90’s and early 2000’s teen films are undefeated. Cinema will never get better than this golden era of film, trust me. I have a LetterBoxd, I know what I’m talking about. We have classics like Clueless, Mean Girls, Bring It On, Step Up, which are kind of like the peak of contemporary film-making if you ask me. This is why I’m devastated at the absolute snowball in quality of recent teen movies. It breaks my very serious and real film-bro heart. Cue the sad violins.
First of all, the dialogue in these movies is actually capable of making me physically recoil in second-hand embarrassment. I think modern script writers have never actually talked to teenagers. Like, ever. I’m not sure if scriptwriters are aware of this but, we are, in fact, capable of maintaining a normal conversation. We aren’t constantly throwing out mentions of TikTok or referencing the Bechdel test mid-discussion, nor are we using Internet buzzwords every other second.
If I’m being frank, I’m sick of media constantly depicting teens as snobbish English majors whose entire lexicon consists of nothing but pompous, SAT-level English. It’s either that or they portray teenagers as people that talk like they’re physiologically unable to speak without abbreviating every other word. Seriously, has anyone ever met anyone that actually says “OMG!” out loud, unironically? We can talk normally about normal things, like normal people, I swear.
And, oh my God, please do not get me started on how they depict social media use. The bootleg names are bad enough—Oomfchat is my personal favorite. It’s so awful—but like, I do not think these people have used social media, like ever. The next time I see something that refers to YouTube views as “hits,” I’m going to be sick. Also, how does one person have every student’s number? That is literally not possible.
Also, the plots of modern films aimed at teenagers are just not good most of the time. Take Netflix’s remake of the 90’s cult classic of almost the same name, He’s All That. Nevermind the copious amounts of “inconspicuous” product placement throughout, what was going on in that film? And before you ask, unfortunately, yes, I did take time out of my day to watch this movie. Many things were wrong with this movie, to say the least.
What happened to well-written plots? Compelling plots? With good writing? Plots that don’t resemble a badly written Wattpad fic from 2014 (After … shivers)? Like, dude, the plot from Cruel Intentions? That was actually crazy, in the best way possible. Now we’re left with movies about people who’s biggest problem is being tall.
And don’t get me started on romance movies specifically. Apparently we do not screen-test romance movies to test chemistry between actors anymore. Which explains a lot about the lack of sparks between protagonists. So sad. So terrible. Why is life like this? Also! Why are they so serious all the time? What happened to silly little romances where they get in the girl in the end? Why are people always dying? What happened to having fun?
Honestly, where these movies miss the mark is that they try much too hard to appeal to teenagers. However, their efforts often backfire, and ultimately end up alienating their target audience. Not enough time is spent on actually writing a good script or finding good actors. They focus the movie too much on being relatable than actually being good. As if teenagers don’t have standards for the media they consume.
Also, it’s not as though there’s not good and relatable media targeted to teens circulating around. There’s Booksmart, The Half of It, To All the Boys I Loved Before (the first one, and maybe the second, too, but definitely not the third), etc. It’s not impossible to create good, relatable media for teens. They’re not shoving their relatability down our throats with their “authentic scripts,” but through the character’s plot-lines and personalities. They also depict teens as real people and not weird, out-of-touch, caricatures of what adults think teens are like, while also remaining lighthearted and fun. There’s a good balance of both aspects, which is apparently scarce these days.
The modern teen movie market has crashed and burned. However, there’s still hope for it to be revived: I am going to become a filmmaker and produce my own good movies and win an Oscar and be really famous. Jokes but, there are hidden gems every now and then that still prove to me that there is a chance for this genre to be as great as it once was.