Portrayals of girls in the media can be…interesting. Particularly when those girls are growing up. These plotlines are widely explored and range from weird to downright oppressive. Here are some of my favourite/least favourite examples:
St. Trinian’s (Modern Reboot)
Okay, so this film definitely has some issues. I’m not a fan of the use of makeovers in film – they often encourage girls to change who they are, and just because the character is unlikeable this is no exception; the snotty uptight bitch puts on a short skirt and some lipstick and magically loses her prejudicial, sheltered viewpoint. Aside from the makeover, however, the film shows an aspect of growing up that many ignore; female friendship. In St. Trinian’s, girls of all social groups unite and bond. While there is some/a lot of slut shaming of the “posh totties”, overall the girls accept their differences and use their unique traits to advance their cause and save their school. Annabelle’s growth is dependent on her bonding with her peers. This kind of female support system is something I feel is important for girls to have and see.
The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
Poor Maggie. Maggie is much smarter than her brother Tom, yet being a woman in the 1800s her intelligence and potential are largely ignored. She finds herself becoming romantically involved with two men, neither of whom she can actually be with. George Eliot’s story is typically Victorian in many ways – a strong, intelligent female is consistently oppressed and unable to grow. Eliot’s tale, however, ends in Maggie and Tom drowning. Maggie dies unfulfilled and a complete contrast to the bright young girl she was at the start of the novel. Of course, it’s important to note that this is the odd one out in this list, being the only example from the 1800s. I had a lot of thoughts on it but I haven’t read it in a while so none of them made complete sense. I intended to discuss Hard Times as well but again, I haven’t read it in a while.
*I should clarify that by ‘bad’ I mean that Maggie’s growth is incredibly problematic in modern times, not that the book itself is bad.
Bear with me here but I could (and possibly will) write an entire post about how Heathers is one of the most realistic teen movies ever. I know, I know, there is nothing realistic about a couple of teenagers creating a fad for suicides.
Somewhere amongst the shoulder pads and cutthroat psychopaths, however, there is a very twisted teenage journey. At the start of the film, you expect Veronica to go through a pretty typical “girly teen movie” plotline:
>Girl hates popular girls
>Girl joins popular girls
>Girl meets boy
>Girl lives happily ever after
>Girl hates but joins popular girls
>Girl meets boy
>Girl unintentionally kills “Queen Bee”, starting her off on a killing spree with her new psychopathic boyfriend.
Heathers is fuelled by hatred and jealousy, the exact opposite of St. Trinians’ “girl power” vibe. It’s weird, sick and strangely amusing, and that’s precisely the point. It’s immoral and problematic, and I love it.
And the Sexual..?
The Company of Wolves
Don’t get me started. This film is massively Freudian, and intentionally so. The main character, Rosaleen, goes on an intense journey. She transitions from an innocent young girl to a young woman with an animalistic attraction to a hunter. Throw in some not-so-subtle menstrual imagery involving white roses and you have one of the most sexual depictions of female growth I’ve ever seen on film. I’m also still mourning Angela Lansbury.
Wild Child – Typical “bratty girl becomes better by befriending ‘losers’” trope.
Labyrinth– Another “reformed brat”, but one who goes on a literal fantastical journey as well as a moral one.
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging– Relatable teen novels. Fairly typical boy crazy teenage girl confessionals, but enjoyable and amusing.
Maximum Ride – Max is a mother figure at 14. She has had to grow up fast, and I wish the series focused on her growth more (but it wouldn’t have worked with the storyline). She doesn’t have a traditional upbringing, and indeed isn’t traditionally “human”, being part avian.
What are your favourite/least favourite “coming of age” films/books? I feel like there are a million books alone I could list but when I sat down to write I drew a blank!
See you soon,