Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Nerds, jocks. My side, your side. It's all bullshit. Its hard enough just trying to be yourself."*

   I’ve been thinking a lot about where I lost control of my life, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my choices over the years have been heavily influenced by the cinema I fancy. It occurs to me that nothing I’ve ever done wrong is my fault. I think, instead, that the movies I live and die by (i.e. romantic comedies, most of which are set in the 80's) taught me some fallacious things about attracting members of the opposite sex and about life in general.

1.     If you are poor (and by poor, I mean upper-middle class), no one will ever love you. Unless they lose a bet and are forced to get to know you personally before deciding you’re a heinous, smelly, poor person.

Example: Can’t Buy Me Love. Ronald Miller is poor. He is so poor that he has to have a job. In high school. What? That poor, pathetic bastard. But Ronald’s lawn-mowing days come to an end when he bails cheerleading captain Cindy Mancini out of a jam and parleys that into an opportunity to pose as her boyfriend. Turns out, money can indeed buy you love. And popularity. But don’t let it go to your head. Because then everybody will end up hating you, and that’s way worse than getting ignored.
Would you believe this is Ronald POST-makover? Ah, the 80's.

We see this again in Pretty in Pink, She’s All That, and Some Kind of Wonderful, among others.

From this I learned that it sucks to be poor, but it’s even worse to be unpopular.

Lesson: become popular, whatever it takes. Also, be rich or prevent anyone from coming over to your house and seeing how you live in a mere two-story, four-bedroom home. How embarrassing!

2.     If you want to change your social standing, just change your clothes and take off those ridiculous glasses, already!

The makeover scene is iconic in movies, especially teen movies. And I love a makeover scene! Some of my favorite makeover scenes are:

-Can’t Buy Me Love. Cindy Mancini takes Ronald’s glasses off and poof! He’s a stud!

-Grease. Sandy goes from poodle skirts to ass-tight leather pants and takes up smoking to win her man! (He also made himself over by lettering in track.)

-She’s All That (see above). Who could have ever guessed that Rachel Leigh Cook was pretty underneath that paint smock?

-Clueless. They dye Tai’s hair and put her in new clothes and, guess what? She’s beautiful!

-Not Another Teen Movie. Riffing on She’s All That, Catherine (Mia Kirshner) gives Janey (Chyler Leigh) a makeover by removing her glasses and taking her hair out of ponytail. She then says, “There, I did it. I’m a genius.” Genius. 
She's so obviously ugly. She has glasses!

Lesson: if you are ugly, it’s probably because you are wearing glasses.

3.     If your parents go out of town, have a party that is so epic it destroys the very foundations of their home.

That party in Sixteen Candles was THE PLACE TO BE. I always wanted to go to a party like that.(Remember when someone throws a jock-strap at drunk Caroline's face and she grabs it and says, "Now who's is these?" Priceless.) But seriously, why was Jake Ryan not the least bit disturbed that his friends and acquaintances had virtually FUCKED UP his parents’ house? I mean, Long Duk Dong and that track chick brought an exercise bike through the ceiling! There was water damage, foundational damage, chunks of Caroline’s hair…and then he gave Ted his dad’s Porsche! How did he have time to pick Samantha up from her sister’s wedding, let alone clean the dining room table so they could kiss over a birthday cake?
This shows maybe 4% of the destruction of Jake's parents' house.

When we were seniors in high school, my friend Gabe (whom I’ve mentioned before) had a party while her parents were out of town. Knowing that we’d have to clean up afterward made us paranoiac about following the innumerable massive, beer-drinking football players around as they punched stuff and spit everywhere. Teenagers are destructive! You can’t have a party like that and expect to graduate from high school or avoid a juvenile detention center.

Other examples: Mean Girls, Risky Business.

Lesson: There are no consequences to any of your actions. Do what feels right. Live in the now!

4.     Being different sucks.

This one is fairly obvious. Eric Stoltz in Some Kind of Wonderful or Mask, Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink, Cory Haim in anything (he just looked different, like he was ripe for bullying, especially in Lucas, duh). If you march to your own drummer, no one will ever love you. So you have two choices: conform already or try to become invisible.
When you look like Lucas, people will hate you.

Lesson: Make everyone like you, no matter what it takes!

5.     Smoking is very cool.

To their credit, modern teen movies don’t glorify smoking the way the older ones did. Sandy had to smoke a cigarette while wearing her ass-tight pants in Grease to finally get Danny’s attention. Veronica (Winona Ryder) pops a smoke in her mouth just before JD blows himself up in Heathers (thereby lighting her smoke). And in one of the first epic teen movies, Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean smokes every damn chance he gets (of course he was closer to 24 than 16 when he played that role, so that partially explains it).
Sandy smokes to win Danny's love. Danny wears a letterman sweater. Fair trade.

Lesson: smoking is extremely awesome and will make you popular.

6.     If your friends or neighbors seem weird or different, they’re probably vampires.

Fright Night, The Lost Boys and, in more recent times, Twilight have all shown us that the threat of vampires is very real and it’s not going anywhere. But why are all the vampires so damn sexy? The message here, I believe, is not to think too much. If your high school peers or next-door neighbors are vampires, just go with it. Until things get too real, and then run like hell or visit Mr. Miyagi and pick up some karate skills.

Lesson: Be open-minded and practice your cardio.

I don’t know where this leaves me in terms of becoming a responsible adult, but I do feel strength in the knowledge that, as a product of my generation, I am completely blameless for all of my life choices. Boss!
*Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) schooling all the popular kids on what it means to be a really cool kid in Can't Buy Me Love (Steve Rash, 1987).


  1. So fucking funny, I was laughing out loud. And I had a cameo!

  2. I hold Dead Poets Society and Say Anything responsible for my lot in life.