You could argue that sans teens we would miss out on some cool fashion, fun dance crazes, innovative music, and social change. But teenagers also act like teenagers – random, petulant, and shouty. And that remains an annoyance. In no particular order, we present the Top Ten moments when teenagers of stage, song, and screen needed to be sent to their rooms.
1. ROBIN ASKWITH IN HORROR HOSPITAL (1973) – Erstwhile groover and part-time pop songwriter Robin Askwith takes a trip with Hairy Holidays to a manor house in the country, populated by mad scientists and zombie experiments. We come in at the point in the proceedings where none of the actual horror appears. I’ll grant you that the hotel gives off weird vibes, but stability reigns. Our erstwhile hero Askwith spends his time ogling the ladies and gurning. Consider this his acting range throughout his career. Cut to dinner. A long table full of food and drink awaits the assembled guests. Askwith, apropos of absolutely nothing, stands up in the middle of dinner, pounds the table with his fists, shouts “What the fuck is going on ‘ere?!?” at the top of his lungs, grunts, and sits back down again. The fact that he’s a good ten years too old to play a swinging teen is bad enough, but there’s no excuse for temper tantrums at table. Seriously – go to your room.
2. THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985) – all of it. Seriously. I fail point blank to understand the appeal of this film. A group of overprivileged teens sit in a room and moan about how hard it is to find good hair gel and fingerless gloves. And Molly Ringwald dances like she has a spinal condition for no good reason other than to mug for the camera. You think life is hard, kiddies? Try the “on hold” service and listen to off key classical music for 45 minutes while you attempt to pay the rent. Rent. Google it. More whine than Sonoma County (check this).
3. SPEECH FROM THE WILD ANGELS (1966) – In a breathless display of entitlement and misplaced angst Peter Fonda intones the immortal words “We wanna be free! We wanna be free to do what we wanna do. We wanna be free to ride. We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man! … And we wanna get loaded. And we wanna have a good time. And that’s what we are gonna do. We are gonna have a good time… We are gonna have a party.”
Call The Man what you will – God, Authority, The Government, Dad – but I’d wager that he supplied the roads for you to ride that motorcycle on. Let’s not argue the toss here, but he no doubt supplied the actual motorcycle. I advocate protest against social injustice, corruption, inhumanity. Beer does not feature in this equation. The quote above evokes Stewie’s many tantrums in Family Guy – because I don’t WANNA! Party all you want – just don’t frighten the horses, and don’t be a dick about it either.
4. THE WILD ONE (1953) – The keen eyed amongst you notice a trend in progress here, no? I acknowledge the marginalised in society. The outcasts, the misfits, the unaccepted, and the unacceptable. Go them! They deserve as much of a voice as any of us.
What sticks in my craw is “What have you got?”. I realise that this signifies Marlon Brando’s defiance at any and all conventions, his devil-may-care spirit of the outlaw, but to me, it smacks of a lack of focus. Mobilise that gang! Harness that energy! Start a movement. Don’t just stand there and pout and look sullen. And don’t chew gum. It gives you wind. Fact.
5. JAMES DEAN – Fans of Dean cite his sensitivity and raw emotion, and consider him one of the finest actors of his generation. You would think that as a devotee of method acting, his chops would shine through. In reality, he cries. A lot. Does he cry at injustice and hardship of the human condition? No. Does he weep for the inhumanity of war and society? No. He cries like a massive, spoilt, petulant baby because Daddy won’t let him borrow the car/his boss won’t let him sleep with his wife/and assorted other “go to your room until you’ve calmed the hell down” moments. Plain and simple ugly crying, and for that, he’s a Hollywood Icon. No thanks.
In an unfortunate coda to this debacle, James Franco took up the mantle of Gigantic Cry Baby for No Good Reason and manages to get in at least one scene per movie. A large parental slap for the pair of them and no supper.
6. TWINKLE ONE HIT WONDER TERRY (1964) – Lynn Annette Ripley, better known as pop sensation Twinkle, shot to stardom at the tender age of 16 with her paean to teenage grief. Teen death songs graced the charts from the preceding decade and prompted general moral outrage and radio bans for their “tasteless nature” and subject matter. Undeterred, Twinkle followed in the illustrious footsteps of former teen groovers like The Shangri-Las, Johnny Preston, and John Leyton. Once more you can blame the motorcycle, and once more the heroine fights with her bad boy lover, he rides off into the night, and tragedy ensues. Scene.
I can understand grief and the horrible non-closure of “I never told you I really loved you”, but Twinkle just sounds bored. I can forgive histrionics. I can even forgive hysterics. But boredom? You can almost picture her eyes rolling as she’s forced to recant the whole dull affair. “Because, like, he died or whatever.” Insert sigh here. I’m not surprised he revved off, love.
7. THE CHA CHA HEELS SPEECH FROM FEMALE TROUBLE (1974) – I love Divine. I worship John Waters. But bitch please – pawn the shit your parents gave you for Christmas and buy your own damn cha cha heels. Feminism 101.
8. RAY DENNIS STECKLER IN THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES… (1963) – Ray Dennis Steckler. Ra. Dennis. Steckler. Give an infinite number of monkeys typewriters and they will produce Shakespeare. Give a limited number of beatnik drop outs a camera and they will produce shit. And sulk. A lot.
Like a lot of people I love this movie because it’s awful. But I can’t condone the grandiose amounts of teenage ennui and blatant snark. We get that he’s an anti-hero and a rebel, but he slouches and mumbles and sneers his way through the film until you want to ground him. He also gave us Rat Fink a Boo Boo (1966), and for that alone we should send him to his room. But for sheer teenage slouch, Incredibly Strange reigns supreme.
9. NEELY O’HARA IN VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) – She goes from wide-eyed spunky kid with a dream and a song to bratty spoiled diva in a heartbeat, and gives us the biggest poor me speech of the entire movie: “Sparkle, Neely, sparkle!” And who can forget the moment she snatches Helen Lawson’s wig in the biggest cat fight of them all? She goes through husbands and lovers like hot dinners, consumes enough booze and pills to fell an elephant, and backstabs all her friends along the way.
Does she learn any valuable life lessons from this? No, she does not. Neither therapy nor the suicide of her friend Jennifer can stop the teenage rampage of Neely. Without a thank you or a backwards glance, she carries on a campaign of self-pity, jealousy, and hatred. She pretty much invented the phrase “toys out of the pram”. And Neely owns one hell of a pram.
10. MARCIA AND JAN BRADY IN THE BRADY BUNCH (1969 – 1974) – The biggest and messiest case of sibling rivalry ever committed to the screen. Pretty girl Marcia was the eldest of the sisters and had all the boys and the popularity at school. She was also frankly as dumb as a bag of hammers, but this didn’t stop younger sister Jan from displaying green eyes at every opportunity. The veneer of 70s happy blended family cracked under the strain with Jan’s plaintive cry of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” every five minutes. To be fair, Marcia could have been nicer, and Jan could have been less needy. Everyone else in the family remained oblivious to the teen tempers, blinded as they were by all that polyester.
In a truth is stranger than fiction twist, brothers Ray and Dave Davies from British band The Kinks carried on the lively tradition of green-eyed jealousy and general petulance. Unlike the Brady Sisters, the Davies Brothers came to actual blows on more than one occasion, and rumours boast that this prompted a total US ban for the band until the mid-70s. In recent times, Ray has stamped on Dave’s birthday cake in front of guests, and Dave has stated that “My brother was only happy in the 3 and a half years before I was born.” Same womb, different day.