Split Decision: Teen Girl Squad
Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!
This week’s question:
This week's question: In honor of Booksmart, what is your favorite movie about teenaged girls?
There are some great films about teenage girls: Lolita comes first to mind, and Hanna is great fun. But to properly appreciate a teenage film one should look back at the film that were made and seen when you were a teenager, so in that respect, I have to celebrate Sixteen Candles. This was a seminal film of my teen years. I liked it so much more than The Breakfast Club (which to me, featured stereotypes complaining that they were stereotypes--a thought I had when I saw it opening weekend). The characters is Sixteen Candles were smart and smart-ass (which is why it spoke to me). While the film has issues--the racism, the drunken sex scene--it was a classic comedy back in the day. It was a film that addressed the awkwardness of adolescence and from a female, teenage point of view and that was refreshing. And who didn't crush on Michael Schoeffling? I would describe my feelings for Sixteen Candles, like a first crush. I look back at it fondly, wistfully now, but still recall all the love I had for it at the time. That film was magic.
(And not to overthink the film's influence on me but last year I jumped at the chance to interview Molly Ringwald, and I'm presently reading a book she translated.)
Daniel Clowes has said he wrote Ghost World from the perspective of recent high school grads Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer because he related most to teenage girls' outlook and emotions (Enid's name is an anagram for Clowes'). So my favorite movie about teen girls is one written by Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff, two guys who were at that time in their forties. I don't know what it's like to be an eighteen-year-old woman, but I know what it's like to be a shitty, above-it-all eighteen-year-old person, and right now I know what it's like to be a thirty-year-old person still dealing with the emotional weight of whatever I've been through, recognizing you're pretty much stuck in teen mode your entire life. Ghost World is my favorite movie about teen girls because, based on what female friends have told me, it's super accurate to being a teen girl, and because, based on my own life, it's super accurate to being a human being. It's also my favorite comic adaptation and Clowes is always floating around in my mental top three writers list, so the deck is stacked in Ghost World's favor.
There are a ton of great films that fit this question, from Thirteen to Twilight to Bring it On to 10 Things I Hate About You to Lady Bird. But Mean Girls felt the most like a revelation to me at the time. Not only was it easy for me to dismiss this film when it came out at the tail end of my high school life (despite my like of Tina Fey) because of the subject matter and my general disinterest in high school stories, but this film focuses so much on the relationships girls have with each others. It’s a peek into a world that is typically hidden from my gender, and it is as scary and dark a place as anywhere John Wick would venture. Yet this movie is also full of heart and love for the girls caught up in their tangled webs.
I don't pick favorites, especially for a category teeming with great choices. One of the first movies to come to mind for me was 2016's Edge of Seventeen, starring Hailee Steinfeld and Haley Lu Richardson, and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. Steinfeld and Richardson play best friends who suffer a severe blow to their friendship, and must decide whether or not they are going to even try to navigate a new norm for their relationship. Unlike so many films about teenage girls that include a big blow-out fight of some kind, this film doesn't necessarily end with the two of them making nice and reinforcing the strength of their bond. Their reunion is tentative, and contingent on both parties choosing to carve out a new path together. It's an unspoken agreement that could in fact be terminated at any time. We are left with hope that the girls can mend their friendship, but the film doesn't rule out the alternative either. It's a genuinely real portrayal of friends on the cusp of college, with different friends, different interests, and different plans that don't include the other, and refreshingly, don't include hard feelings.
Steinfeld also plays a unique version of the teenage girl. She's awkward with an edge (hehe), a gruffness that she knows makes her difficult to like, and she's self-aware enough to know this. The second she says something wrong, she knows it, but needs to say it anyway for fear of combusting. She's also been enabled by her one true friend for far too long. It's a character that I really empathized with, and could feel frustration for at the same time. Definitely worth a watch!
I have been totally buggin' for Clueless since I was a virgin who couldn't drive. It has only gotten better with time. It is a perfect little film.
Jawbreaker. It's dark, it's wild, it's wickedly funny, and everybody in the movie looks like a grown ass woman in high school. It got HORRIBLE reviews when it came out, and because of those horrible reviews, VH1 was able to show it on repeat on syndication. That's how I came across it, and I couldn't stop watching. The most popular girl in school is killed because her friends shoved a jawbreaker in her mouth and shoved her in the truck of their car to surprise her for her birthday. Is it just a rehash of Heathers? Yeeeaaah, kinda. Is it good? I mean, not really. Is it the best? Yes. Yes it is.
More than honorable mention: Hairspray. Both the John Waters original and the musical remake (YEAH I SAID IT.). Tracy Turnblad is the best ingenue ever.