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Write an essay on one only of the topics.

  • Trace the development of the teen movie since the 1930s focusing on two or three key examples such as pre-war movies , teen rebels or the golden age of teen movies in the 1980s
  • How has pop music been represented on screen? Discuss using two or three significant examples such as the impact of the Beatles of film or the success of the Spice Girls

The Birth of Motion Pictures and Early Innovations

Films have a history from the 1890’s when motion picture cameras were innovated and film production companies started being formed. Technology was limited during this era and the films produced were under one minute long. In 1927, motion pictures were founded but they did not have sound. During the first decade of the motion picture, film moved to become an established industry, which entertained the masses. Films were now some minutes long and were made up of several shots (Brown, 2017). A rotating camera for taking panning shots was built in 1898. In 1897, the first film studios were built and special effects came into being. The first close up shot was introduced in then1900s and the films produced in this era were called ‘chase films.’

Animation was first introduced to movies in 1899 and the first multi-reel film was produced in Australia in 1906. ‘The Nickelodeon’ was the first permanent theatre, which showed films as from 1905. As from 1910, actors started receiving screen credit for roles played in different movies. Newsreels were exhibited from 1910 and were a way of spreading news. The American film industry grew rapidly and had largest market share in Australia and all European countries apart from France (Landy, 2014). Over the years, movies were classified age-wise and teen movies came up. Teen movies have grown to become a very large industry for Hollywood.

There is debate on whether or not there were teen films produced before 1950s.this is due to the fact that the ‘teenager’ had not yet been invented. During this era, young characters in films were depicted in different and inconsistent methods. Mary Pickford is however credited with creating the ‘cinema of adolescence’ at 16 when she became a starlet (Berumen, 2014). young characters were also portrayed in the movies ‘birth of a nation’ and ‘all quiet on the western front, both in 1915 and 1930 respectively.

The concept of the teenager started emerging in the 1950S and studios began to make a discovery of the demographic, which was newly formed. Studios took advantage of this to impart moral lessons on teenagers by coming up with morality plays. The characters in the teen films in this era personified either good or evil and some would frequently be on the wrong side of the law. Some of the films were known as rebel films for example, rebel without a cause and high school confidential. Other teenage films were musicals or music-centric films. This was also the age of rock n roll hence some of these movies centered on discovery of rock ‘n’ roll or banning of rock ‘n’ roll by adults (Brown, 2013). Teenage musical stars like Chuck Barry and Little Richard were featured prominently in these films. The youth-oriented group of the 1950s was strongly opposed to the adults’ choice of nostalgic movies. They preferred movies like ‘Rock Around the Clock’ in 1956, which featured the disc jockey Alan Freed, and the group Bill Haley and His Comets and others. Many of the films in this era argued that rock ‘n ‘roll was new and fun. The adults however criticized this strongly and they felt that there was a rise in juvenile delinquency and this was illustrated in a film adaptation of Maxwell Anderson’s stage play, ‘The Bad Seed,’ in 1956.

Pre-1950s and the Emergence of the Teenager Concept

In early October 1952,’Bandstand’ began as a local programme for teens on WFIL-TV in Philadelphia. As from 1956, Dick Clark became the main host for ‘American Bandstand’ and the show grew to become a mainstay for performances of rock groups. To appeal to the teen market, actors were miscast, for example Pat Boone who took part in ‘April Love’ in 1957 by taking the role of a juvenile delinquent who was sent back to his Uncle’s farm for rehabilitation. By 1960, the youth market was worth $ 10 billion yearly (Kirschbaum, 2015). In the last year of the decade however, tragedy struck when pop idols 22-year old songwriter Buddy Holly, 17 year old Ritchie Valens and 28-year-old Richardson were all killed in a plane crash on 3 February 1959 while on a winter dance party tour.

Hollywood made a realization that the teenage population, which was affluent, could be exploited, as they were rebellious and happy-go-lucky as depicted in different films. ‘Blackboard Jungle’ was the first film to use a rock ‘n’ roll song as its soundtrack. It featured students who were led by a disrespectful punk. Another film, ‘High School Confidential’ came out in 1958 and featured drugs in a high school dope ring (Nowell, 2013). It had lots of slang, Russ Tamblyn starring as an undercover police officer posing as a student and drag races. It exploited the new non-conformist attitudes of teenagers.

Two other films portrayed the scary, self-expressive and a rebellious teenage population. Marion Brando was a symbol of adolescent and anti-authoritarian rebellion when he acted in ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ and ‘The Wild One.’ He received an Oscar nomination and played a memorable role as a teen character that was self-absorbed. James Dean could be referred to as ‘The First American Teenager.’ He became the epitome of adolescent pain and appeared in three films before passing away in 1955. He acted in ‘East of Eden’ and ‘Rebel without a Cause,’ which was about juvenile delinquency and alienation. He played the role of a mixed-up and defiant teenager, who engaged in various uncouth behaviors (Brown, 2013). He later died in a car-crash but was awarded best actor nomination for his role in ‘East of Eden,’ post-humuously. Yung persons loved attending outdoor drive-ins, which showed cheap fare that had been created for them in a new teen genre. Various films targeting teenagers were generated such as ‘The Blob’, ‘Not of this Earth’, and ‘The Wasp Woman.’

