Opinion: Teenage Dreams — As teen movies takeover streaming sites, it can be hard to stay realistic in the sea of idealistic high school portrayals


Emma Botelho, Staff Writer

As you’re scrolling through Netflix, looking for something to watch, you’re bound to see at least one teen movie in the “Trending Now” category, or tucked somewhere else on your homepage. Even just searching titles related to the keyword, “Teen,” turns up 28 movies or TV series, 15 of which are Netflix Originals — and all of these films were made in the past four years, which really brings to light how popular the “teen movie” has become. With what seems to be the mass production and marketing of teen movies all over Netflix, as well as other popular streaming sites, these movies reach so many of our current high school, and even middle school students. 

According to a Times article titled, “These Are the Most Popular Netflix Shows and Movies — According to Netflix,” written by Mahita Gajanan, a Times contributor, some of the most popular movies and shows in 2019 consisted of “The Perfect Date” (a Netflix original movie where a high schooler develops an app to offer his services as a stand-in date, which was viewed by 48 million accounts just four weeks after its release date), and “Tall Girl” (another Netflix original in which 6-foot-1 high schooler, Jodi, goes on a bumpy journey for romance). This movie gained 41 million views in its first 28 days on Netflix. 

It is obvious that teen movies are popular and in high demand, as platforms like Netflix race to upload new movies and shows targeted towards teens and young adults. Oftentimes, with the new release of another Netflix film comes a swell of social media posts and conversation surrounding the new teen flick. It has become very apparent that these movies are reaching a large audience, and it is safe to assume a majority of them are high school-aged or younger. While movies like “The Perfect Date” and “Tall Girl” contain relatively wholesome and harmless content, they may be leaving students with unrealistic expectations for their own highschool experience. 

Sophomore Aspen Reynolds is all too familiar with the teen movie trend. 

“[Teen movies] take what everyone wants high school to be, and play that up as much as possible, knowing it’s not very plausible,” Reynolds said. “You watch them and just kind of laugh because they can be so unrealistic.” 

Teen movies, especially the ones we are most familiar with, tend to present a life that is so perfect, but also so unachievable. Sometimes this is the very thing that makes them so appealing. These movies give viewers an opportunity to fantasize about what could’ve been, while they push off doing a math or history assignment. But it can occasionally be difficult to not apply these movies to your own life, and crave those iconic teen movie moments. 

“People watch these movies and think that that’s what they need to be like and act like in high school in order for them to have a good high school experience,” Avery Bauereis (10) said. 

The reality is that there is no winning or losing at high school, even if your experience doesn’t line up perfectly with your favorite coming-of-age film, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proud of all that you’ve accomplished. 

Another downfall of teen movies is that many of them are severely lacking in diversity and inclusivity — They all seem to be based on the same tedious niche. This can make it hard for all teenagers to actually relate to these movies. While relationships, dances, friendships and the occasional party are all very general things that many teens experience and yearn for in their high school years, they all look different from person to person. There have been so many movies reflecting the same groups of people, that these movies can get very redundant. As we become more accepting and open as a society, the long-overdue need for diverse and accepting teen movies has come to light. 

Falling in love and having a relationship seems to be a central plot in so many teen movies, the way that relationships are portrayed are oftentimes just as, if not more, unrealistic and potentially damaging, compared to other factors of teen life. 

“Teen movies always make relationships seem super unrealistic with the perfect boy, and perfect girl. Then they have one huge fight, almost break up, work it out, and it’s perfect again,” Bauereis said. 

This is the all-too-common relationship curve found in most teen movies, but it couldn’t be further from reality. Going into a relationship thinking it’s going to be like the movies sets such impossibly high expectations for everyone involved. Not having the perfect “kissing in the rain” moment doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong, and as fun as it looks in “The Kissing Booth,” chances are it’s a little lackluster in real life. 

Teen movies are iconic and fun. They’re a genre of movie and TV series that are constantly evolving and developing, from generation to generation. Movies like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Breakfast Club” offer a fun insight into the lives of our parents as kids, and years from now can do the same for us. Regardless of the occasional corny theme and cliche line, it’s important to enjoy whatever teen movies speak to you. But even more important is the ability to step back and acknowledge that this isn’t actually how high school works, and there’s no reason to worry about “doing high school right.” 

While it can be hard to find a teen movie that breaks out of the typical teen movie routine, there are some that offer different ideas of what high school is like. 

  1. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — This award-winning movie is based off of Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Having directed the movie himself, it remains true to the narrative of the book. This movie follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy freshman, throughout his journey of meeting new friends and developing as a person. What sets this movie apart from the others is that it touches on a lot of issues that are missing in many Netflix originals, such as exploring sexuality, mental health and self-worth. This movie also breaks down typical stereotypes of what it means to be a “jock” or a “mean girl,” making the movie feel more realistic. 
  2. “The Breakfast Club” — A true classic that many of today’s teens, as well as their parents, have seen. While this movie does still possess a lot of the typical teen movie charm, it has a lot of differences, as well. This movie shows five high school students, from all different groups and lifestyles, as they serve a Saturday detention with their principal. While the nature of the movie is very lighthearted and fun, it does do a good job of breaking down roles like “the bad boy” or “the rich girl,” and bringing all of the students together despite their seemingly obvious differences. It also discusses some heavier topics throughout the movie that are missing in a lot of other teen movies. Overall, “The Breakfast Club” uses these preconceived notions and stereotypes to bring a group of people together, rather than to isolate them. 
  3. “Euphoria” — This is a new TV series available on Hulu and HBO, and it really brings to light a lot of modern aspects of teen life. Throughout the show, topics like addiction, gender identity and party culture are discussed and portrayed. It follows 17-year-old Rue Bennett (Zendaya) through her struggle with addiction while still trying to have a “normal” high school experience. The show has both humorous and very heavy themes, and does a good job of representing the ups and downs that make up high school.