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0 hrs, 0 words (I wrote a lot of words in my head, does that count?
(...42 days...)

First, a link to this fabulous article about the difference between online friends and real friends, and how our ability to customize our environment is just possibly making us both lonelier and less tolerant. Thanks to kilter for the link.

Now, on to the book stuff!

Read Teen Dreams the last couple of days. The subtitle is "Reading teen film and television from Heathers to Veronica Mars" so of course I'm all interested, having though John Hughes was a god (not THE god, but certainly part of the minor pantheon). In a nice concatenation of circumstances, in the couple of days before that we had watched Breakfast Club (for probably the 47th time) and Heathers (for probably the 20th time), so at least those two were fresh in my mind, and of course I have huge chunks of Buffy committed to memory...

Best part of the book was the way Kaveney, who it turns out is on LJ as rozk, traces the evolution of the teen genre film from something ABOUT teens that treats them as anthropological curiosities, to something FOR teens that treats them as a critical and appreciative audience in and of themselves, intelligent enough to be at least somewhat self-reflective. For example, one way that a "low" type of entertainment graduates to a "high" level is when it demonstrates it can take "high-culture" icons and adapt/adopt them, so for example Cruel Intentions (Dangerous Liaisons), Clueless (Jane Austen's Emma), 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew). She also gives the lineage of some of the stock characters, like James Dean => John Bender => Jason Dean (J.D.) and has some interesting things to say about the various representations of class as exhibited in, for example, Pretty in Pink vs Bring It On. One thing she doesn't discuss, which I think is interesting, is that most of the movies seem to represent the well-off and/or preppy characters in a negative light -- shallow, venal, self-absorbed -- while the lower-class characters are represented as sensitive, kinder, less prejudiced. Think for example Steff vs. Keith, Claire vs. Brian, etc.

She does spend a bit of time in each chapter highlighting what she sees as same-sex attractions/undertones/implications, which in some cases (Buffy/Faith, for example) I think are valid but in others seem a trifle manufactured. It's perfectly plausible that people of the same sex can be close friends, even to the point they will put that friendship above heterosexual romantic relationships, without there being a sexual element to the friendship. Maybe the hetero-romantic relationship is on the rocks, or not as long-standing, or (at the moment) not as much in need of reinforcement or support, to give only a few examples. I also learned that there was such a thing (for directors) as "coding" a character as gay or straight (or, I suppose, neutral). Having never taken a film class I didn't know this was something directors had to deliberately think about.

It was fascinating to see movies like American Pie analyzed critically (who knew there was a valuable statement about female sexuality buried in there?), to think about the "family tree" of movies, if you will (e.g. the way Heathers was in a sense a rebuttal of John Hughes' more wholesome/less dark vision), to consider changes in the way virginity is viewed from 198x to 200x, etc. I did think Buffy -- both the show and the character -- got short shrift. The show is mentioned in scattered places throughout but it wasn't clear to me why it didn't rate its own chapter. However, Kaveney's written extensively on BtVS, so maybe she thought she'd covered that subject.

I have to pan the index, though. There are two: a movie index and a subject index, which is in theory a great idea, but they're both inconsistent and incomplete. For example, Dangerous Liaisons is included in the movie index while Taming of the Shrew isn't, in either the movie or subject index. And although characters from all the movies and shows are mentioned by name in the text, the subject index has only the names of actors/actresses (e.g. Veronica Sawyer of Heathers is discussed in the text, but only Winona Rider is listed in the index). (With one notable exception: all the characters from Buffy are listed LOL!) In addition, the two indexes are not cross-referenced, so for example let's say I remember the character Watts was discussed. Watts is not in the index. So to find all mention of her, I have to a) remember the actress and look her up under "Masterson, Mary Stuart" and also b) remember the name of the movie (Some Kind of Wonderful) and look that up in the movie index. A minor nit, but as an indexer I feel compelled to mention it :)

So: two thumbs up for anyone who (like me) likes deconstructing pop culture, teen movies, the evolution of gender in film, and just reading about some really awesome movies. And now I'm going to go put Cruel Intentions on my Netflix queue ;)



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