Another review requested by S. It’s becoming increasingly evident that I am having a good time working through the list she requested/recommended. More than ever, I feel like all hope is not lost with my review writing and that someone, somewhere respects what I do, and that is often enough to keep me going. That she addresses herself as “my biggest fan” not only humbles me a great deal any more but only adds the icing to the cake of the wonderful movies suggested. Lest we forget, words and movies are the best way to carve a niche in my heart.
CAUTION: Implied spoilers and a personal rant embedded somewhere in the middle.
Teenage Dirtbag is a small-budget indie movie directed, scripted by Regina Crosby based on somewhat true events. I looked up background details on her and the lead cast but I’ve decided not to bore you with the details because well, my goodness, can I not wait to write about this movie already.
If you’re like me and not quick to discount a book, movie or any other form of media by simply its name or in this case, IMDB description then you’re in for a huge delight. Teenage Dirtbag is way more than what meets the eye in the first few minutes. I say this because I watched this movie thinking I knew exactly what I was in for. I’ve been doing that lately. I’ve been afraid to find triggers in movies and books that remind me of a life I had. A life I may no longer have any access to. It’s difficult to be that one person society is expecting you to be every single day. Unbearable when you’ve agreed to be that way and have no way of going back. And this is what Amber’s point of conflict is. Let’s start from scratch now, shall we?
Teenage Dirtbag is a non-linear film surrounding the high school prim and proper cheerleader, intelligent, pretty to a point of unnecessary perfection girl named Amber and the typical high school delinquent, Thayer. The movie starts off with a present day scenario where Amber is leading her days rather incoherently as she carries inside her a tiny human being. Flashback to high school. Think back to that one person you met in high school who was so thoroughly exhausting, annoying and downright difficult to avoid as much as you tried, especially if you tried. That one person of the opposite sex that tried their level hardest to get your attention and as exasperating as it was, you secretly enjoyed it. I know I did.
Thayer is a deeply troubled boy trying to put on a brave-enough-to-eat-absolutely-anything obnoxious front at school while he can barely stand up to his abusive father back at home. Amber, on the other hand, excels at all the tiny and big accomplishments a girl can perform well at in high school but is neglected by her family and yearns for their appreciation. It’s hard to say that this part, right here, isn’t already sounding like the usual good girl meets bad boy cliché. But believe me when I say it’s hardly like that.
So, Amber is obviously the only person indifferent and quite unamused by Thayer’s ridiculous, cringe-worthy shenanigans that usually squeeze out reactions from everyone else. Amber, in the first person narrative describes how in retrospect all of her actions and the lack thereof, affected Thayer deeply and led from one thing to the other. It’s hard to tell what Amber feels about everything that happened back when they were young and free, whether, in hindsight she wishes she had behaved differently. But that’s me getting ahead of myself. Anyway coming back, Amber decides early on that Thayer is unworthy of her attention. She makes this so apparent at times, you have to wonder whether that really helps anyone at all. What this does is builds an air of mystery around her and attracts Thayer towards her, mostly subconsciously at the start and later, quite intensely.
As much as Amber believes that her misfortune of always being in such close proximity with Thayer is only because of the alphabetical ordering of their surnames, they end up together in a Creative Writing class. Their interactions through poetry and prose and the underlying hints passed on through verse draws them together in ways otherwise unimaginable. You see them forging a bond that is strained from the very start. Amber plays along with this and chooses to communicate with Thayer of her own volition when people aren’t paying attention. So they start passing notes during study hour. As they start developing a half-decent relationship with each other, they start to realize that both of them have issues at home that have some degree of commonality. Here’s my bone to pick with the story, Thayer and Amber were attracted to each other regardless of this angle to the plot. Anyway, I’m not one to bicker about such things too much and let me take this sour spot to diverge into parallels I love drawing between the reel life and my real life.
High school where I grew up was nothing like the one Thayer and Amber studied at or like any other high schools depicted in Western cultures. Hell, we don’t even call it “high school” per se. However, people – as I’ve been picking up on so acutely over the past few months are more or less the same in all parts of the world. So, there was a person exactly like Thayer in my life. There were two whole years that I look back on and ponder about but never speak out loud. This boy had an interest in me that aggravated me very much at the start. Recovering from a terrible break-up at the time, the last thing I needed was excessive attention and a need to overshare and thereby get really intimate with another. Fortunately, this boy for me was just a simple “no” and all of his playful (I suppose?) advances were dismissed by me and termed “hopelessly cheesy”. Onlookers laughed at us pulling off the girl-boy best friend stance and to a great extent we nervously laughed with them, too. Knowing that we each had very different personal lives but were more or less stuck in the same classroom for hours on end, we grew comfortable to a point that any kind of lack of attention from the other, resulted in a huge fight and another fact that we never admitted – jealousy. Days caught up to weeks and months and years. Time changed. We moved on with our lives. I put my foot down, asked for a choice that had me or someone else and said hurtful things and when this boy demanded I say something, anything, just like Amber, I said nothing at all. And just like Amber, in present time, I have no way of knowing how he is. I have ruthlessly chopped all means of contact and all I can do now, is wonder.
