How Teen Comedies Taught Us To Hate

Hate is a strong word. One thing I’ve noticed is that the older we get, the more value and weight we give to the word “hate”. However, it seems like a lot of people, including myself for that matter, have a habit of undervaluing it and throwing it around way too much. When I was younger, and more naive, emotion was more black-and-white. I either hated or loved something. I was completely oblivious to the grey area between the two extremes. It seems like this grey area, where you find emotions like anger, disappointment, or frustration, doesn’t really come into view until a later age. Back then, if I had one bad experience, everything related to it was furthermore tainted with hatred. This “hatred” of course, was a mask for things like discomfort, and disappointment. I couldn’t quite grasp why I was feeling those things, and “hate” seems like the perfect word to describe it. I think what defines someone as a person is what they choose to leave behind in their youth, and bring forward into their adulthood. Hatred is an important emotion because, more than any other emotion, it reflects exactly who you are as a person. It can be toxic if it permeates into your adult life.

This week, a couple of friends and I were having a lazy, hangover day, and decided to watch one of those trashy teenage comedies that defined the 00’s. We eventually settled on The House Bunny. We all agreed that it was, and probably would still be, quite hilarious. However, something interesting happened. We all remembered specific points in the film that we recalled being hilarious. Yet, when those scenes played out on screen, we didn’t find ourselves laughing. Not because the jokes were’t funny, but the situations and scenarios that the jokes found themselves in were, in a word, awkward. One particular scene in the movie saw Anna Faris’ character giving advise to a “nerdy” girl, Natalie, played by Emma Stone (I know, right? crazy) Faris advised:

Wait, Natalie. You’re too smart. Boys don’t like girls that are too smart.

I understand a lot of the movie hinges on satire, and pocks fun with tongue-in-cheek gags, but the three of us were genuinely floored. All I could think of was what it would be like being a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, insecure and anxious in who she was, hearing advise like this. To give the movie credit, Faris’ character did see the error of her ways in the end. A wonderful, strangely comical life-lesson ensued. However, I couldn’t see how someone could take away something important from this movie. It doesn’t teach anything worth-while. It teaches hate.

The raw, dark hate that we understand as adults is quite different from the innocent, unsophisticated “hate” we thought we understood as kids. The hate that masks itself as insecurity, and anxiety in who we are. Your teenage years are awkward for plenty of reasons. You struggle for years with who you are, and what you want to do. You have all these voices telling you where to be, and who to be. It’s exhausting. So, we turn to media; books, TV, and yes, cinema. There’s plenty of important teen movies out there that teach really important lessons – I know from personal experience. However, then there are those movies, just like The House Bunny, that just prey upon teenage insecurity and mock it. They teach us to “hate”. They teach us to joke about our peers (The D.U.F.F ), and to change who we are to fit some socially constructed mold.(The House Bunny) They even poke fun at sexuality and teach us to see people as commodities (The G.B.F). I understand that “it’s just a joke”, and most of the time, these movies end with a moral lesson about youth. However, the fact of the matter is, they hinge on these ideas in the first place. They take control of matters that shouldn’t be joked about, and do it anyway.

To the younger generation, it’s not the moral lessons at the end that will resonate. It’s the one liners, the jokes about the quiet kids or the gay kids, that will echo in the corridors. As kids, we push each other down to pull ourselves up. It all ties back into comparison, something that is blatant in all these movies.

A lot of the time, we grow out of these childish customs. However what happens when we don’t? What if we hold onto these vices in our adulthood? What happens when the naive dislike of our peers, evolves into hatred later in life? I’m not saying that teen movies are the reason for hatred in the world. They are simply a reflection of the values society holds. Or, the lack there of. If you show a child how to compare, to judge, to hate – regardless if it’s a joke or not – then they are going to do just that.

The silver-lining here is that after 2010, the number of these teen comedies that were being made seemed to plummet. Maybe everyone just became more conscious of what they were consuming, and allowing their kids to consume. I think my generation grew up in a strange era. The internet wasn’t quite the industry it is today, and I think the films created in that time were a reflection of that. Nobody quite understood the repercussions that jokes could have. Today, I think there are more important lessons to be learned. If the only thing you’re gaining from watching a movie is a couple one-liners that you can use against someone, then maybe it’s not the right film.


Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind lately. Hope you’re having a great day, and an even better week.

Thanks for reading!

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