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Young Adult Musings

December 20, 2011

Confession – I like TV better than movies, because TV allows for better character development and growth throughout the series. I don’t get excited about too many movies, and I don’t often go to the movie theater, mainly because I hate watching a movie with 50 other people. That being said, I went to see Diablo Cody’s new movie Young Adult in theaters on opening weekend (it was a Sunday matinee, but it still counts!).

My brother and I loved the movie, and naturally our mother hated it. Strangely enough, I can relate to Charlize Theron’s character Mavis a lot, even though I hope someone would name their child Mavis. Cody’s use of a female anti-heroine (an unlikeable main character) was a bold choice, but it was a bold choice that worked. However, one of the most fascinating aspects of the movie was that it challenged the idea that “the cool kids peak in high school.”

This is a nationwide nerd mantra, and is a small town idea that those who were popular in high school will do nothing with their lives, while those who were unpopular and especially those who were bullied will leave their town and become wildly successful, much to the chagrin of their hometown peers. This idea was not seen in Young Adult.

Mavis was “the most popular girl in high school.” She dated the star of the football team and was homecoming queen. Based on the “peaked in high school theory,” Mavis should be stuck in Mercury, Minnesota and be fat and married with three kids and miserable. However, she is one of the most successful people to come out of Mercury, as a ghost writer for a popular young adult book series. She has what can be romanticized as the glamorous single girl life in Minneapolis.

Matt the “nerdy guy” who was a victim of a hate crime in high school did not become dashingly handsome and successful. He did not escape Mercury and he is still a nerd. He walks with a cane from this hate crime and works as an accountant/assistant manager at an Irish sports bar. Poor Matt, his life never took off.

Diablo Cody turns this theory of “peaking in high school” on its head. Arguably, the only character in the movie who peaked in high school was Mavis’s old flame Buddy, the former it guy of high school. He settled down in Mercury with a wife and a kid and works a low-level white collar job at the General Mills Factory. Despite his “peaking,” he is happy, while Mavis and Matt are both at the opposite ends of the peaking spectrum are obviously unhappy.

What does this say about us and our own happiness levels and former high school popularity? I’m a firm believer that we weave our own destiny. Mavis got out of town and got the ghost writing gig because she made it happen for herself. Despite having every reason to leave Mercury, for some reason Matt stayed in town and lives his miserable existence. Maybe if the jocks, cheerleaders, and homecoming queens have enough gumption, they won’t peak in high school and will continue to have success and popularity. Maybe the losers will become permanent losers because they don’t improve their situation.

Young Adult made me reflect about my own high school experience and subsequent life. Despite all the deep thoughts about high school and happiness, one of my favorite things about the movie was the usage of KenTacoHut – a combination KFC/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut, which just so happens to be my all time favorite fast food restaurant.

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