Breaking the Mold of the Teen Film Genre: Some Kind of Wonderful


At first glance, the film Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) conforms to some of the familiar plots of typical teen films.  Keith–the male outsider hero from the wrong side of town–is in love with the most popular girl at school–Amanda Jones–who doesn’t pay him any attention because he is totally uncool.  Keith’s best friend is our female outsider hero–Watts–a working-class tomboy, also from the wrong side of town.  Watts is in love with Keith, even though he doesn’t know it.  In order to get Amanda to fall in love with him, Keith squanders his life savings on a pair of diamond earrings to give to Amanda and takes her to the most expensive restaurant in town (thereby reinforcing the tired old trope of poor boy pretending to be rich in order to win girl).  No surprises so far.  But here is where the film takes a turn for the better:  unlike the typical social reversal story in which the rich girl sees that the poor boy has a heart of gold (or vice versa), this film has Keith walk away from Amanda and into the arms of Watts, who breaks the mold of the typical female teen film heroine.  In any other film, a character like Watts–who plays the drums, has short hair and wears boy’s clothes and no makeup–would likely have to resort to a girly-girl makeover in order for her love interest to see her “true inner beauty,” or worse–would be cast as an angry lesbian sidekick.  Not here.  This film does not fall into the same Cinderella fantasy plot which pretends that one’s place in the social heirarchy can magically change overnight.  The film breaks the teen film mold in other ways, too.  The popular Amanda, for example, ends up unpartnered (a big no-no in most teen films!), but happy!  Also, although Keith is an outcast at his school, he does not resort to the same kind of painful self-pitying behavior that most outsider characters in teen films do.  In fact, Keith seems to be happy just the way he is, and is not afraid to stand up to those who bully him or his friends.  In a world of teen films which seem to glorify acceptance by the popular circles, it is refreshing to see that in the end, Keith looks and acts like the same person he’s always been, only wiser.

STUDENTS:  Post a brief analysis of a teen film (it does not need to be an American teen film) that you think either challenges or reinforces the unwritten rules of the teen film genre.


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