If I didn’t grow up in the 80’s, there’s no way in hell I would’ve ended up in LA. Here’s why:
The sheer triumph and power projected through Hollywood during the cocaine decade inspired me to dream beyond my anonymous hometown. Movies like “Teen Wolf,” “Three O’Clock High,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and everything in the John Hughes library struck a strident chord with kids like me: kids from the suburbs, kids who weren’t popular but weren’t unpopular, kids destined to remain ‘burbanites’ forever, only to assume middle class asshole status in the land of opportunity. But something happened inside of my mind every time I heard Michael J. Fox utter the words, “I’m sick. Of being. So average.” Something happened in my gut when I watched him turn into a werewolf and van-surf, then kick ass at basketball while a song called “Win in the End” played in the background. I tasted victory vicariously through a few dozen teen flicks of the 80’s, and have been chasing that high ever since.
The highest highs inevitably lead to the lowest lows. While the 80’s were a heavenly time to be a child, the 90’s were a hellacious time to be a teenager. No more OMD, Pet Shop Boys or New Order on the radio; thanks to Kurt Cobain and Seattle, depression assimilated our youth. Prozac replaced cocaine. The desire to “win in the end,” waned into a conglomerate need to bitch, piss and moan about how much the world sucked (and we all had ample reason to. I mean, it was the 90’s).
Hollywood made a half-assed attempt to revive the teen scene. Remember “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “She’s all That,” and “10 Things I Hate about You?” I don’t, and I saw all three of them. They tried to be hip, they tried to be deep, they tried to be triumphant. But when Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” was the most prominent song featured in any of those films, we children of the 80’s felt Hollywood faking the funk.
Fast forward in time to 2005. A movie named “Napoleon Dynamite” revitalized an old formula: not-so-cool kid rebels against the mainstream, triumphs over the crowd, and finds his soul mate. Boom. Smash hit. On a budget of $400,000 the movie garnered 45 million at the box office. Perhaps paving the way for more triumphant goodness?
In 2007, we got “Superbad.” While it strayed far from the typical teen formula that made 80’s movies so badass, “Superbad” retained one crucial element: it’s main characters were rebellious on the surface, but super-soft-sentimental-mushy to the core. That’s what made the 80’s hip; behind all the absurdity of all the triumph and all the power, it was really about love.
And that’s why “Juno” is making bank. It’s a simple story about a complex indie-rocker rebel bitch who really just wants to find true love. She’s a delicate flower inside a force-field: the epitome of American youth.
In the words of musician Leon Ware: “that is why I came to California. It’s the strangest groove that I have ever known. All the youth seekers come to California, following the fountain with their minds.”
Mentally, I intend to never mature past the age of 17. Now excuse me while I sniff a line.