It’s 2019 and girls still wanna have fun.
In 1983, Cyndi Lauper released a feminist anthem about girls embracing their independence and expressing the freedom to do as they wish. In an interview with The Atlantic, Lauper spoke candidly about the message behind the lyrics and how she altered the original version of the song which was written by Robert Hazard from the perspective of a man, using the idea of “fun” as a stand-in for coerced sexual activity. The 80’s icon changed the meaning and pushed against this perspective to express her feminist beliefs. In the interview, she explains: “It doesn’t mean that girls just want to fuck. It just means that girls want to have the same damn experience that any man could have.”
So, how far-fetched would it be to suggest that it is 2019 and spoiler alert: girls on screen wanna have fun too.
Teenage girls in films are often categorized into stereotypes in exchange for laughs from the audience and even from characters within the film. Think about stock characters such as the rich mean girl, the isolated loner, the rebel going through an early 2000s goth phase, and the “upper middle class” girl next door who’s “not like other girls”. The list goes on and while they’re all real to some degree, there’s something incomplete and superficial about these stereotypes. These are one-dimensional characters.
For me, the coming-of-age genre is necessary because it fosters connection between the viewer and the story. It creates opportunities for representation and there’s so much potential in the genre’s ability to paint a portrait of youth. However, when these one-dimensional characters are placed on screen, there’s no room for growth or meaningful connection. As a teenage girl, films that promised to represent experiences relative to mine have left me feeling empty. That is until I saw the trailer for Booksmart.
Getting Straight A’s, Giving Zero F’s
Booksmart follows two teenage girls Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) who, on the eve of their graduation, realize that focusing on their academics throughout school caused them to miss out on major high school experiences. In order to make up for lost time, the girls embark on an adventure to get their youth back.
The trailer offers a fresh new perspective on what it means to heal from the pressures that come with having to be an overachiever. Their healing is celebratory and, I say this in the most loving way, it is refreshingly stupid. It’s more than just two girls getting into shenanigans. It is a story of two best friends who want to forget about the rules and be free together, even if it’s just for one night.
However, this does not sit well with everyone.
While re-watching the trailer for the millionth time, I couldn’t help but scroll down to the comment section to aid my curiosity about other people’s thoughts. I was met with aggressive comments that dismissed the possibilities of what the film could offer. Their words felt unnecessarily negative.
I was struck by users who were already comparing the film to 2007s Superbad, calling the movie cliché and unoriginal. People are already writing it off as just another teen movie, completely disregarding the ways in which Booksmart will transgress the boundaries of the coming-of-age genre by offering characters that seem unconventional based on what mainstream films have given us. Think back to the stereotypes that I mentioned before – it seems like Booksmart is offering us characters that complexify the teenage girl tropes that we have become familiar with.
Why are we so afraid of showing the unhinged, not-so-pretty moments that are a part of living life as a teenage girl? We’re gross, we’re silly and we express ourselves in ways that do not line up with the expectations of patriarchy. We don’t all look the same, we don’t all act the same and we are not just instruments for the male narrative. It’s time that film and its audiences catch up. I say that Booksmart deserves a fighting chance. Girls on screen wanna have fun too.
Booksmart will be released in theaters on May 24th, 2019.