Friday, May 02, 2008

Everyone in their right place

Yesterday, Jamie and I went to see the new Tina Fey/ Amy Poehler movie: Baby Mama

I'm a fan of 30 Rock, and I've liked Poehler on SNL. Plus it was better than cleaning my office, which is what I was doing.

When your criteria for seeing a movie includes: zombies, robots, gorillas, superheroes, spaceships or no small amount of kung-foolery, you don't always get a peek at what else is out there. And as the trailer for "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2" rolled up onto the screen, I came to the conclusion that "Baby Mama" was not aimed at the sci-fi/ kung-fu audience, and I might have a very long two hours ahead of me.

The good I can report: Baby Mama was, at least, a bit funny. It's a renter, or maybe something to watch on cable. Maybe a matinee, if you're really dead-set against Iron Man.

But one of the trailers they showed was the trailer for American Teen.

This documentary is about four white, suburban kids in middle-America who are in high school. So I'm trying to figure out what the movie is actually about.

The trailer uses the Breakfast Club stereotypes for each of the subjects, and, I would assume, is going to break down those stereotypes over the course of a year/ two hours as we learn about what makes these kids tic.

Perhaps fifteen year ago, this might have been a bit novel. The trailer suggests its about the heartache and romance of being young and just beginning your life, but after TV expanded to 200 channels of reality-based programming and the WB's five nights a week of teen-angst soap operas, and MTV went all-high-schooler inc ontent as well as audience... Add in teh fact that every single person over the age of 18 went through high school, so been there, done that... I'm trying to figure out what's there to draw me in.

Two things I find peculiar:

1) The trailer's insistence on framing this in a "Breakfast Club" sort of manner. Really, the only time "Breakfast Club" seemed like an accurate depiction of high school was when I saw it in middle school and had not yet been to high school (but was trying to figure out what it was going to be like). Somehow, we didn't all wind up in Saturday suspension, all surprising ourselves by learning a little more about ourselves and a lot about each other.

I don't recall people in high school actually believing in much in the way of the classic high school breakdowns of nerds, jocks, what-have-you. And its not just because I was completely unobservant.

2) Why do these kids in the trailer speak in seemingly scripted language? Has 10 years of reality TV really blurred the line so much that kids know how to alter their language into concise statements to accurately describe their yearnings and inner monologue? I have a lot of hours of of footage of high school on VHS. It's mostly people smiling politely and asking me to turn off the camera.

At best, I'd watch this movie if it showed up on cable pretty late and nothing else was on. Having already done high school, I'm not in a rush to relive the experience. It wasn't that great when I was there the first time around. And I assume that's the point.

We've all been to high school. We all experienced the awkwardness, the unrequited crush, had hopes and dreams and no idea what it means to show up in the same cube every day with a soul-crushing mortgage hanging over your head. Its the last time in your life when the whole world is before you as a blank slate. But its also the time when you're too dumb to appreciate where you're at in life. Youth is wasted on the young.

The interstitial text in the trailer makes it pretty clear that they're counting on the nostalgia of the viewer to get them in the theater. And I assume the marketing is inline with the intention of the movie, so... I guess they're counting on the audience really missing those halcyon days.

Do the kids see themselves as the jock? The rebel? Aren't those tags a little embarrassing, even as a starting point? Or have decades of teen movies, TV shows and whatnot just placed an artificial expectation and self-fulfilling prophecy for kids before they ever hit the high school. Moreover, what are we really getting when we're getting the kids who volunteered to have a camera follow them around for a year. I know I'd have been mortified. I assume most of the kids I knew wouldn't have leaped at a chance to have a camera there at prom, running around town, etc...

Moreover, how well do these roles translate to non-whitebread students in areas and schools that aren't just a bunch of middle-class kids filling their seemingly pre-destined roles? I have no idea. But that's a movie I might find a bit more interesting.


J.S. said...

Are you really writing reviews on the basis of trailers now? Really?

The League said...

I am.

Actually, this was more about my confusion over how the movie was being marketed, vis-a-vis the now ingrained Breakfast Club breakdown of high schoolers that the trailer assumes we've all bought into, when going to high school and hopefully having some of these stereotypes dashed should/ could be part of every Americans' experience.

I also find the title "American Teen" a bit interesting when its focusing on a pretty specific (albeit large) demographic.