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Generation Multiplex

Timothy Shary
FOREWORD BY David Considine
Copyright Date: 2002
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  • Book Info
    Generation Multiplex
    Book Description:

    When teenagers began hanging out at the mall in the early 1980s, the movies followed. Multiplex theaters offered teens a wide array of perspectives on the coming-of-age experience, as well as an escape into the alternative worlds of science fiction and horror. Youth films remained a popular and profitable genre through the 1990s, offering teens a place to reflect on their evolving identities from adolescence to adulthood while simultaneously shaping and maintaining those identities.

    Drawing examples from hundreds of popular and lesser-known youth-themed films, Timothy Shary here offers a comprehensive examination of the representation of teenagers in American cinema in the 1980s and 1990s. He focuses on five subgenres-school, delinquency, horror, science, and romance/sexuality-to explore how they represent teens and their concerns, how these representations change over time, and how youth movies both mirror and shape societal expectations and fears about teen identities and roles. He concludes that while some teen films continue to exploit various notions of youth sexuality and violence, most teen films of the past generation have shown an increasing diversity of adolescent experiences and have been sympathetic to the particular challenges that teens face.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79798-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    David Considine

    Released in the summer of 2001, Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick’sA.I.introduced movie audiences to David Swinton, a robot boy, desperately seeking his mother’s love. Brilliantly played by 13-year-old Haley Joel Osment, David searches for self, reality, and security through bizarre environments like Rouge City and Flesh Fair. Though the film is set in the distant future, Monica Swinton’s portrayal of a mother, unable to meet the needs of the son she desired and “imprinted” with, rings sadly true in the real world of early-twenty-firstcentury America.

    Published earlier in 2001, Ron Taffel’sThe Second Familyargued that in modern...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. 1 INTRODUCTION: The Cinematic Image of Youth
    (pp. 1-25)

    American cinema in the late twentieth century revealed a curious and often inconsistent cultural fascination with stories about and images of young people. Various film trends catering to young audiences had emerged over past generations, but movies in the last 20 years of the century appeared almost fixated on capturing certain youth styles and promoting certain perspectives on the celebration (or really, survival) of adolescence. Many arguments persist as to why teenagers have been targeted by Hollywood: youth have disposable incomes that they enjoy spending on entertainment; today’s children become the consumptive parents of tomorrow; filmmakers engage in the vicarious...

  7. 2 YOUTH IN SCHOOL: Academics and Attitude
    (pp. 26-79)

    The school film is perhaps the most easily definable subgenre of youth films since its main plot actions focus on the setting of high school or junior high school campuses. The vast majority of school films present the educational building as a symbolic site of social evolution, with young people learning from and rebelling against their elders (and each other) in the ongoing cycle of generational adjustment and conflict. In certain instances, school films have actually considered how the design and structure of the educational facilities of a school impact upon the students and teachers, but most often the school...

  8. 3 DELINQUENT YOUTH: Having Fun, On the Loose, In Trouble
    (pp. 80-136)

    Young people would seem to be natural candidates for trouble, from mischievous misadventures brought on by playful curiosities to criminal acts induced by more violent and angry drives. Indeed, the range of plots in films dealing with youth in trouble is quite wide. Sometimes teens wander into their delinquency with little effort or intent, turning a day off from school or a night of babysitting into a series of unexpected (and usually humorous) exploits; more often, however, teens approach their delinquency quite deliberately, rebelling against uncaring or uninformed parents, against a misdirected society, or as demonstrated in the previous chapter,...

  9. 4 THE YOUTH HORROR FILM: Slashers and the Supernatural
    (pp. 137-179)

    Of all the subgenres in this study, youth horror has been—perhaps appropriately—the most enigmatic. It enjoyed massive financial success and public popularity in the late ’70s and early ’80s: in 1981,Varietyclaimed that “slasher” films (many of which featured teens) accounted for 60 percent of all U.S. releases that year, and 25 of the 50 top-grossing films of that year were “slashers” as well.¹ Given this voluminous and lucrative output of horror films at the time, and considering how many of them were about teenagers, certain popular beliefs and assumptions emerged: the youth horror film was excessively...

  10. 5 YOUTH AND SCIENCE: Technology, Computers, Games
    (pp. 180-208)

    Perhaps the most hybrid of youth film subgenres is the teen science film, which often combines elements of the school, horror, romance, and even delinquency subgenres, but which differs from those films because its use of science and fantasy yields distinct representations of youth that are not consistently found in those other subgenres. Youth in science films are sometimes the school nerd types who stumble into an adventure because of their keen curiosity, but rarely does that curiosity produce the social transformation that most nerds in school films achieve through fighting their nerd image. Sometimes science youth are tough and...

    (pp. 209-254)

    Romantic longing and sexual curiosity take on heightened intensity and profundity for youth in the adolescent years. A large part of working through puberty to adulthood is the struggle to recognize and cope with the emotional and physiological changes that arrive with the onset of secondary sexual characteristics: young people develop crushes and question their sexual impulses as they witness their bodies changing, members of the opposite (and/ or same) sex becoming more attractive, and their friends becoming more occupied with aspects of dating. Because adolescent sexuality is so confusing for those who experience it and is still difficult to...

  12. 7 CONCLUSION: Youth Cinema at the Millennium
    (pp. 255-264)

    There have been two primary goals of this study: to examine how the image of youth developed in American cinema during the last generation of the twentieth century, and to demonstrate that such an examination must be founded on an analysis of various generic conventions pertaining to films about youth. I will speak to this second aim first, since it has been more implicit.

    One of my arguments that has been established from the start is that depictions of teenagers in cinema are characterized by and rely upon certain generic elements, for many of the same reasons that all films...

  13. APPENDIX A. Filmography of Youth Films, 1980—2001
    (pp. 265-278)
  14. APPENDIX B. Subjective Superlative Lists
    (pp. 279-282)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 283-300)
    (pp. 301-308)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 309-330)