overlooked is the emergence of the shopping mall. Arcades and food courts replaced the pool halls and soda fountains of the past, attracting groups of teens, and the centralization of multiple theaters in or near such malls increased the number of screen venues and offered moviegoers greater variety and convenience. Thus the need to cater to the young audiences who frequented those malls became apparent to Hollywood, and an out-pouring of films directed to and featuring teens ensued. Teens in the 1980s were then able to go to the mall and select the particular youth movie experience that appealed to them most, and Hollywood tried to keep up with changing teen interests and styles to ensure ongoing profits. More significantly for the audience, teens were then exposed to a wider range of characters and situations that directly addressed their current social conditions, even if many of the films that did so clearly had puerile provocation as their motive.

Halloween (1978) initiated the new cycle of teen horror films that would—like the killers they depicted—rise, die, and be reborn. The film refined the scenario that future "slasher" films followed: a mysterious figure stalks and kills teens, all of whom are sexually active, while one escapes with her life, ostensibly because she is a virgin. Thus followed similar films, most of which launched series: Prom Night (1980), Friday the 13th (1980), The Slumber Party Massacre (1982), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). In these films, the price for teenage transgressions like premarital sex and hedonism was not punishment by social institutions like parents, teachers, or the law, but rather death at the hands of a greater evil. By the late 1980s much of the teen horror market moved to home video, where an R rating would have little or no bearing, and thereafter very few teen slasher movies were released. However, in the late 1990s the unexpected success of the revisionist Scream (1996), along with IKnow What You Did Last Summer (1997) and the sequels to these films, revitalized the subgenre. Indeed, the youth horror film may have previously faded because it had come to rely on unintelligent, unsophisticated young characters. This was an image of themselves that teens began to reject, welcoming instead Scream and films like The Faculty (1998) and Cherry Falls (2000), in which not only the killers but also the heroes and heroines are smart and tough.

Many youth films in the early 1980s also began to feature teens engaging in sexual practices. The majority were decidedly negative in their portrayals, demonstrating the complications of sex, as well as the disappointments, confusions, and potential dangers. The most common plot of youth sex films throughout the early 1980s was the teen quest to lose one's virginity, as in Little Darlings (1980), Porky's (1982), The Last American Virgin (1982), Losin' It (1983), and Joy of Sex (1984). The sex quest film came into its prime with the very

successful Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), which was followed by the even more popular Risky Business (1983); both of these films promoted new young actors (Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Cruise) who would further boost Hollywood's sagging box office. Despite numerous other films in this vein, the teen sex quest story line became exhausted, and worse yet, irresponsible given the spread of AIDS and a sudden increase in teen pregnancies. Hollywood then steered clear of teen sex for the most part until the mid-1990s.

A major figure in teen cinema of the 1980s was John Hughes (b. 1950), who wrote and directed his first film, Sixteen Candles, in 1984. In addition to launching the career of Molly Ringwald, the film won critical acclaim for its hilarious yet often sensitive depiction of a girl's rite of passage, and Hughes opened up the story by introducing an engaging cast of supporting characters. His ability not only to convey the contemporary adolescent experience, but to do so from a number of perspectives, would become the hallmark of his teen movies. Between 1984 and 1987 Hughes went on to direct or write six teen films, including The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), and Ferris Beuller's Day Off (1986). Thereafter, teen characters in many American movies were shown with a greater depth of understanding. Hughes also cultivated a troupe of young stars, later dubbed the "Brat Pack," who populated most of the important teen films of the 1980s.

A distinctive and socially significant subgenre of teen films, the African American crime film, emerged in the early 1990s. These films showed urban black youth fighting for their lives in the face of a racist legal and political system, difficult family and class conditions, and the influence of media images of young black "gangstas." In doing so, they exposed audiences to (male) African American youth culture and forced them to question the state of race relations in the nation. These films were instrumental in reviving critical and financial legitimacy for teen films, which had declined the late 1980s. Most chronicles of these films begin with the hugely influential Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton, 1991), although Straight Out of Brooklyn (Matty Rich, 1991) opened just weeks before; both films feature young men who are old enough to know they can change their lives but not wise enough to know how. Similar films followed: Juice(1992), Menace II Society (1993), Fresh (1994), and Clockers (1995). Yet by the mid-1990s, the moral lessons of these films had become worn and the characters too familiar. These films, action-packed with violence, did not deny the potent temptation of crime, nor did they deny race as a factor in the difficulties facing their young characters. Rather, these films suggested that the greatest menace is the city itself, where crime, racism, and death are pervasive.

