2014 Overview: An Adolescent Focus
I have a complicated relationship with the movies. In the last few years, I have come to dread the experience of going to the movies because I almost always have a bad time. Sometimes it’s because of the theater. Sometimes it’s the crowd. Typically, it’s the movie. To be clear, I am not a film critic or a film studies scholar—sometimes I really do just want to be entertained. That being said, it is interesting (to me anyway) that when I walk out of a movie I only expected to entertain me—like Terminator Salvation (2009), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)—I find myself in a state of furious anger.
I have seen plenty of terrible movies in my four plus decades. But these three films (and others) stand out in their anger-inducing capacity because they are post-adapted franchises perpetuated by irresponsible filmmakers. As a result, it feels like a significant part of my adolescence is being tarnished. I don’t think that I am simply being a grumpy middle-aged guy when I make this complaint. Nor am I unique.
I was a queer kid in the 1970s and a burgeoning gay man in the 1980s. With all the upheaval, development, advancement (and disease) amongst gay people during those years, I found almost no other person (not even people I was dating) that I could either learn from or have a meaningful conversation with. No, it was the movies where I was mentored, where I met my role models, where I gained some perspective.
I will always remember watching the shower scene from Midnight Express (1978) from the backseat at the drive-in theater. I continue to find some bent kind of inspiration by seeing a villainous biker with his blonde boy toy prize chained to his back in The Road Warrior (1981). Perhaps most importantly, I learned a great deal from a small movie that I watched on cable television late at night with the volume turned low so that it wouldn’t wake anybody else in the house. Parting Glances (1986) explained to me the importance and role of friendship among gay men in the time of HIV. And so I wonder—I really wonder—what today’s movies have to offer adolescents (queer or otherwise), who may need answers to questions they don’t know how to ask.
Many of my posts this year will deal with adolescence both in concept and in practice. It won’t come as much of a surprise that I will place an emphasis on queer teens. I will discuss the construction of queer adolescence in film and also in literature. This discussion will be based in part on some research I have conducted in regard to sex offender registries. I was surprised when doing this research that the current deployment of these registries may actually be doing some material harm to the young people and children they are marketed as helping. I believe that the concepts regarding states of exception and bare life as discussed by Giorgio Agamben illuminate some of the fundamental problems with these registries. Overall, it is my intent to discuss the perils of adolescence as a social construct through theory, politics, literature, and film.