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March 19, 2012

Midnight Top Five - The "Have a Little Faith in the Teenagers" Edition

If you've ever watched a horror movie, you've probably been told that teenagers are pretty much worthless at life.  It's true to an extent - if teenagehood was Mass Effect, you could say I took the paragon path all the way and I was still a stupid idiot 97% of the time - but people who are jump to conclusions often miss the good parts of what's going on in these mostly undeveloped human people.
But horror movies are more wrong than most people when it comes to teenagers.  They show the worst parts of teen behavior, and often punish the kids for it harshly.  Look, I get it. It was a message to change their ways and it lost its meaning and now it just happens, sort of like how people used to say the pledge of allegiance in school because they meant it and now they just do it because they're told to and they're trained to and they don't even think about the words they're saying.

But I'm feeling hopeful tonight.  I feel like taking the world by the ears and shaking at and shouting "Hey! There have to be good teenagers out there or there wouldn't be people who grew up to be good people!"  I'm not sure if my shouting would be entirely true, but I'm trying to have faith here.  Heck, I'm so faithful that I might even set this post to some soulful Joe Cocker.
Yeah, I went there.  Now lets take a look at five reminders that teenagers aren't always the downfall of society, and can in fact be really friggin' awesome beacons of hope for the future and stuff.

Charlotte "Charlie" Newton
Played by Teresa Wright in Shadow of a Doubt
(1943, Dir. by Alfred Hitchcock.)
Charlie wasn't always the picture of virtue - that whole romance with the like 40 year old cop was really weird! - but she's perhaps the earliest perfect example of a teenage character who is given power over her world in a dark world.  We're not talking Nancy Drew here, we're talking about a normal girl in a normal town with a normal family who worships her seemingly normal Uncle who just might be an abnormal killer of rich widows.

Teresa Wright did all kinds of great things with this character.  To start, there's an incredible streak of altruism that runs through the character, who really fits into the film's pre-World War II setting as an ambitious and driven young woman.  She seems to just believe so much in the world around her, including her suspicious uncle, and her hope for the world is pretty contagious.  But when things start to turn in the final scenes of the film and Charlie begins to take a stand - that's when the character really blossoms.  She shows an ability to grow and adapt, and sets the tone for hundreds of female teenage characters who would follow her in genre cinema.

Steven Andrews, Jane Martin, Mooch and the Boys
Played by Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, James Bonnet, Robert Fields, Anthony Franke in The Blob
(1958, Dir. by Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.)
I've wasted so many words on The Blob - this one's my favorite collection of them - but I never get old of the ridiculously wonderful '50s teenagers of The Blob. And yes, I'll get it out of the way right now - they're not actually teenagers. The actors are older than that. I know.

As the teenagers mobilize in the name of what's right - and what might actually save humanity - I think my favorite thing about the group is the dopey Mooch.  With his creepy hair and his red sweater, James Bonnet's character is the personification of the wholesome values The Blob wants us to see in these characters.  Along for the ride and always willing to jump into the fight with a CO2 fire extinguisher, these kids represent their era perfectly and always make me smile.

Dennis Guilder
Played by John Stockwell in Christine
(1983, Dir. by John Carpenter.)
The most fascinating thing about John Carpenter's adaptation of Stephen King's killer car novel, to me, has always been the central relationship between the two lead teenage male characters.  On one hand, you have Arnie Cunningham, played by Keith Gordon, a bullied nerd who seems to have little going for him on the popularity side of things.  On the other hand, we have Dennis, a football star who seemingly could be really popular - yet he hangs out with Arnie and turns down the advances of a young Kelly Preston.

Let me repeat that - he turns down the advances of a YOUNG KELLY PRESTON.
Though I still question his willingness to not have a fling with a young Kelly Preston, I adore how Dennis' character moves through the story.  As Arnie's mind becomes corrupted by that red demon on wheels, Dennis becomes the voice of reason.  He's a shockingly grounded young man for a high school star athlete, but the realization that characters like that exist shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone.  Dennis represents the good side of the teenage jock scene, and he does so quite well.

Nancy Thompson
Played by Heather Langenkamp in A Nightmare on Elm Street
(1984, Dir. by Wes Craven.)
This one really doesn't need many words.  I'm notoriously hard on A Nightmare on Elm Street because I hate the ending so much, but I will never deny the possibility that Nancy Thompson is the prototype for teenage heroines in horror.  If there's one thing Wes Craven can do well on a consistent basis (and it literally might be the only thing he can do consistently!) - the man can make a heroine who is smart and who is strong and who won't back down when it's time to stand up for herself.  And it all pretty much began with Nancy Thompson. 

Kirby Reed
Played by Hayden Panettiere in Scream 4
(2011, Dir. by Wes Craven.)
Speaking of Craven, we come to the Scream series - where female characters have varied from one end of the spectrum to another like a squirrel who takes antidepressants every other week. (Don't think about that last analogy for too long, it will break your brain.)

But when we get to Scream 4, we meet the female character who pretty much made every horror fan in the world fistpump with pride.  She's Kirby Reed, and she's played with surprising panache by Heroes alumni Hayden Panettiere.  I'm pretty sure no one expected this from the young girl, but she makes female horror nerd look fun, playing off her straight laced friends and the nerdy male cinephiles equally well.  She's the smart, normal, socially adjusted image that a lot of horror fans wish people saw more often - which is a big part of why so many horror fans loved her.

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There are probably a lot more wonderful teenagers in horror I've left out here, but this isn't a Midnight Top A Lot list.  It's a Top Five.  So please, Midnight Warriors, hit up the comments! Tell me who I missed, tell me who you love, tell me you love me - whatever you want to tell me.  (Maybe not the love me thing. It might get weird.)

In the meantime, have faith.  Because someday, the good teenagers are gonna be the old people who think there aren't any good teenagers, while we all watch from our retirement castles on Mars and laugh.  It'll be awesome.  (Or, we'll all turn into Crazy Ralph.  Which isn't bad either.)

2 comments:

Erik (Drunketh) said...

Teenagers from mars... and we don't care! Hey, cool post. I dig all those chicks. Especially young Kelly Preston. Awwwww yeahz.

Jinx said...

Brilliant! Loving the teenagers. It's my ambition to turn into Crazy Ralph.