The teen movies of the 1960s matched the tone of the era. The films in this era were mainly about the fun side of being a teenager, which was dating and dancing. These films were characterized by bright colors, fun music and relationship issues. The most popular movie during these times was ‘The Beach Party Movie.’ Beach party movies were a big hit with the teens of the 1960s. Some of the movies involved musical guests, for example the film by Tom Hanks, ‘That Thing You Do.’ In the 1960’s one of the major film trends was aimed at appealing to the baby boomer age which was a well-groomed youthful middle-class.TV shows such as Ozzie and Harriet featured clean white teens. There were also tales of carefree teens, which served as a counterpart of rebellious and mixed-up teen films and counterbalanced the political and social scene in the 60s, which was quite scary (Hantke, 2017).

The 1950s: Rise of Youth Market and Teenage Rebellion

Hollywood’s first high profile surfing film had numerous sequels and imitators for the teenage market. It featured a teenage girl who was petite, a tomboy surfer and a student named Francie Lawrence. American International Pictures was founded in 1956 and made a realization of the lucrative buying power of the teenagers and advertised their films aggressively saying that it was what happened when 10000 kids met on 5000 beach blankets. These beach movies adopted pop music and hence appealed to teenagers.

The 70s saw topics of teen films become serious. One film, Carrie has been iconic and terrifying looked at the concept of bullying and a negative high school experience. American Grafffiti on the other hand, looks at the complex relationship issues, which were being faced by teenagers. The films were very well received in the 70s. American Graffiti was chosen to be part of the US Library of Congress National Film registry as it was said to be significant historically, culturally and aesthetically. The teen films of this era were mostly comedies, satires and musicals all targeted at teenagers (Floriano, 2015). They looked at the expectations of society in a satirical manner and requested that their viewers do the same.

The most popular film in terms of influence and controversy was the high school movie, Grease. As compared to the previous decades, the film mentions popularity and focuses on sexual and platonic relationships between teenagers at Rydell High. The themes of sex and popularity henceforth became very important in high school films in the coming decades. Grease is not famous for good morals as the film ended with main couple being happy when Sandy becomes someone she is not (Pieuchot & Douglas, 2013). Rizzo gets a pregnancy scare, which turns out to be nothing. The characters get away with nothing. The whole film acts as a story of the journey to one becoming whom they truly are however how twisted or questionable their journey might be.

Most people say that teen films did not truly exist until this era. Studios began using new strategies to target teens and teen movie production exploded and created some of the most important and classic onscreen depictions of teenager experiences. Films by John Hughes like Ferris Bueller and sixteen candles were targeted towards teens. Other classics of this period were films like the karate kid, dirty dancing, say anything, heathers and dead poets society. Most of the teen films in this era dealt with the superficial struggles of being teen and more serious issues like death, gangs and effects of divorce (Stanfield, 2013). The films of this era have stood the test of time due to the fact that they sum the whole teenage experience.

The teens in this era were new and fresh-faced and considered as brat packs. They starred in a number of movies like the breakfast club, pretty in pink and sixteen candles. The breakfast club was also popular and assisted in developing the idea that school does not have to be full of cliques and that secretly; everyone was the same and could get along (Snelson, 2013). The original film of the hairspray questions racial segregation though setup in Baltimore in 1962.It emphasizes that we are all the same.

The 1960s: Fun and Relationship Issues

 The teenage films of the 80s reference sex and later it becomes a main theme for some of the films. Brat pack movies had no crude conversations or vulgar terms and were innocent as compared to today’s films. Ferris Bueller’s day off is a film which sides with high schoolers and says that adults are not always right adding to the fact that school is not right for everyone. The character in this film, Ferris Bueller, skips school, fakes calls but is still loved all the same. He knows how to get by and knows that one needs to embrace all that happens to them and all this is not necessarily taught in high school (Burnett, 2015). In school people are taught how to conform and that, you need to work hard to get a job, money and nice house. Ferris is however, a good kid at heart and everyone in school loves him and so does his family.

The 1990s saw film studios exploring more than the teen experience and opening up new genres that would create life-long moviegoers. American Pie and Can’t hardly wait were comedies which dealt with graduating from high school and what the future holds while serious films like pump up the volume looked at how teenagers react to the world around them, looking at if they are powerless or powerful enough to take control of their own destiny. The studios also began production of horrors like scream; I know what you did last summer, the faculty, urban legend and disturbing behavior (Rollins, 2015). These films were very big box office hits and the teens still accessed them in cinemas, which had low ratings. Despite the expansion into new genres, a few classic films were specifically made about the high school experience. Films such as jawbreaker looked at popularity and hierarchies in high school while clueless also covered high school hierarchy.