Coming back, there are scenes in the movie that give me goosebumps and I can see how they have actually been drawn from the writer and director’s personal experiences. Teenage love can be made to look all too fine and perfect on the big screen and many of these moments between Thayer and Amber are handled very carefully to bring forth more than just what meets the eye. The Creative Writing class professor brings to his character such genuineness and clarity that it’s hard not to feel you’re actually in that class with everybody else. Even that character was not stereotyped completely or overplayed. Thayer and Amber’s back and forth with their prose and poetry do not go unnoticed by him. He does not intervene in matters that he clearly has a good grasp about but has no right to interfere.
As the movie comes to its last lap, I had to take a deep breath and the gooey corners of my heart held on tight hoping against hopes that things work out for Thayer and Amber in the past. Despite knowing present day Amber’s condition. I guess, I was hoping for some kind of redemption from her, that her reason for never giving Thayer the time of day had only to do with society’s created norms. Films like this are hidden gems, not looking to make grand statements, targeted towards an extremely narrow audience that can draw on and appreciate even the slightest of resemblance to their past or present life.
“You’re my Person,” is a line I’ve said to three people in my life and meant it from the core of my being. While I can argue at length with anyone what being someone’s Person actually means I will also admit that it is obviously a borrowed idea from a TV show.
Newsflash: Nothing original about that.
The word ‘Person’ always meant something to me I couldn’t quite elucidate properly. The word in plural meant even more. Persons who knew how to use it in a sentence so as to effectively emphasize that we’re not just talking about Ordinary People always had my salute of respect. Metaphorically. We don’t salute anyone anymore nowadays.
Ultimately my concept of a Person was truly defined by a show and the way it was applied in the lives of fictional beings.
If I could ask for one wish for the betterment of everyday lives, it would be less pop culture influence on our minds and a more individualistic approach to the daily aspects of living. When I won’t be granted that one wish, I would ask for time travel to go back to the ’90s. The beautiful, ephemeral, subtle 1990s. The time when the world was on a precipice of change but not quite there yet. When pop culture was not something our lives depended on, and our face-to-face interactions comprised of inchoate words and sentences that we came up with. On our own. By thinking.
When I woke up this morning and decided to write, I paused and wondered if I was seriously doing this again. Another article to justify I’m different and very clever and a cut above the rest. But the truth is, I am not.
I’m just a nobody like everyone else searching for some kind of semblance and resemblance in a world of fiction and make-believe. I’ve realized that being your own Person is such an uphill task and we’d all rather use fiction to escape than head up that road of discovery about who we truly are.
Does it not terrify you when you meet someone new and you’re not sure if they are actually what they look and talk like? I always am. Because suddenly, we have all become sum totals of the sitcoms we devour every Friday night, the indie movies we binge-watch over the weekends and the young adult novels we bury our noses in. When did ‘you’re not alone’ somehow culminate into ‘let us all be the same’?
Ideas are borrowed from all of these media. Sometimes deliberately. Most of the time, subconsciously. We throw ourselves into these independent realms of escape hoping that we’ll come out new and refined and more knowledgeable, somehow. We come out not with new but simply borrowed, secondhand personalities.
What adds to this visceral way of life, is the kind of boost social media provides to our self-inflated egos. “What Game of Thrones Character are you? Click here to find out.” Why, of course, knowing that I have something in common with an on-screen persona would absolutely make my day. That’s not all. Maybe I should answer the quiz in a way that will ensure I’m most likely to be the Mother of Dragons. Swoon.
Then there are certain other kinds of motivators. “Ask yourself what would XYZ do?” I know more than a handful of naive people who are blind enough to worship these characters to a point that they dictate their every move. What they don’t realize is, that is the reel world. It has a definite ending which, in all likelihood, has already been thought of and anything the characters now do however morally right or wrong is only a step towards a pre-decided conclusion. Applying those things to your life (without considering these factors) is not an indication of how well you think you know and connect with the characters. Trust me, it’s far from that.
