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June 02, 2008

DVD Journal: "American Pie"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Squaresville, inane, childish, sappy and obvious, it's like one of the drearier John Hughes movies spiced up with a little Farrelly Bros.-style raunchiness, though a very mild version of it.

It took me four nights of trying to get through the film, and watching it left me wondering gloomily about why so many Americans are so fixated on their teen years. As kids, they can't wait to be teens; then they're teens, and it's amazing and it's horrifying; and then they spend their adult lives repeatedly revisiting their teen years. Which is a weird and unfair objection, because I have nothing against teenflix, and because the ones that I've enjoyed ("Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Valley Girl" come to mind) haven't left me pondering such questions.

Fast-Forwarding Score: Very little, but only because I was trying to figure out why on earth the film was such a big hit, and why in the world it had meant anything to anybody.

Semi-related: Here's a posting I wrote about the history of the teenager. Short version: Believe it or not, not so long ago being a teenager wasn't a big deal, and the experience of teenagehood was thought to be of no interest to anyone.



posted by Michael at June 2, 2008


As kids, they can't wait to be teens;

Ewwwww, girrrrrrlssss! Homeworrrrrrk! No, pre-pubescent kids have zero interest in being teenagers.

and then they spend their adult lives repeatedly revisiting their teen years.

Baloney. No one remembers donkey dick about adolescence once they've grown up, much less revisit it. Hence all the accusations of "You've forgotten what it's like to be my age, Daaaaaaad!"

It's probably a healthy thing, the way that veterans eventually get habituated back to normal life once the war's over.

The "mindset stuck on adolescence" does describe one thing, though: who males find attractive. When you're 12, you're hot for the cool, older college seniors (like a babysitter). When you're a senior in college, you're hot for the college senior girls you party with. And when you're an old man attending his grandson's graduation, you're hoping he'll introduce you to some of his hot college senior friends.

Posted by: agnostic on June 2, 2008 6:24 AM

I was ready to write "blame the Baby Boomers" in response to this post, until I was your old post and realized you did this already! Good points.

In terms of modern teen movies, you might enjoy "Not Another Teen Movie," which satirizes things like "American Pie." Sometimes you just need to be in the mood for this stuff. I've noticed the eras of teen movies always seem to coincide with economic upswings.

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows on June 2, 2008 7:02 AM

Hamlet may be meant to be a little older, but his psychology is horribly teenage. He speaks better English though.

Posted by: dearieme on June 2, 2008 8:40 AM

"It took me four nights of trying to get through the film, and watching it left me wondering gloomily about why so many Americans are so fixated on their teen years."

I can't answer this one. All I can say is that I never bought it.

The Karaoke Queen often says that I was born an old man. In a way, she's right. When I was a teenager, I was diligently studying the great jazz and blues players and singers. While everybody around me was dizzy about the top 40, I was dizzy about Dizzie Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Muddy Waters, etc.

I've got to pin the blame, Michael, to a great degree, on people in your profession. The media is obsessed with outrages, tits and ass, wild claims to being a Superman with a solution to the world's problems, etc.

Great musicians routinely starve to death while morons who can barely play a note make fortunes because they had one top 40 hit with adolescents.

You can write a lot of this off to the density of the listening public. I can also say with authority that the media loves the witless, inane publicity stunts of teenagers, and is bored silly with the depth and mastery of middle aged men.

Put this together with recording companies that love to egg on teenagers to commit suicide for PR gain and you've got a system that produces shit.

Somehow in all of this a very little bit of worthwhile stuff prevails. Beats me how it happens.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on June 2, 2008 9:51 AM

I kinda side with some of what agnostic says, for biographical reasons. I was quite happy being a pre-teen and the prospect of becoming a teenager seemed to be a challenge: How on earth could I learn to be like those bigger folks? That might have been because there were no teenagers in my family at the time, cousins included, so no handy, sympathetic role-models.

I just got through the 50th HS reunion thing last year and enjoyed it. But that was more of the case of getting together with people one was already at ease with and catching up on their lives. Very little teen-worship that I could detect.

But we weren't Boomers, so whadda I know.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 2, 2008 10:14 AM

"...not so long ago being a teenager wasn't a big deal..."

It just meant you were old enough to work.

"Teenage" America is the result of fantastic wealth, that allows otherwise potentially productive people to kept busy with mostly pointless make-work until they are 18 or even 22.

Posted by: Lexington Green on June 2, 2008 11:02 AM

We aren't obsessed with being teens. Most of the people I know hated their teen years and would never wish to revisit them (admittedly, I know a lot of former and not-so-former geeks).

C'mon Michael, you must know that this is about economics and who has the time and disposable income to put down on movies and CDs.

Posted by: CyndiF on June 2, 2008 11:50 AM

American Pie is the sort of movie that can be enjoyed for its own sake without being analyzed. It's genuinely funny, regardless of whether it has any deeper meaning involving adolescence.

Posted by: Peter on June 2, 2008 1:32 PM

Didn't American Pie introduce the MILF to the world? (The name, that is.) Pace agnostic and entirely derived from my own experience, I'd suggest that fantasies about MILFs are as quantitatively productive of successful masturbatory outcomes in teenage males as fantasies about the MILF's only real rival as lust object, the hot girls in high school class. As for college seniors, I would have probably lusted for them the same way as I did over MILFs like my friends' mothers and various of my teachers--as "older women" capable of initiating my pimply, fumbling self into the art of love.

Though now that I'm a broken down antiquated wreck of a man, college seniors do look mighty good. Oddly, even though women in their forties and fifties were major fantasies of mine (my first experience was with a woman of 51 when I was 13), now that I'm that age, I find women anywhere much north of 30 completely devoid of any sexual interest to me whatsoever.

Posted by: PatrickH on June 2, 2008 3:45 PM

Agnostic, Donald, CyndiF, maybe some others -- I'm nor fixated on my teen years either (more on my 20s as it happens). But personal experience to one side, the U.S.'s devotion to teen culture and its dedication to teen values 1) is remarkable, 2) has occurred fairly recently, and 3) may be unique in the history of the world (name me five other cultures that have put teen values at the center of experience). As a culture, we make a *freakishly*
big deal out of our teen years.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 2, 2008 4:10 PM

my first experience was with a woman of 51 when I was 13


Posted by: Peter on June 2, 2008 4:12 PM

Speaking as a MILF with a teenager in the other room, American Pie is awful and puerile even for its genre, and that's why you had such trouble with it.

Posted by: Sister Wolf on June 2, 2008 4:41 PM

Peter: Yikes!

You had to be there.

Posted by: PatrickH on June 2, 2008 6:13 PM

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