Teens and ‘dults Don’t Mix: Movies and TV From My Tween Years

As an impressionable young person growing up in the suburbs with a younger sister and two totally squaresville parents, figuring out what adolescence was supposed to look required that I look elsewhere for guidance. My best friend had two older sisters, the eldest of whom used to babysit for me.  She was an artist and wore awesome clothes, had feather earrings,  liked cool music, drove a Jeep Cherokee and had a cartilage piercing which Blew. My. Mind. I tried to copy her behavior and mannerisms and when her family moved  her into her first apartment in the Village before she started at Parsons I went with them and was like Oh my God, wow.
She was, to me, exactly what being a teenager was all about and  I assumed, wrongly, that I would be as cool as she was sheerly by virtue of having had this exposure.  Of course in actuality I was neither as artsy, confident or fearless about body piercing as she was but she figured prominently into my perceptions of American adolescence as did the following movies and TV programs. (Programmes? Programs. )
Movies like Clueless and shows like My So-Called Life made me excited for things like dyeing my hair, failing my drivers test,  cutting a lemon off a tree outside my dad’s office and putting  it in his tea, and defying my principal in order to hand out a forbidden literary magazine at the urging of an unorthodox substitute teacher. But, by the time I saw those things I was well into my teens. Here are the early influences.

Wayne’s World


There wasn’t a ton in Wayne’s World that I felt like I identified with. I couldn’t quite tell how old the guys were and so living with one’s parents didn’t yet seem to be as “bogus and sad” as Wayne insisted. But one part of the movie did make an indelible print on my memory and that thing was The Gasworks, the rock club where Wayne first meets Cassandra.  Lazy, cursory research shows that The Gasworks is a now-defunct rock club in Myers’s beloved hometown of Toronto. or something.  When I first watched Wayne’s World though, I just assumed that that’s where teenagers hung out: heavy metal clubs with fire spewing from the roof with  bunch of drunken hooligans in vomit-soaked band t-shirts.  I wasn’t much into metal, dirty hair or vomit, and at eleven had yet to take my first REAL drink but “Oh well!” I thought. “This is what I’ll like doing in 7 to 10 years!”

Empire Records


If the movies we watch, along with our food and drink, made up our genetic code (they do not), my sister’s body would have been 30% Shark Bites, 10% orange juice and 60% “The Empire.”  This movie was on in my house countless times and thus, a primer on ‘teenz.  Renee Zellweger was the slut friend I knew I’d have (check!), Robin Tunney was the depresso friend I knew I also must have (check kiiiiinda), Ethan Embry was the wacky asexual guy you partied with and of course my own sister’s betrothed, Johnny Whitworth was the sensitive artiste in a bowling shirt whose every hair-flip awakened yet another molecule in your vagina. This movie taught me that working at a job just means going to a place besides school to stand around, goof off with your friends, do nothing and get paid. Word.
If you walked up to me on the street, punched me in the head and yelled “The 90s!” the first thing I would think of was Liv Tyler’s  blue mohair sweater and yellow and blue plaid kilt with combat boots.  Guys.  I’m totally gonna dress like that sophomore year.

Charles in Charge


I watched this show on and off during m’tween years,  and while it was pretty boring and whatever, it made a very clear point about teenage girls and what one must look like to achieve any degree of happiness:
YES
NO
Being white as the driven snow, part Jewish and a decided brunette, I wondered exactly how i was going to pull off the golden-brown tan, blond hair and prepubescent body that Nicole Eggert was subtly insisting that I imitate.  However it was clear from the show’s cosmogony that failing to possess thee physical traits would result in a life of pedantic sexless loserdom.  A Sophie’s Choice, indeed!

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead

SueEllen reminded me a lot of my cool babysitter.  Christina Applegate is my moon goddess, but still, this movie sort of made me nervous.  I wanted to go to college and like, not be a Valley Girl burnout, but SueEllen’s adventures just made it seem like NOT caring was so much cooler than caring. You know? Right on top of that Rose!  Also, this was one of the cultural touchstones of the period that helped hit home that fashion and it’s related fields were the only truly acceptable career aspirations for cool girls to have.  While it made me anxious about liking to read, it made me SUPER EXCITED to have a neon bellhop uniform at my inevitable job at the Holiday Inn.

Fifteen


Aside from my sister and my friend Trish, virtually no one remembers this show, which could be why its basically impossible to find screencaps. Apparently it was on during the time when everyone else in my generation was off riding bikes, climbing trees, baking fudge with their grandma, knitting socks for the soldiers in The Great War and gathering berries and wildflowers in the glen. I meanwhile, was parked on the couch drinking Dr. Pepper and watching this Canadian teen drama unfold.  Alcoholism, interracial romance, your parents divorce, stealing and selling a VCR, betrayal, secrets and a wardrobe that was apparently repurposed later for the girlfriends of Seinfeld.  The best character of all was conniving Candian Brooke, who’s hair looked like the side of a roof.
Also Ry-Reyn’s in it you guys, as Billy, Courtney’s Troubled, Bullying Younger Brother!

What were the shows/movies that shaped YOUR perceptions of teendom, hmm?

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About the author

Ashley Friedman - Cornerstore Correspondent

Like most kids, Ashley grew up in New Jersey. Unlike most kids the Friedman's televison set acted as a third parent, imbuing young Ashley with the stern moral values of Claire Huxtable, the dramatic tendencies of Brenda Walsh and the earnest hopefulness of the blond kid on Silver Spoons. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence Ashley made her way to the Park Slope area of Brooklyn where she can currently be found reading foreign fashion magazines, scouring ebay for vintage heels, eating out in restaurants and otherwise stretching her meager income as far as it will go in NYC.
  • wally

    two words: Hey. Dude.

  • adam

    the parent trap 3 with those triplets! there was lots of neon, long hair, and ass-kicking with your sisters. also, they were christian heroes and cover girls for brio …