Let’s skip over to the part where we decide that reading listicles on Thought Catalog will guide us on how “How To Be A Great Girlfriend”. As ridiculous as it seems, we are all guilty of clicking on these links and mentally ticking check boxes to see how well we’re doing. The kind of validation that is expected in relationships these days simply seems to revolve around the one that social media and movies have imprinted on our minds. Suddenly, everyone’s definition of a perfect romance is a beautiful guy called Augustus Waters telling you that he loves you (in spite of your cancer, and all) and that he knows love is only a shout into the void and we will all be blown away into oblivion eventually. If someone were to profess their love to me like that I’m not sure I would be in a position to believe them. Much less hold myself back from barfing in their face.
I’m not an unhappy person. Nor am I any less of a romantic at heart, it’s just that my idea of love stems from a connection that is original and unique to the two people involved and not a by-product of a fictional story.
When I was younger I always took it upon myself to do things differently. Whether it was a simple assignment, a group effort or even a formal essay. My parents always told me that it was very easy to get swayed by the crowd and lose myself and they took it upon themselves to ingrain that in the very core of my bones. The obstacles you face along the way of being ‘different’ are never-ending. When I reached a stage where I had to adjust my personality to fit in I saw that all the lessons taught to me made no sense. I was very sharp in my mind but weak in my heart. If I did what everyone else did, if I (pretended to) enjoy what they enjoyed, it was actually somewhat of a win-win. On the surface, at least.
When you strive your hardest to be someone you’re not, you will always find yourself unhappy and I stepped out of that disguise soon enough.
While we can all fuel our addictions and interests, what I believe is that moderation is the key. When you step out of the world that is inhabited by the characters you so adore, learn to leave it behind and move on with your life. Realize that just twenty six letters of the English alphabet when arranged and rearranged into words and sentences and the permutations-combinations of writing something original are actually infinite. Maybe you won’t have to complain anymore that all good writing has already been written and done for. That statement in itself should prove how powerful originality can be and the scope of it is unbounded.
All of these facets have the usual pros and cons, two sides to every coin and every other possible adage that you can conjure. You can tell me that the pop culture influence has only brought the world closer, that it is one of the shining victories of globalization and that it unites us when we discover similar interests with another human from another part of the world, it provides fodder for a conversation and is so much better than small talk. But when you’re liked or disliked depending upon the kind of media you’re interested in, when you are basically judged because of the views you uphold about a story that is most often far from reality, when you decide that indulging in a particular activity is for the sole reason of not being left behind, whether globalization or any other heavy term, not being a Person anymore is not a price I’m willing to pay.
“A dream-washed textural journey armed with a biting perspective on life, love, and the commonality of loss. It is an affair that sizzles with electricity and calls one in with its unnerved openness.”
If you liked this, you’ll love their other singles from this album. Especially ‘Ghosts’ and ‘The Hunter’.
CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF THIS SONG. Help me out by being as obsessed with it as I am.
Little background for the ones who care:
The Jezabels are an Australian four-piece indie and alternative rock and disco pop musical group which formed in 2007. The Jezabels formed in 2007 after the four members met as students at the University of Sydney. The Jezabels’ Facebook page describes their genre as “intensindie”.
The word nonesuch means something with nothing like it; an unrivalled thing; a paragon.
Hearing this song late last night was quite cathartic. If you like Tanlines you should give a listen to the various remixes they’ve done too.
Electronic and indie rock music all the way!
“As long as you want almost never is, as long as you want, or it is much longer.”
There are things which drive you to despair, but those are also the things that have you reeling back to happiness. People will think what they want to think. Regardless.
There are enough Monday mornings and mucky roads to bring you down. Oh and those conversations don’t mean anything a few years later. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. There is ample time for you to wonder about a certain celebrity and their homosexuality. We all need distractions. I have plenty. You are one of them, which is a tragedy in its own.
This month I have been spiralling down in my addiction of strange, unknown indie movies which leave me on edge. I have also found some therapeutic insights at odd hours in the night. Avoiding confrontations is fun. Reasoning with yourself isn’t. Whenever anyone talks about trust, I instinctively start thinking about Titanic – the movie.
Somewhere deep inside everyone is that voice which makes you reason. No it hasn’t gone on vacation, yes you need to stir and shake it up a bit before use. It’s definitely there. The paradox is, no matter what you do and more often than not, people leave. They leave because they want to stay.