If you're under the age of 50, chances are you received most of your life guidance from teen movies. By the time you even entered a high school, you had probably learned enough to recognize the vital importance of prom, high school football and avoiding girls in whipped-cream bikinis. And then there were the lessons that teen movies taught us that seemed to be aimed specifically at landing us in a gutter somewhere.
As seen in: Grease, The Breakfast Club, She's All That, American Pie
Can't get a date? The person you love doesn't love you back? Well, according to teen movies, it's probably because you dress in clothing that reflects your individuality, background and personal style. The solution couldn't be any simpler: Just completely erase any external evidence of your personality, and physically transform yourself into whatever you think your crush will like.
The greasier, the better.
In Grease, innocent Sandy breaks up with John Travolta after he tries to pressure her into sex. For some reason, she immediately regrets this rash decision and sets about remaking herself in the image of the slutty women he seems to prefer. The change includes taking up smoking, changing her mannerisms and even getting rid of her accent.
Is Sandy in love or the witness protection program?
It's not just women who are encouraged to erase their personalities, though. In American Pie, Chris Klein can't lose his virginity until he totally transforms himself from a douchey jock into a douche bag who wears sweaters. And of course, in Grease, John Travolta can't make his car fly until he undergoes a personality wipe that takes him from greaser to ... greaser in a sweater?
"Yeah she risked getting pregnant and took up a life threatening habit, but I'm wearing a fucking sweater over here."
In The Breakfast Club, the mysterious, silent Allison gets a makeover that transforms her from standard "cute goth" to "hip and sexy," which in the 80s meant that all of her clothes look like they're made out of pillowcases.
"Huge improvement." - Guy who's not to be trusted around children.
Popular jock Andrew, who up until this point has regarded Allison as an unusually talkative piece of furniture, is immediately enamored, rewarding the former outcast by holding hands and kissing her. It's the beginning of what we're sure turned out to be a happy and long-lasting relationship.
None of these, however, is as brutal as the 1999 film She's All That, in which a popular student named Zach spends the film remaking the brooding, artistic classmate Laney to better fit the tastes of him and his friends. He gets her to wear contacts instead of glasses, has his sister cut most of her hair off, gets her to wear makeup and dresses her in heels and the exact same skimpy dress that his ex-girlfriend wore.
The message being that women are interchangeable.
Zach ultimately ends up winning Laney's love, making the message pretty clear: If you can't find a girl you like right away, you can pretty much just create one to suit you from scratch.
As seen in: The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 10 Things I Hate About You
So you're a young woman attending a typical American movie high school, and you're unhappy. Maybe your problem is that you're too smart for your classmates, or too popular, or related to someone who's too popular (yes, those actually count as problems in the world of teen movies). Fortunately, the solution for female teen movie angst is both simple and close at hand. And that hand is wearing handcuffs. And a knuckle-duster.
Ladies, you are apparently all about this shit.
Jeanie, Ferris' sister from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, has a life consisting of storming around angrily and complaining about her popular brother. That is, until a drug addict in a police station strikes up a friendly conversation by telling her she looks like a whore. Flattered, Jeanie soon starts making out with him, which luckily gives her a saliva-based personality transplant. Thanks to the magic of criminality, Jeanie transforms from uptight bitch to giggling, happy schoolgirl who is willing to protect her brother from the consequences of his truancy.
Like Jeanie, Kat from 10 Things I Hate About You cares enough about her future to actually attend school, but she takes things even further down the road to squaresville, unabashedly reading outside of school. This chick needs to seriously to loosen up, right? Fortunately, she finds lasting happiness with Patrick, a troublemaking student who early on in the film is shown attacking another boy with a drill for attempting to talk to him. But it's just that devil-may-care attitude that enable him to teach Kat to loosen up a little and to show her that getting embarrassingly drunk at a party isn't the end of the world, a code of ethics that teen movies and date rapists swear by.
Pro Tip: In real life, the guys lining up to walk your hammered ass home from the party won't look like 1999 Heath Ledger.
In The Breakfast Club, self-described "criminal" Bender continually acts up in front of the too-popular girl Claire (Molly Ringwald). He tears up library books, sets his shoe on fire, pulls a knife on another boy, goes into a screaming rage, punches himself and repeatedly attacks anything near him that is lying on a flat surface. In case that wasn't charming enough, he repeatedly insults Claire, attempts to molest her while hiding under her table, proposes ganging up with another male student and impregnating her and eventually reduces her to tears.
In other words, he's a charmer.
It doesn't matter that Bender doesn't seem like he'd be remotely fun to hang out with. He's a juvenile delinquent and therefore, the teen movie universe's Yoda when it comes to loosening up and enjoying life. Unfortunately, that leaves one of the all-time classic teen movies with a love story that plays out like a cult inductee being emotionally broken and then taken advantage of.
And on a related note...
As seen in: Sex Drive, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, License to Drive, The Karate Kid, The Goonies
So you're a character in a teen movie, and you want to have nonconsensual sex with many unconscious women, but you don't have a way to get there. No problem! Just steal a car, and it'll all turn out OK, even if you don't have a license. In fact, not having a license will just add more excitement to the whole gig, like the way open-heart surgery gets more exciting when nobody in the room has gone to medical school.
And we've all been drunk for days!
In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris persuades Cameron to steal his father's rare 1961 Ferrari, and they both must deal with the consequences of this serious action: the best day of their lives! Sure, Cameron does end up having to take responsibility for his actions. But only because of a freak accident that comes about because -- you guessed it -- two other best friends steal the car, roll up the miles on the odometer and have what appears to be the single most enjoyable joyride in the history of Ferraris. In sum, Ferris Bueller's Day Off plays like a PSA about car theft, where the message is, Everyone's doing it, and it's so fun that even if you get caught, it'll be worth it!
Ah, to be young enough to be tried as a minor again ...
Of course, Ferris is a driver's ed instructional video compared with License to Drive, in which Corey Haim doesn't let failing his driving exam stop him from stealing his grandfather's Cadillac to impress a young Heather Graham. This leads to a series of nearly fatal accidents -- their vehicle hydroplanes and careens down a steep hill, they get involved in a fun high-speed chase in pursuit of a drunk driver -- before the unthinkable occurs: The car ends up getting totally trashed!
Fortunately, Corey gains the admiration of his entire family when he uses his newly acquired badass driving skills to rush his pregnant mother to the hospital in reverse gear, almost killing several pedestrians when he drives on the sidewalk to avoid traffic. In the film's final scene, Corey's father forgives him before Heather Graham pulls up in a Volkswagen. Everything being resolved, Corey jumps into the driver's seat and speeds off happily as the credits roll. Wait -- he still doesn't have a fucking license.
But hey, a license is just a piece of paper. That stops the police from throwing you in jail.
In fact, John Hughes' entire filmography seems intent on pushing the "driving without breaking the law is for squares" agenda. Weird Science, Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful all feature young teen heroes casually mentioning that they don't have a license before hopping into their cars and driving away. According to these movies, any driver training is optional; you just kind of pick it up after you find yourself on a highway going 80 mph with your screaming friends in the back seat. Then you just cruise your way into a series of zany events in which nobody ever turns out arrested or dead.