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And now for something completely different: Nostalgia

07/08/2010

My last post got a little bit too serious, so I thought I’d lighten the mood a bit.

Clear the air.

Let’s travel back to another time. A more innocent time known as the late 80’s/early 90’s. When I was on the verge of becoming a teenager and my greatest desire was to get Girl Talk for Christmas.

It was a time when every birthday party was a slumber party.

There are some movies that I never would have seen if it weren’t for slumber parties. And once I saw them at one slumber party, they became regular features at subsequent slumber parties.
One of the most popular choices for pyjama clad pre-teen sleepovers was a particular piece as painful to relive for my current self as the ubiquitous Babysitters Club books.
A pastel, musical nightmare that was, according to Wikipedia, originally intended as a “Teen Wolf for girls” (because, of course, girls couldn’t enjoy a film about a boy for whom puberty is accompanied by lycanthropy and must instead be satisfied with a girl who uses her knack for sorcery to get a boyfriend).

I am speaking, of course, about Teen Witch.

I’m tempted to try to find a copy and re-watch it, but fortunately (unfortunately?) watching this preview is enough for me. The last time I tried to watch the whole thing, I passed out halfway through. This was partly due to the amount of certain substances consumed at the time, but also because it is so fucking boring.

Now, I’m not going to analyse the plot point by point. That’s been done already and for those of you who grew up in the US in the 80’s, or in the 90’s and 00’s but had cable, you’ve probably already seen Teen Witch and are familiar with its storyline and characters (if not, you know how to use the internet or you wouldn’t be here). There are plenty of other bizarre and inexplicable aspects to this attempt to appeal to a teen audience that I don’t even have to attack the storyline. These things were all things I disliked when I originally watched it, so I know it’s not just my modern sensibility.

  • First of all, there’s the makeup. All the men seem to be wearing pancake makeup and eyeliner. As a makeup artist, and human being, I find this overuse of makeup unsettling. Everyone looks like they’re in a Harold Lloyd movie. Even the little brother.
  • Which brings me to the little brother. This creepy kid can also be seen in River’s Edge, which also stars Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper and Crispin Glover, so you know he’s gotta be severely warped by that experience. The pasty, rosy cheeked and slightly effeminate young actor is so off-putting that the viewer can’t help but cringe and look away every time he is on screen.  It’s almost believable that he could grow up to be Jake Gyllenhall. If he weren’t such a terrible actor.He delivers his lines with a strange staccato monotone that makes you wonder if he’s channeling Ethel Merman.
  • Then there is the music. Ah, the music. A friend once referred to Teen Witch as a musical and my first thought was, “What? It’s not a…oh wait…” There are song and dance numbers all throughout the film, however, none of them seem to involve the protagonist. Which is odd, since, isn’t she the main character? There’s the bizarre locker room song, (the heteronormative and Toni Basil/Waitresses ripoff, “I Like Boys“) then there’s the hallway rappers, and the subsequent rap-off with Polly (the infamous “Top That” which my friend could still do from memory when we were in high school) , and the strange, invented just for the film, pop star Shana whose jacket Louise must steal for her own selfish gains.
  • Which brings me to the fashion. Sure, I remember when layered skirts ruled. And bedazzled denim jackets. But the half side ponytail thing? I never saw a teenager wear anything like that, which makes sense because it’s pretty obvious that everyone in the cast is over 20. It was obvious when I was 9 and it’s obvious now.
  • Then, there’s the weird, sort of blase way the subject of teen sex is presented. First, Louise’s English teacher humiliates her by reading her erotic poetry out loud and mocking her birth control pills (which fell out of her purse) as being “wishful thinking” which, I believe, if she reported to the principle, would get his ass fired, but in Teen Witch world, merely makes him a target for a spell that causes him to strip in class (WTF?). Then, when her nerdy date tries to force himself on her in the car, she wishes him away. Which luckily works, nearly getting her killed when there is nobody to drive the car. This is a comedic scene, played for laughs. “Ew, a nerdy guy tried to kiss her and implied that she owes him sex! Hahaha!”  You realise if she didn’t happen to have magical powers, this guy probably would probably have had his way, whether she wished or not. Lastly, when she performs her popularity spell and wins her heartthrob, Brad, they go off and have softly focused sex in an abandoned house or barn or something. Which, is of course, just how every girl wants to lose her virginity, surrounded by the smell of decay and the possibility of getting tetanus from a floorboard nail. Not to mention the fact that since he’s also under the popularity spell, they haven’t actually gotten to know each other and the only conceivable reason he’s sleeping with her is that she is now a status symbol. Guys only have sex with popular girls, in this reality. Or, if you look at it another way (as she sort of realises afterward) he’s under a spell meaning she has taken away his free will, which means it is basically rape.
  • Then, there’s the ending, in which she somehow gives up her powers, or something, and yet still gets to remain popular and get the guy. What? But, wait, what about the spells? Does that mean they’re permanent? Even though they already established that they can be reversed by water? Aw, don’t worry. Girls don’t care about plot holes, they just want to see a makeover and some making out. ::eyeroll::

I don’t think I need to say that this film is and was insulting to teenage girls.

(Ooh, guess what! There is a remake in the works so that future generations can benefit from the wisdom of this tale of frivolous necromancy! According to Ashley Tisdale, who will apparently be playing Louise, “you can expect it will be a lot more modern than the original.” Well, fucking duh! I would hope a movie made now would be more modern that the original made in the 80’s. Otherwise, what would be the gawddam point? Eurgh! I hate it when vapid people say stuff. I hate it even more when people publish the vapid things they say as if they mean anything. But anyway…)

On the other hand, one could easily make a comparison between Teen Witch and Dr. Faustus.
After all, when given ultimate magic power, what does Faustus do?
Well, he uses his ill-gotten powers to humiliate those in authority, to gain status, to help his servant (who uses it for comic relief) and to resurrect Helen of Troy.  So, power, check; prestige, check; friends, check; sex, check. Someone who starts out with positive qualities squanders their supernatural powers with shallow and self-serving spells. But whereas Faustus has to go to hell and suffer for all eternity, Louise gets slight misgivings, ‘gives up’ her powers, and gets to keep the boy and the friends. Lesson learned? Not so much.
And Madame Serena is definitely no Mephistopheles.

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3 Comments
  1. Mike permalink
    07/08/2010 11:58 pm

    I have never been able to make it through this movie. Which, for whatever reason a couple years ago, the Disney channel aired at least 4 times a week. It was always good to know, if I wanted a nap, that it would be on soon and my body would rather go into a coma than finish the movie. I actually only know how it ends because of reviews like this that told me. I’ve yet to actually witness it.

    • noblecaboose permalink*
      08/08/2010 12:12 am

      Well, as you saw in that other girl’s review, there isn’t much of an ending. It just sort of peters out, then there’s the jarring climax of the prom scene and out-of-nowhere happy ending. There really can’t be any resolution when there isn’t really any conflict to speak of.
      Then again, I’ve never been able to sit through 2001: A Space Odyssey. I fall asleep shortly after the Blue Danube space docking sequence. That movie is like NyQuil to me. The Sci-fi, Symbolist, Classical Soundtrack, Monkey-fighting, Killer-computer, Space-Baby, Psychedelic-Fever-Dream, so I Can Slip into a Coma, Movie.

  2. 08/08/2010 1:05 pm

    I seemed to have been quite fortunate in never seeing this. I did watch Degrassi Jnr high though.

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