Cliques were a prominent theme in this era as shown in the film clueless. Popularity was very important to the characters in this film and the main storyline was transformation of a new kid to one of the most popular girls in school. The popular children hold good positions in the school and can change their grades by persuading teachers. The main character, Cher uses teachers to get her a higher grade and her idea of assisting her colleagues is to do makeovers and get them boyfriends. She gets a happy ending in the film but this is not a good moral for teenagers watching. This era saw films having high school movie songs. The cliques in schools are made up of beautiful kids, coffee shop kids and geeks among others. There is always a female lead that is mysterious and does not get along with everyone but falls in love with a bad boy who is secretly sensitive. There is also always a quiet and nice person who drools over some popular girl (Clark, 2013). These story outlines fit in with high school movies of the past and future, which have same cliques, relationships and parental issues. There is a school, dating a prom and happy ending.

The 1970s: Serious Topics and Satirical Views

American pie is a great example of how teen movies focus their themes towards alcohol and sex rather than friendship circles. Gross humor is emphasized and at the end of the film, they recognize that life must go on after high school (Christopherson, 2013). The film ends abruptly.

In this era, film studios continued to produce movies in various genres. This decade was set apart by the fact that teens were viewed as intelligent people who are yet to become adults. The film in this era looked at issue like school shootings, through the film elephant, crushing parental control in the film the virgin suicides, how to treat one another in high school in the film mean girls and how to deal with class and socio-economic differences in the film the class (Freeman, 2015). These films covered a wide range of issues. Teen comedy also came up through films like Superbad and Juno.

The homicidal teen was also featured in this era. Horrors were covered through films like swim fan, urban legends 2, the skulls and Jennifer’s body. Superbad is one of the most prominent movies of this era. It focuses on the determination for popularity, drinking and drugs. It stands out due to its believability. The characters in this film depict familiar characters that one knew while in high school (Schindler, 2014). Superbad is a turning point for teen movies because it mirrors the exact life of high school and is very nostalgic.

This era has a number of outstanding films for young adults. Movies like hunger games, perks of being a wallflower and spring breakers have brought their own unique aesthetic to the teen genre. The theme of popularity still remains and become more important, a film like 21 Jump Street had a strong focus on popularity and how the things, which interest teens and trends which happen change over time. As one of the characters, Channing Tatum wanders through the car park in the school, he cannot recognize the world that he used to rule seven years before. He is resented by the new eco-friendly kids who are cool. Films like the perks of being a wallflower deal with the other teens that do not have glamorous or exciting high school lives. It lays a focus on the many social groups in high school and partying and the loneliness that comes from being seen as different (Kirby, 2014). The importance of true friendship is a big theme here. Project x is a film which does not have a moral or message to the audience. It looks at the culture of teen parties. Drugs, misogynistic attitude towards women, ability of the teenagers to get away with destruction of the whole neighborhood and Alcohol are glorified. They set cars on fire with a flamethrower or make friends with dealers who do.

The two common cited history of film is in the 50s and 80s in terms of youth culture. The stories of these eras are compatible as the 50s focuses on the emergence of teenagers about whom teen films could be made while 80s focuses on the consolidation of teen films as a generic form. Most scholars agree that teen films were invented in the 1950s. The 1980s is a renaissance period for teen films .The teenage demographic has continued to grow hence films has to continue being produced so that the demographic is addressed. Ideas about teenagers were not all American but Hollywood’s establishment as the top film industry could not have come at a better time as it influenced teen films. Looking at the earlier forms of teen films helps us to get an understanding of how Hollywood has contributed to the growth of the genre. Teen film came out at a time when the cinema refined its products into different genres. The genres were a means of appealing to different expectations, production of novelty and repeating success. There has been a wider historical and cultural range in discussing teen film as it has a lot to offer. Teen films have been part of the growth of the film industry as they have a wide audience, which has grown overtime. The films have been a reflection of society and what teenagers go through in real life. Some of these films have been an inspiration to teenagers as they learn lessons from them, which they apply in their everyday lives. The movies have assisted to give some teens confidence and to teach them that the most important thing is friendship and they do not have to be popular (Combs & Combs, 2013). They have also learnt the impact of things like drugs and alcohol to their lives, both personal and school life.

Overall, the teen film industry continues to grow as the decades go by. The genres are still increasing and the way the films are packaged is changing. Many teens have been able to get roles in these films as the industry has expanded hence there is a myriad of jobs. The teen movies have brought many opportunities to the film industry.


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