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The Quintessential Characters of American Teen Movies

Updated on January 11, 2022
Priya Barua profile image

Priya is pursuing her undergrad in law and business administration. She loves translated books, world cinema and French chic.

These American Teen Movies take clichés to a whole new level. Yes, you know what I am talking about. After watching a few dozen of them over tubs of ice-cream, you come to a saturation point where you just can’t, anymore. Why? Because they follow the same god-damned storyline, so well, that you can foretell the end: a sweet, sappy, happy ending.

All these movies share commonalities, and here’s a note on the quintessential characters of American Teen Movies:

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These American Teen Movies take cliches to a whole new level.
These American Teen Movies take cliches to a whole new level. | Source

1. The Narration

Narration is offered by the protagonist, who is usually a girl, who introduces the audience to her sucky life in some new town in the US where she recently moved into or to her existing sucky life in some small town in the US where her father had left her and her mother is working around the clock to provide for her and her brother.

2. The Nerdy Protagonist

Ninety-Three per-cent of the times, a girl, who is living in the fringes of the society, barely able to pay school fees, is some dumpy nobody wearing weird men’s clothing, is uncharacteristically brilliant in academics, holds a job at the local café or music shop and has long-term goals of going to Princeton or some school in Paris, is our protagonist. It is uncanny why all these girls prefer Princeton over Harvard or Columbia; I mean, if you’re thinking long-term, it’s best you don’t restrict yourself to only one Ivy League college. There are eight for a reason. And why is it necessary that the girl is always a pauper (save Clueless)? And why the filial issues? It’s either a loser dad who walked out on them or a dead mom buried in a grave some miles away from their home? And is it always necessary that the protagonist is academically brilliant, which for some reasons, is looked down upon in American High Schools? We worship our nerds, and there they are, throwing leftover Café food at their possible bosses. Are the American kids this dim-witted or the production company just likes to make them look dim-witted? So many questions.

The classic blond hunk.
The classic blond hunk. | Source

3. The Hot Guy

The classic blond, handsome hunk who represents the Football or Basketball Team and dates the prettiest girls. His father is one of the wealthiest persons in the towns and a jackass who puts unnecessary pressure on his son to apply to Harvard, which for some wired reason, the son doesn’t want to. Your father can afford tuition fees, and here you are, you lazy sucker, all you have to do is study. I bet your father even has contacts up in the administration to put you in. The boy, being rich, obviously rides a Mercedes or a Jag and all the girls in the school are awed by his good-looks and his even fatter wallet; the way he throws around money like he earned it. He is a jerk, with redemptive undertones to that awfully disgusting personality, but because he is hot, everyone wants to date him. Of course.

4. The Mean Girl

Usually a pretty blond or brunette, whose official title is girlfriend to the Hot Guy, but is more in a complicated relationship because she decided to screw with her beau’s best friend. Something along those lines. Cheer captain, wears the sluttiest clothes, perceived to be the envy of all women and the apple eye of all men. She has to have a mean streak (a word I used very lightly) because the idea is to make her a disgusting character to the audience so that they don’t feel sorry for her when the Rich Hot Boy dumps her for good and moves on to the nerdy protagonist. She can usually be seen surrounded by a group of pretty, ultra-thin women, as they use not very sparsely, her clique – the popular sorts who would not end up doing much after high school anyway.

Only. One. Black. Dude.
Only. One. Black. Dude. | Source

5. The Black Dude

Only. One. Black. Dude. At least production is sensitive to that. Most teen movies like to offer the audience one black boy or girl, who usually belongs to the popular or cool group and who usually plays a distressingly secondary role. His role is to put in all the street slangs like dang, brah, damn with the right timbre and eloquence, and make seldom remarks about the current situation that the Hot Guy has gotten himself into; perhaps tell him how stupid it was to bet with the Mean Girl how he would court the Nerdy Protagonist and turn her into a beautiful butterfly.

The wise adult comes in many forms.
The wise adult comes in many forms. | Source

6. The Wise Adult

The wise adult comes in many forms: a teacher, the janitor, a parent or a dead mom’s diary. When the Hot Guy is in a fix, or the Nerdy Protagonist is crying over a broken heart, the wise adult’s wisdom comes through guiding the plagued in the right direction. The right direction, as we all know, is to follow your heart. If only I had the courage to do so, I would drop out of Law School and travel the world on a shoe-string budget. Ha! As if it were that easy. And no surprises, because the person’s ‘follow your heart’ usually leads him/her to forgive the beloved and get back together in a sappy ending.

7. The Best Friend

From both sides, the Nerdy Protagonist and the Hot Guy. The girl has either a really close guy or girl friend, who stays by her side through thick or thin and plays the role of the messenger between her and the Hot Guy. The Hot Guy, too, has a loyal sidekick who also happens to play in the Football/Basketball team with him and is always usually a boy, never a girl. If they are opposite sexes, the sidekicks come together in their own sappy ending. Such cuteness. I feel like there are onions in front of my eyes.

8. The Asian Kid

Either Japanese or a Chinese but can be substituted by an Indian who seems to have an accent that no Indian really has when speaking English. And no, Indians don’t speak English like Appu from The Simpsons. The Asian kid is too smart to be true, especially when it comes to tech and martial arts and only plays an auxiliary character in the movie. No surprises there.

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© 2017 Priya Barua


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