How I Feel About Coming-of-Age Stories

spectacular-now-final-poster

I have a love-hate relationship with coming-of-age stories.

On the one hand, I feel like I’m getting a little too old for them. Most of the time, they feature characters in high school, and let’s just say it’s been a couple years since I’ve been in that age group. When the stories get overly saccharine or earnest about things like prom, I just can’t really handle it anymore.

On the other hand, despite being a 20-something, I sometimes still feel like I’m not done “coming of age.” I’m still interested in stories about formative experiences because, well, I’m still looking for and/or processing mine. (Okay, go ahead and cue the societal hand-wringing about our generation’s extended adolescence.)

But anyway. All of this is to explain why I was really excited about–but also wary of–the movie The Spectacular Now. I loved the poster, but the trailer was a little eye roll-worthy. Sutter Keely, charming and troubled, inadvertently falls in love with Aimee Finecky, nerdy and socially awkward. Haven’t we heard this story before?

I ended up watching the movie anyway because the reviews were so positive. I’d also read that the book version of The Spectacular Now was quite good, and that it was a lot darker and more morally ambiguous than your typical young adult novel. Because I’d like to some day write such a book myself, I decided I had better find out what was so spectacular about The Spectacular Now.

And you know what? I liked it. It really was as nostalgic, tender, painful, and emotional as everyone said it would be. And beautifully photographed to boot. I loved the aesthetic so much that I was even inspired to make this.

But all of that critical praise about the movie’s unflinching honesty and realism made me wonder what makes a depiction of adolescence feel “real.” I mean, I certainly don’t doubt that The Spectacular Now is in fact more honest and realistic than most other teen movies these days. But I didn’t watch it and think, oh wow, that’s exactly how I felt as a teenager. Instead, I watched it and thought, oh wow, that’s exactly how I used to wish I felt as a teenager.

Because what I remember about adolescence is that it was a long period of waiting for life to begin: watching movies like The Spectacular Now and waiting to experience those epic emotions and life-changing relationships, all the while moping about how pale and unreal my real life felt in comparison. I was basically an Aimee Finecky, except I never met a Sutter Keely. (Also, I wasn’t nearly as nice. Or as accommodating.)

I think one reason I’m so interested in coming-of-age stories is that I’m constantly looking for one that actually reflects my own adolescence. One that makes me think, YES, that’s exactly how it was! I haven’t found it yet, but I’m still holding out hope.

Otherwise, I guess that’s what I’ll try to write myself.

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2 comments

  1. Though I have not quite reached my twenties yet as I’m getting there, I absolutely agree with your post. I’ve never thought about the realism depicted in adolescence movies until you made the point in this post but now that I do think about it…they definitely are more wishy wish/unrealistic of how I have ever felt. When I do watch those type of movies, which I rarely do out of annoyance of the over-used themes, they really aren’t that relatable so why the movie industry persist in telling the same story in different ways is beyond me (not for all but for many ). Sometimes, the only way to tell a story is to write our own since a lot of the same story has already been heard/told ( in my opinion ). If you do, when you do, decide to write a book…I wish you the best in doing so. My friend wrote a book and in the process of writing several books..it’s such an accomplishment : )

  2. Thanks for your comment! Yes, I totally agree. Also, that’s awesome about your friend writing books! I find that it’s so hard to sit down and actually finish something, so doing so is definitely an accomplishment indeed.

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