On-Screen Teen Bubble Bursts Teen movies are all about stereotypes — the geek, the jock, the popular girl. But the new trend among filmmakers is to let teens tackle issues beyond detention and prom.
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On-Screen Teen Bubble Bursts

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On-Screen Teen Bubble Bursts

On-Screen Teen Bubble Bursts

On-Screen Teen Bubble Bursts

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Teen movies are all about stereotypes — the geek, the jock, the popular girl. But the new trend among filmmakers is to let teens tackle issues beyond detention and prom.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

A lot of celebrities in this country get their start in a very specific type of media, the teen movie. And there are stock story lines and stock characters in those movies - think the cheerleader, the jock, the geek moving up and down the social hierarchy. NPR's Alison Bryce reports that new teen films are going way beyond those stock characters and stock story lines, beyond detention or the prom date.

ALISON BRYCE: You want to talk about teenagers in recent movies? Look to Olivia Thirlby. She's in two, "Juno" and "Snow Angels." And in both she helps a friend navigate problems that have nothing to do with high school. In "Juno," Thirlby's bubbly blonde character holds Juno's hand while Juno tells her parents the unexpected news.

(Soundbite of movie "Juno")

Ms. OLIVIA THIRLBY: (As Leah) Dude, I think it's best to just tell them.

Ms. ELLEN PAGE: (As Juno) I'm pregnant.

BRYCE: And in "Snow Angels," a movie out now, Thirlby's character also extends beyond the world of high school. She becomes a confidant to her crush, Arthur, while affairs, alcoholism and murder swirl around him.

(Soundbite of movie "Snow Angels")

Ms. THIRLBY: (As Lila Raybern) Why are you smiling?

Mr. MICHAEL ANGARANO: (As Arthur Parkinson) I've never seen you without your glasses.

Ms. THIRLBY: Yeah, because I think I look funny without them.

BRYCE: All we see of Arthur and Lila's high school is marching band practice and empty hallways where they awkwardly steal glances from one another.

(Soundbite of movie "Snow Angels)

Ms. THIRLBY: And I think you like me too. And you're just afraid to say it.

Mr. DAVID GORDON GREEN (Director, "Snow Angels"): I consciously made an effort to make them particularly eccentric, just kind of individual and independent.

BRYCE: "Snow Angels" Director David Gordon Green put his teen characters outside the realm of high school so the audience wouldn't judge them.

Mr. GREEN: They are their own little isolated island in utopia, away from the stress, anxieties of social pressures, of social circles, of the rest of the high school community.

BRYCE: In the past, movies about high school culture idealized the experience, says actress Olivia Thirlby.

Ms. THIRLBY: It's refreshing, I think, to see movies that are about teenagers but aren't about high school because, you know, while high school is important and it's an important time and it's kind of the way to go to remember your teen years, there's so much more going on.

BRYCE: There is a lot more going on. And movies like "Superbad," "Rushmore," and "Rocket Science" show it. But back in the '80s, the John Hughes era, teenagers lived and died to fit in at high school. Ty Burr, the Boston Globe's film critic says movies dealing solely within the insular high school world are over.

Mr. TY BURR (Film Critic, Boston Globe): Those movies, there were only teenagers. There were no adults. The only adults were sort of rare authority figures, you know, mean teachers, the occasional grumpy parent. But you know, you look at "The Breakfast Club" or "Ferris Bueller," "Pretty in Pink."

(Soundbite of movie "Pretty in Pink")

Mr. ANDREW MCCARTHY: (As Blane McDonnagh) I had a great time.

Ms. MOLLY RINGWALD: (As Andie Walsh) Liar.

Mr. MCCARTHY: I was with you, I had a great time. If I was in a Turkish prison, I would have a great time. Feel any better if I asked you to the prom? I know the prom's kind of lame, so if you don't want to go...

Mr. BURR: The teenage world in those movies is a completely self-contained bubble.

BRYCE: The high school-centric bubble has burst. And teen movie critic Jade Kassof(ph) says it's great. She relates to the teenagers she sees on screen today.

Ms. JADE KASSOF (Movie Critic): I think teenagers are, I guess, crude a lot of the times, and they are more mature than adults think that they are. But I'm pretty sure it was probably the same back in the '80s. It just didn't get shown on television or in movies.

BRYCE: If you want to check out real teenagers on screen, the documentary "American Teen" will be in theaters this summer. It follows four seniors around their small town Indiana high school. Alison Bryce, NPR News.

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