These films were the first to promote teenage African American stars with any consistency, yet after the sub-genre petered out, black performers were again relegated to sidekick and background roles in the vast majority of teen films. This would remain the case into the next decade, when some films began to explore the African American youth experience beyond urban crime: George Washington (2000), Bring It On (2000), Remember the Titans (2000), and Save the Last Dance (2001). Still, there remain strikingly few films about African American youth overall; Love Don't Cost a Thing (2003), which features a black cast, is simply a remake of a 1987 teen film that featured white characters. Despite the success of many black actors and films featuring them as well as other racial or ethnic groups, the industry remains woefully out of touch and disinterested in exploring the lives and culture of African American youth.

b. Lansing, Michigan, 18 February 1950

The strikingly humorous and often affecting films that John Hughes made in just the few years between 1984 and 1987 became classics of the teen film genre. Hughes was a teenager himself when his family moved from Michigan to the suburbs of Chicago, a move that would resonate in many of his teenage characters who deal with displacement and alienation, and often do so in the Chicago area. After attending the University of Arizona for a few years and marrying his high school sweetheart, Hughes eventually became an editor at National Lampoon magazine in 1979, where he met various colleagues connected to the movie industry, leading to his first produced screenplay, National Lampoon's Class Reunion (1982). Hughes soon followed this dubious debut with scripts for the hits Mr. Mom (1983) and National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).

He was offered his first directorial assignment after penning Sixteen Candles (1984), which wrestled with teenage torments beyond the prevailing pabulum of the time, marked by both crass humor and sincere characterizations. In 1985 Hughes carried the success of this film into his next two teen productions, the farcical fantasy Weird Science and the influential adolescent angst drama The Breakfast Club. By this point, his recurring actors were labeled the "Brat Pack" and became the most recognizable young stars of the decade: Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy. Although Hughes again employed Ringwald when he wrote the appealing Pretty in Pink (directed by Howard Deutch in 1986), he then abandoned his troupe, writing and directing the hit film Ferris Beuller's Day Off (1986) with other young performers.

Hughes wrote one more teen script that Deutch directed, Some Kind of Wonderful (1987), which offered more of the same familiar empowerment to its youth confronting gender and class conflicts. Hughes moved away from teen subject matter thereafter, writing or directing movies that featured younger children in prominent roles, such as Uncle Buck (1989), Curly Sue (1991), Dennis the Menace (1993), and the comedy phenomenon Home Alone (1990). Despite the occasional success of some of his later scripts, such as 101 Dalmatians (1996), Hughes did not regain his previous fame, and by 2000 he began writing scripts under the pseudonym Edmond Dantés. In 2001 he produced a script by his son James, titled New Port South, yet even its teenage characters and suburban Chicago setting generated scant attention for the erstwhile auteur of 1980s teen cinema.


Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), Weird Science (1985), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987), Uncle Buck (1989)


Bernstein, Jonathan. Pretty in Pink: The Golden Age of Teenage Movies. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1997.

Timothy Shary


By the mid-1990s, the visibility of teen films clearly increased from the previous ten years, with successful

television shows providing Hollywood with new teen stars, and with a renewed comfort in the industry for handling adolescent issues. Teen films of the mid- to late-1990s began looking at sexual orientation, gender discrimination, and the postmodern nature of teen culture in general. In the surest sign of change since the 1980s, teens on screen began having sex again, and even liking it, as they learned to explore their sexual practices and endeavored to educate themselves about the subject.

