You guys. I made a list the other day of the most endearing, earnest portrayals of adolescence and I understand if you didn't agree. Obviously, I left out a few items. Some I didn't see at the right time. Some I really just don't like. Some I, um, totally forgot. But for better or for worse, here are the choicest rejects and my reasons for rejection!
12. Dazed and Confused
Directed by Richard Linklater.
It kills me that I am lame enough to make the following statement: I didn't see this movie in its entirety until like, a year and a half ago. When it came out on Criterion. I watched it on my laptop, actually. (Gosh, this is like being naked in public. Or showing up to hockey game in a basketball jersey.) And, actually, although I love this movie, I think that in a technical sense, the depiction of adolescence is somehow lacking. There are scenes... quotes... even whole plotlines that I buy completely. When Anthony Rapp, Adam Goldberg, and that redhead chick are driving, and she says something to the tune of, "I'd like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor, insignificant preamble to something else." That gets me right here. But the kids playing the kids aren't, um, that good. Wiley Wiggins, stop grabbing your eyebrows. Ben Affleck, you will never not be Ben Affleck. Joey Lauren Adams... you try real hard. I'm being hyper-critical. This is a movie I love. But it's not a movie that defined anything for me. Sorry America!
11. "My Generation" - The Who
Um, so... I wasn't born in the 60's. Nobody tries to put me down and I don't really get around. Also, I'm not on speed. This song is a relic. A great relic. Like the Shroud of Turin. Or Ted Kennedy. But plain and simple, it's not about my generation. It's about some other generation, a totally relevant and important generation, to be sure... but, eh... it ain't mine. Sorry America!
10. "Forever Young" - Bob Dylan
I am probably one of the biggest 22 year-old Bob Dylan fans alive. I cannot count the number of times I have listened to Desire or to Blood on the Tracks. Those albums were an education. I owe my understanding of love and relationships to Bob Dylan. But this isn't a song about adolescence, it's a song about an adult wishing a misremembered past on someone younger. It's a sweet sentiment, but it has never rung true to me. (Also, for you Alphaville fans out there... their "Forever Young"--a totally different song--featured in Napoleon Dynamite, is a great song, and that moment near the end of that film, with Deb, Pedro, and Napoleon at prom, is incredibly captivating... but, um, I forgot it.) Sorry America!
9. The Red Badge of Courage/All Quiet on the Western Front
By Stephen Crane/By Erich Maria Remarque
Automatic disqualifications right here. The insinuation that war is what makes a man is unfortunate and troubling. I'm not saying that these books are responsible for that mindset. I'm saying some folks didn't get the point. These folks should go buy the collected works of Wilfred Owen. Or, actually, wait, no... they should read The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front again. War, no joke, is hell. This should be a shock to no one. War is not a classroom. War is not a prom. War isn't your teenage years. (Or, goddammit, it shouldn't be, at least.) War is red, bloody hell. These books get that right, but they are not "coming-of-age" novels. Sorry America!
Directed by Greg Mottola.
I dig Judd Apatow like a grave, man. From "The Larry Sanders Show" to "The Ben Stiller Show" to "Freaks and Geeks" to Knocked Up to Pineapple Express, I am IN. I celebrate the entire corpus. But Can't Hardly Wait was my Superbad. That's it. It's as simple as that. That niche is filled. Sorry America!
7. Stand By Me/Stand By Me
Directed by Rob Reiner.
This was a deliberate exclusion but the more I think about it, I can't really pinpoint why. Wil Wheaton's shining moment, Richard Dreyfuss voiceover, fat Jerry O'Connell, one of the Coreys, Cusack cameo, tight soundtrack, quotable script, dead body... I saw it at the right time and everything too! OH. WAIT. I know why it didn't have the same effect on me that it did for other folks... I SAW IT THE WEEK AFTER I SAW THE SANDLOT. (Further testament to how good The Sandlot is.) Sorry America!
6. "Still Fighting It" - Ben Folds
I was shy of this one, I'll admit it. I wanted to put it on, but I got scared. This song consistently makes me cry. So much so, in fact, that I haven't let myself listen to it in five years or so. (Same with "Upwards Over the Mountain" by Sufjan Stevens, a song worthy of an entry on this list if I wasn't so lazy. Also "Casmir Pulaski Day"...) The last time I remember listening to it was freshman year of college. My then-girlfriend's sister had left a message on my answering machine asking me to buy magazines for some fund drive. I was missing home and high school and all that and, well, that was it. I couldn't listen anymore. It was too on the nose. Sorry America!
5. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Stupid, stupid exclusion. I wasn't thinking. Whenever I paint fences or visit my own funeral or talk to Becky, I think of this book. I wanted to be Tom Sawyer when I was ten. Okay, I still kinda want to be Tom Sawyer. Plus, there's a sweet Rush song about this book. Sort of. You guys, I'm ashamed. This was just silly. Sorry America!
4. The Breakfast ClubDirected by John Hughes.
Um... here's the thing. I get that this is a fantastic film and an 80's hallmark and probably John Hughes' best work and the crystallization of the Brat Pack and the baloney falling from the ceiling is classic and the dance number and the lipstick-with-the-boobs trick and the flare-gun-in-the-locker story... yeah, I get it. But I saw it when I was twelve. With my mom. On cable. Probably eating ice cream. I didn't see in during my angry youth, I wasn't busy suffering through my tragic nerd/jock/criminal/basket-case/princess phase, I was j-chillin' with the Moms on a Tuesday and I happened to catch it on TBS. So I don't have the same gut-twisting, that-is-me-in-that-movie, no-seriously-look-at-me-on-the-screen feeling when I watch The Breakfast Club. Sorry America!
3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Directed by John Hughes.
As I've said already, this list comprises many works that I truly respect and admire. I don't have those feelings for this movie. I really, really don't like Ferris Bueller's Day Off. When I watched it as a kid, I just thought over and over, "This guy is such an asshole! Why is he allowed to get away with all this shit? Why the fuck do his friends care about him?" (I swore a lot as a kid.) What's more, I could not help but feel terrible for Cameron. He's a good guy--he's a great character--and he lets Ferris walk all over him. Just once, I wanted to see Cameron throw a right cross at his BFF and knock his smug ass out. That's just how I feel, y'all. Sorry America!
2. "Freaks and Geeks" and "The Adventures of Pete and Pete"
Created by Paul Feig/Created by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi.
Aaaaaaah, I'm so dumb. I'm a jerk for forgetting these two shows. I have no right to have forgotten them. I loved them both so much and I don't understand why on God's green earth I would have left them out in the cold. (I also don't own the "Freaks and Geeks" DVD!? Why am I spinning out of control!?) Choice episodes... "Kim Kelly is My Friend" for the former, "The Day of the Dot" for the latter. Plus my name is Pete(r). And I was a geek. I can't even offer commentary on these shows, you guys. I'm too embarrassed. Sorry America!
1. Catcher in the Rye
By J.D. Salinger
This exclusion is essentially my reason for writing the list. There is a very simple story. My dad gave me Catcher in the Rye when I was seven. SEVEN. I almost got kicked out of National Wildlife Camp for reading it to my bunkmates. I didn't get it. I understood the story. I knew what happened, chapter to chapter. But I didn't get it. Then when I read it at 16, there were no surprises. The emotional core was there and I was ready to laugh and cry and howl at the moon with Holden, but it just didn't happen. I knew the story already, so no matter how fragile or angsty I was, it didn't have a chance to resonate. Now when I read it, I'm just bitter, frankly. Bitter that I never got to share in what basically everyone my age swears is a life-changing experience. Sorry America!