Thanks to Kathryn Lindsay of Bitch Media for her review of “The Duff”, a new work of cinematic garbage recently deposited at your local multiplex. And thanks too, Kathryn, for suffering through it so many of us don’t have to.
We’re a nation of movie-goers, so no doubt in the coming weeks millions of teen girls will flock to see “The Duff”. And while teen movies are primarily meant to be entertainment, to the adolescent mind, just as often they serve as templates for ideal futures — whether that future is ten years away, or next Monday morning.
I can remember going to see Sixteen Candles when I was 13 and aspiring to land a sensitive boyfriend with big brown puppy-dog eyes like Jake Ryan’s. Seven years later, I was still turning down cute guys for dates because their eyes weren’t Jake Ryan Brown. And one sweltering ’80s afternoon, my next-door neighbor and I retreated into a climate controlled theatre to watch Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt find Dance TV glory in Girls Just Want to Have Fun. We spent the rest of the summer calling each other by the characters’ names, practicing dance steps in my garage (no dance genes here), and combing the mall for a Space Shuttle hair clip (which we never found). The Outsiders led me to dress “like a hood”, my mom said, and fantasize about starting a girl gang.
When we’re young, movies show us what’s possible. The lives we see on screen are exciting to us; they inspire. They’re bigger and bolder than our plodding days of algebra, acne medicine, Hamburger Helper and begging Mom for more money. As teenagers observing fictitious teen lives, we take for granted that they represent real life. So they not only inspire, but they inform. Even if that information is misogynistic bullshit.
As teens, we may not possess the broad scope of experience and capacity for critical thinking that we might later enjoy in adulthood (and let’s face it — some adults never get there). Meanwhile, most parents won’t have the time, energy or awareness to insert a balance of sanity between their daughters’ tender psyches and “The Duff”, so thank God for the Kathryn Lindsays of the world. And to those voices I humbly add this:
Girls! Young women! Believe this!
– Junior high and high school are a tiny blip on the big radar of your life. Once you’re out in the real world, nothing that happened there will matter. What people thought or said about you then won’t matter. It all dissolves into oblivion (unless, of course, you choose to hang onto any psychological baggage you acquired in high school — and I advise you to try your hardest not to).
– There are many cruel, ignorant, judgmental people in the world. Some of them make movies like “The Duff”. But when
you’re in junior high or high school, it can seem like those people rule the world. And in some twisted way, maybe they do “rule” the social world in your school. But that world is tiny and temporary. That royal court of jerks in your school will COMPLETELY LOSE POWER immediately upon graduation. When you get into the real world, you’ll find that an equal percentage of brilliant, caring and broad-minded people exist, and their voices, their presence, are stronger than they might have been in high school.
– Don’t look to a boy to determine your value. Or a girl, for that matter. But I feel compelled to point out that teenage boys typically lag behind girls in maturity. So if you’re looking outside of yourself for validation, the LAST PERSON you should look to is an IDIOT ADOLESCENT BOY. They are walking hormones devoid of wisdom and good judgment. P.S., you’re already priceless. It’s inherent. There’s nothing you can do about it, so enjoy it.
– Don’t get suckered into anybody else’s definition of beauty. Even if it’s being fed to you by movies or TV or magazines. I should say, especially if it’s being fed to you by the media. There’s a reason that saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” has stuck around for so long. If you’re worried you’ll never be loved because you’re not pretty enough, I want you to trust me on something: there are many, many people in the world right now who would look at you, exactly the way you are, and think you’re attractive. This will always be true. There are many different kinds of beautiful, and many different sets of eyes. Furthermore, beauty and lovableness are not solely dependent on your physical attributes. When you really feel a connection with another human being — the kind that has a chance of lasting a lifetime — that connection will be fueled by so much more than your face and body. There’s really only one “makeover” that counts for anything in life — and that’s when you stop trying to be anyone other than yourself. In that moment, you’ll have touched your power.