Basic HistoryChanging social attitudes meant that parents wanted their children to have full educations, uninterrupted by work or military service. As a result, young people found themselves with larger allowances and more free time. The dramatic possibilities of this stage of life, marked by mutiny, worry and young love, quickly became evident to movie-makers, so then the film genre coming-of-age drama was born. Films from this genre are often known as ‘teen movies’.
The 50’s• The genre coming-of-age drama, started to become popular in America in the late 50s. The idea of an intermediate stage between childhood and adulthood, with its own problematic obstacles, was still new when Marlon Brando donned his biker jacket in The Wild One (1953) and answered "What are you rebelling against?" with "Whatve you got?“• Rock and Roll was the sound that defined the 50’s era especially for teenagers, and featured strongly in the early coming-of-age movies. Rock Around the Clock (1956) was one of the first films to be aimed primarily at teenagers and purposely excluding adults. Its success encouraged Hollywood to explore this new demographic group.
The 60’s & 70’s• The Gidget movies and Beach Party (1963) created narratives and protagonists which outlined the mood of the 60s. Music, comedy and romance alongside Californian sun and skimpy bikinis. Much of the early success of the coming-of-age genre is because it crosses over so fluidly with other genres.• The 70’s brought us some of the most well known coming-of-age films: such as ‘American Graffiti’ (1973) ‘Mean Streets’ (1973) and ‘Grease’ (1978). The genre had evolved a lot since the 60’s with more realistic teenage related themes being presented in the narratives and coming- of-age was becoming a popular box office genre.
The 80’s• High-school comedies featuring the so-called ‘Brat Pack’ were huge in the 80s - a prime example being The Breakfast Club (1985). None of these films would be complete without the ‘high-school trinity’: the bitchy cheerleader, the hot footballer and the abused nerd. In teen films, this has become a key convention, to have the stereotypical characters. Sixteen Candles (1984), Stand By Me (1986) and Say Anything (1989) are all popular coming-of-age movies from the 80’s.
The 90’sThis was the era when transforming classic literacy texts into teen-aimed motion pictures was popularised. These films were created around the coming-of-age genre, teenagers being the main target audience. This is evident in Clueless (1996) which is an update of Jane Austens Emma, Romeo + Juliet (1996), and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), based on The Taming of the Shrew.Films like ‘Pump Up The Volume’ and ‘American Pie’ were also massive coming-of-age success stories of the 90’s. The themes were very explicit by this time being mainly sex and drug related issues.
The genre todayThe Coming of Age genre remains popular with modern audiences, however it’s represented in a few different forms. The ‘Harry Potter’ series uses magic as a forum for aging, whereas films like ‘Superbad’ and ‘Juno’ focus on sex as the ‘key’ to adulthood. Also movies about the end of the American extended adolescence; films like ‘500 Days of Summer’ and ‘Garden State’ feature characters, who, though they may look like adults, are struggling to shake off childish fantasies in order to come to terms with adulthood. The conventions of a coming of age film have changed over time, this being down to real life situations and also how style and music has developed.
My filmDoing this background research of my genre’s history, has helped me to understand how the different generic conventions of a coming-of-age drama, have helped shape and define the genre over time to how we know it today. I have also extended my knowledge of how to create a successful narrative and protagonist to fit in with these conventions.