Curiously, the topic that became the most sensitive, and then essentially forbidden, was juvenile delinquency. From the mid-1990s onward, the real-life violence of numerous school shootings by students made onscreen teen violence increasingly difficult to handle. With rare exceptions like Light It Up (1999) and O (2001), Hollywood chose to ignore issues of juvenile delinquency rather than risk being blamed for encouraging it. One form of teen film that did take up issues of delinquency in politicized terms was that based on a new "tough girl" persona. Films like Mi vida loca (My Crazy Life, 1994), Freeway (1996), Foxfire (1996), and Wild Things (1998) focused on an exhilarating, if not liberating, sense of rebellion among girls. The roles of many girls in American movies such as Girls Town (1996), The Opposite of Sex (1998), Girlfight (2000), and Mean Girls (2004) began to reflect a potent image of young femininity. These films and their characters pursued the full range of girls' identities, ensuring that young women in cinema will no longer need to derive power from delinquency.

Films about teenage homosexuality became more common in the 1990s as well. Most queer youth depictions in the 1990s tended to deal with tensions around both sexual experience and romantic longing—in other words, the same tensions that heterosexual teens are shown dealing with in other films. Early examples included My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Anything for Love (also known as Just One of the Girls, 1993); but the first film to boldly portray teenage characters as a queer group was Totally Fucked Up (1993), which remains to date the most complete depiction of a queer teen ensemble, in this case four boys and two girls. Since then, the most prominent queer teen roles have been lesbian characters, raising the question of whether young male homosexuality is generally more difficult to depict, or more culturally problematic, than young female homosexuality. The few movies about gay boys generally gained less attention than movies about lesbian girls, such as The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995), All Over Me (1997), and Boys Don't Cry (1999). Queer teen characters have also appeared in Election (1999), But I'm a Cheerleader (2000), L.I.E. (2001), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), and Saved! (2004). Depictions of gay youth have grown increasingly fair and realistic, though occasionally neutralized by negative representations in some films (like Scary Movie, 2000). Films that portray (and even celebrate) teenagers adapting to gay lifestyles may affect cultural attitudes toward gays.

After a dormancy of nearly a decade, teen sex in general returned to movies by the mid-1990s, most notoriously through the controversial and degrading Kids (1995), and through other dark portraits like Wild Things, The Opposite of Sex, Cruel Intentions (1999), The Virgin Suicides (1999), and Thirteen (2003). At the same time, Hollywood found itself more comfortable dealing with the comic and lighthearted aspects of teenage sexuality, as was evident in Clueless (1995), Trojan War (1997), 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), and most successfully, American Pie (1999). For the first time, teen films were now taking sex seriously not only for boys, but for the girl characters who want more out of it; the comical Coming Soon (1999) was a celebration of girls discovering orgasm, with or without boys. A few other independent films have continued to represent more sexually mature and confident girls, such as Real Women Have Curves (2002) and Raising Victor Vargas (2002), but these films tend not to reach mainstream audiences.

Hollywood has in many ways improved its image of teens through films that show young people confronting race, religion, body image, romance, drugs, family, friendships, sex, sexual preference, and crime, all the while allowing their characters to explore their youth. Yet many of the most heavily promoted films, like The Princess Diaries (2001), What a Girl Wants (2003), and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004), insult the intelligence of the very teens to whom these films are directed by giving them the illusion that their troubles are merely entertaining foibles and not legitimate concerns. The film industry is still seeking ways to speak to teens at their own level and exploit them for profit at the same time. History has shown this to be a difficult balance.



Considine, David. The Cinema of Adolescence. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1985.

Doherty, Thomas. Teenagers and Teenpics: The Juvenilization of American Movies in the 1950s. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1988.

Gateward, Frances, and Murray Pomerance, eds. Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice: Cinemas of Girlhood. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2002.

Lewis, Jon. The Road to Romance and Ruin: Teen Films and Youth Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Pomerance, Murray, and Frances Gateward, eds. Where the Boys Are: Cinema of Masculinity and Youth. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 2005.

Scheiner, Georganne. Signifying Female Adolescence: Film Representations and Fans, 1920–1950. Westport, CT: Praeger,2000.

Shary, Timothy. Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in Contemporary American Cinema. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Timothy Shary