Teen Mania

Ever heard of Twilight? Harry Potter? The Hunger Games? I am Number Four? Yep, you guessed it. They’re books. Teen Books. And all with their own slew of Movie related hype, with young actors served up as the main course.
Half intrigued and half annoyed with this runaway teen culture we all seem to be living in, I had to ask myself, is history repeating itself? With major vehicles like books, music and movies championing that life does indeed climax at sixteen, I decided to call upon the Classic Hollywood gods to get the answers. Did this ever happen before? And more importantly, how did humanity survive it?
Teeny Boppers of the ’40’s Its true that teen stars have often had their place in film. Annette Funicello and Hayley Mills were Disney Darlings much like Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Sandra Dee, Judy Garland, and Natalie Wood took on heavier roles like Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart. Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Powell brought fashion, beauty, and dancing onto the Hollywood scene, just as Tommy Sands, Fabian, and Tommy Steele all brought a new appreciation for dimples.
Teeny Boppers of the ’50’s But did the Teen Invasions of the past change Hollywood? In my opinion, no. Rarely did these teen stars ever carry a film alone, and as a result many went on to become very successful adult actors and actresses. Now, we believe it to be a miracle from God if a child actor survives their teenage years long enough to forge ahead into the world of real adult films.
Teeny Boppers of the ’60’s But where are our “real films” now. So overshadowed by the amazingly successful box office record breaking teen flicks, we hardly see those coming of age films where grown ups actually take a role. A significant difference I noticed when perusing my old films was that most teen oriented films had a heavy adult component, either provided by an adult storyline or very notable adult actors. In Mr. Hobbs takes a Vacation, Maureen O’Hara and Jimmy Stewart play the non-groovy, but always right, parents. In A Summer Place, a largely teen coming of age film, the potential affair between Dorothy McGuire and Richard Egan takes a lead role. In Peyton Place, that wonderful envelope pushing film from the 60’s about teen sex, we still get Lana Turner, as a grown up, resisting temptation.
What I like most about those teen geared flicks of that past is the clear reality that adulthood was a pretty great place: you got to do more, experience more, see more, and make decisions without your parents permission. What I sometimes find disturbing in our teen flicks of the day is that total exclusion of the parents altogether as a deciding force for our hero or heroin- too reflective of current real life I fear. True, Harry Potter, even with deceased parents still managed to tap into their life lessons. Twilight, not so much, and Hunger Games, not at all.
And can we survive this current teen revolution? With the fountain of youth forever being tapped, I fear we may all soon be sucked into a never ending teen driven universe, where life at sweet sixteen is as good as it gets.

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