The "teenager," as a concept, is a 20th-century invention. For most of human history, babies and small children were viewed as imperfect adults-in-waiting. Even 6-year-olds were charged with tending younger siblings while their parents were away; by 12 or 13 a "child" should be ready to plow a field, hunt a bear, or marry and begin having babies. To someone in the Middle Ages, the idea of spending the years between childhood and adulthood in a long and dreamy "adolescence" would have seemed absurd.
In this film class we will consider how all this changed. We'll start by watching Rebel Without a Cause, commonly regarded as the first teen movie. We'll talk about its post-World War II context and how it emerged in a historical climate where for the first time in the modern era teens weren't expected to go to war, or fight fascism, or support their families, or do anything, really -- except be teenagers. Was this a privilege? Or cause for existential angst?
The rest of the class will examine "teenager-dom" from a variety of historical and cross-cultural contexts. We'll spend half the class on movies from the 1980's, when teen movies became especially popular and developed a new level of sophistication. In doing so we'll look at the ways in which these movies variously reflected their parents' hope and dread about the future and nostalgia about the past.
One overarching question in this class will be: "Why are modern teenagers thwarted from doing anything that feels real and important?" Homeschoolers are in a particularly good position to answer this question. Freed from the expectation of going to school every day and doing mundane things like remembering their locker combination, they have the chance to envision "teenager-dom" in a new and authentic light.
Suggested age range: 13+. All teens should have fun with this class, but it is a particularly good choice for students who have recently left school and are considering how they want to spend the next few years.
Outside work: We'll watch a movie every week. Additional readings will be provided some weeks. These are interesting but not mandatory.
When & where: Fridays at Voyagers in Chelmsford (directions) from 1:30-2:30, Feb. 2-May 4, 2018. No class Feb. 23 or Apr. 20.
Fee: $200 for the semester + a Netflix subscription. (Please read our media policy.) $10 discount for Voyagers members. Payment plans available. Class fees waived for families with financial need. (Waivers and payment plan information.)
Photo credit: Tammie David and Rakaya El-Kasaby