Sex, Drugs And Homework: Anatomy Of A Teen Raunch Comedy
This month the teen raunch comedy genre returned to theaters with a reality-like twist when the Will Ferrell produced faux documentary The Virginity Hit began rolling out in limited release on September 10th. The assumption for most moviegoers buying a ticket, is that teenage raunch comedies like The Virginity Hit, are about growing up. In a way, that's true, but more specifically, they're about pretending to grow up. Adolescence is a giant race to see who can age the quickest. Since there's not really a scientific way to do that, teenagers gravitate towards things that can be overtly defined as adult, and more importantly, they begin seeing the world in black-and-white, us-vs-them ideologies. Either he's like us or he's apart from us, either she's a prude or she's a slut, either he's always down to party or he's a narc who'd probably tell his mom. That's why every teen comedy of note contains hyper-specific heroes and villains or at least, a specifically defined objective. It's Lambda Lambda Lambda vs the Jocks, it's a race to see who can lose their virginity first, it's a run to the liquor store to try and buy beer with a fake id.
All of this is frequently derided as stupid and cliché-ridden, of course, but what is high school, if not stupid and cliché-ridden? Everyone I know has an awkward virginity loss story, just as everyone I know has a first time they drank story. From boobs to blunts to bromances, high school is almost obnoxious in its obviousness, and while the names and outfits will change over time, the stupid, sophomoric longings inside the hearts of seventeen year old boys will never die. When I was a freshman in high school, some dumbass at one of the neighboring high schools was suspended two weeks for crawling through the school's air ducts to see into the girls' locker room. Porky's, a 1981 comedy film set in 1954, is famously simplified in retrospect to be about spying into the girl's locker room. Revenge Of The Nerds, a 1984 teen raunch comedy set in 1984, has an entire plotline devoted to figuring out the technology it would take to spy into a sorority house. Fifty years from now, young boys will be desperately trying to creep on naked girls, and if future teen raunch comedies don't depict that, they'll feel hollow.
Don't get me wrong, all this talk of repetition is not to imply the teenage raunch comedy is destined to be stagnant, it's just destined to constantly re-evaluate and re-interpret the same ideas. Just as the majority of sports movies will, in some part, always be about winning the big game, teenage raunch comedies, in some capacity, will always be about the same themes of rebellion, growing up and budding sexuality. Weird Science explores many of the same ideas as Superbad, but its overall plot and ways of conveying the same longings to feel accepted by women are unique to the movies themselves.
So, what is a teenage raunch comedy? Well, that's impossible to say, except that, they all involve teenagers behaving in a somewhat lurid manner. They're frequently R-Rated, but not necessarily R-Rated, and they all share at least several of the themes or elements described below. Do they have to contain underage drinking? No. They also don't need to contain promiscuity, swearing or anti-authoritarian behavior, but it certainly does help. Here's a look at the 5 most common teenage raunch comedy staples, as alternately depicted between two different movies…
Drinking, unlike drug use, is so fundamental to the high school experience that the difference between people is less whether they did or didn't and more at what age did they started. Released just five years apart, Varsity Blues and Mean Girls depict underage drinking in sharply different ways. In the former, the police officers, at least until their car is stolen, along with many of the parents see binge drinking as a good ol boy part of growing up. They tolerate it, along with a bit of carousing, as a natural part of growing up. Don't go to the hospital and be ready for practice in the morning used to be the mantra, but Mean Girls, in many ways a more modern depiction of society, is far less tolerant.
When you turn sixteen years old, there's a new-found freedom that almost overwhelms you. Even if you don't personally have a car, it's very likely one of your friends has a car, and this lack of reliance on your parents and working around their schedules is beyond awesome. You can drive to the movies, leave the house at the drop of hat, go multiple places in one night. It's incredible, until you turn seventeen and realize you've already been all the places you wanted to go. And there's two years of this until college. As much as things change, they stay the same.
For the last ten years or so, the idea of grade inflation has been at the forefront of most educational debates. Are we doing C-students a disservice by giving them A-minuses? Are we putting them in a position to succeed by letting them into better colleges or are we marking them for potential failure by setting them up for academically tough situations they won't be able to handle? It's very much a twenty-first century issue, but in some ways, it's a rudimentary problem teachers have been struggling with since 1982. That's the year Mr. Hand decided to show up at Jeff Spicolli's house to impart just enough knowledge that he might slide by and pass US History. Don't tell me passing Jeff Spicolli wasn't grade inflation. There's no way that mouth breather knows a thing about US History, but honestly, passing him was probably the right decision. A kid like that doesn't need to know who Jefferson Davis was to work at a 7-11, just as Josh doesn't need Ancient Philosophy to do whatever it is he's gonna do with his life in Road Trip.
I know what you're thinking. Why is Pineapple Express on this list? All the main characters in that movie have to be at least twenty-five. Yes, but I don't want to talk about them. I want to talk about Dale's teenage girlfriend Angie. Early on in the movie, Saul asks Dale if she smokes pot, and he says, “Yeah, well, sort of, as much as any high schooler smokes pot.” Now compare that to the shock and awe the characters in The Breakfast Club experience when they find out Bender has pot on him. Movies have long shown so-called stoner characters, but these kids have overtly been potheads to the point where pot has defined them. Not so anymore.
I would argue there's no more clear dividing line amongst teenagers than between those who have had sex and those who haven't. It's a striking contrast just as clear today as it was fifty years ago. Losing your virginity makes you re-evaluate yourself in ways drinking or swearing never could. Probably because there's no going back. It's not when or how you lose it that's important, it's why you lose it, and that, unlike many of the other things on this list, will always be true. The whole point of American Pie is losing your virginity as a goal unto itself, the whole point of Saved! is losing your virginity because, in that moment, it felt like the right thing to do.
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