It took only nineteen seconds, seeing Alexander Skarsgard’s name in the credits, and hearing the line, “I had sex today, holy shit” to pause the trailer and press play on the full length film. A Diary of a Teenage Girl is everything I find right with the movie industry, or at least the independent film industry. It’s a raw, coming of age film that has you feeling a bit uncomfortable as you watch a fifteen-year-old girl having sex with a thirty-five-year-old man. The talented acting almost makes you forget that the actress playing the role is most likely of legal age (Bel Powley was in fact twenty-two years old at filming).
It made me feel the way most alternative films that cast young, promiscuous women lost in a journey to self-discovery do, at home. No one can I relate to more than the troubled, angsty protagonists within these dark plotlines. My favourites include, Thirteen, The Babysitters, Very Good Girls, The Smokers, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Comet and Like Crazy. All which feature a powerful female lead, battling the harsh realities that come along with growing up. The struggles of sexuality and relationships, both internally and with another person. The conflicts that reside within the self, desperation for a connection with another, the confusing nature of love, the trials of existence, and the fight to figuring out just how the hell life is suppose to be done. Each accessorised with extreme drug and alcohol abuse, of course.
Films like these get me better than anyone else, but it’s not just because they are raw and relatable, it’s more that they are authentic. Unlike the plethora of high school rom coms that Hollywood had to offer me during my adolescent and teen years. Movies such as She’s All That, Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, Whatever It Takes and Never Been Kissed (the list extends much further than that). What each of these films depicted were profound feelings of love, brought on almost instantly, and without explanation or valid cause. The relationships were usually superficially created, almost always were a bi-product of an ulterior motive, and faced a mediocre, unrealistically mortal conflict. They were utterly unrealistic; despite being entertaining to watch nonetheless.
These flicks hardly prepared me for the realm of dating sans experience. Rachael Leigh Cook was never any use to me because no guy ever dated me to win a bet. And Drew Barrymore sure as shit didn’t assist me in my learning curve as I had my first kiss in grade two, and the newspaper I worked for never sent me back to high school to write an undercover story. What they did help with was creating impractical ideals of love and high expectations. I am forever imprisoned in a world of dissatisfaction until Freddie Prinze Jr. shows up at my house, without needing a shred of basic knowledge of who I am as a person, and begs for me to be his. I mean, what relationship could ever measure up if it didn’t come alongside irrational, and grandiose gestures of affection?
I have never been able to relate to these films. Mostly because I have never experienced “movie love”, but more so because they never included any of the stressful situations that I came across while growing up. However, I can and deeply relate to the movies that follow kin to The Diary of a Teenage Girl, as I am sure many other young females can. These films portray issues that most likely will occur during the teen years. Things like finding your own identity, falling into the path of someone else’s. Feeling an attraction to an older man, possibly having sex with him. Experimenting with drugs, contemplating your own sexuality and orientation. Promiscuity, bullying, thoughts of suicide, and more often than not, feeling completely estranged, misunderstood and alone. Situations which happen more frequently to struggling youth than say, a rich model paying a guy to take you out on a date so he can go out with your sister.
Parents might counter my argument and shield their teens from these types of movies, fearing that watching will promote unfavourable behaviour rather than deterring it. However, they should realise that these stories are almost never shown in a positive light. And they usually don’t have the happiest of endings, because realistically that’s not the way life goes. If anything, teens watching will think to themselves, “hey, I better get my act together because I never want to go through something like that”. It inflicts feelings of anxiety, which is a definite deterrent. I know that watching Thirteen definitely deterred me from doing drugs, as I didn’t want to end up spaced out and lost on Melrose Avenue. Or get punched in the face by my best friend, just saying.
Likely situations arise whether you’ve gone through life with a veil over your eyes or not. And while the teen dramas of my generation were fun to watch, and incredibly hopeful, I’d rather be prepared. Instead of filling our heads with sugar coated, teenage propaganda, why not put on The Diary of a Teenage Girl, or films like it, and get a glimpse of actuality. Coming of age movies keep it real. They valiantly show that life is tough and bad things are going to happen. But that you’re not alone and there’s always a way through it. I’d say that’s a lot more hopeful than waiting for Prince Charming to show up at your doorstep.
Put on a different kind of movie, start seeing the bigger picture.
This article was written by Tanya Sanca, a writer for dusk magazine.