As of last Friday we have a teenager in the house. (She is already thoroughly sick of jokes about turning into Kevin, particularly as she has never seen that episode of Harry Enfield.)
And inevitably of late we've also been watching a lot of current teen movies. Along with all her peers, no 1's current obsession is Twilight. (If you haven't heard of/read Stephanie Myers bestselling series, you clearly don't know any teenage girls.)
Twilight interested me from the off, as in my previous existence, when I had a proper job and everything I used to edit a teen fiction series called Point Horror. (So anyone reading this, who was a teenager in the early 90s, you partly have me to thank for any nightmares you may have had.) Actually, by today's standards PH was pretty tame: the stories in the main were fairly formulaic: a group of high school kids would a)find themselves in an isolated location b)be stalked/terrified by local looney/ghost/vampire/any other terrifying thing you can think of c)there was usually a love interest who may or may not be trustworthy and d) it all worked out in the end. (Apart from a brilliantly shlocky mini series called The Babysitter, which went through to Part IV - the original heroine who was stalked by scary person while babysitting ended up so demented she became the stalker/looney tunes by the end.)
I absolutely loved working on Point Horror. The stories were formulaic, but they were incredibly well written and pacy, and one or two were a cut above the rest. (I still rate my favourite PH, The Fever by Diane Hoh incredibly highly. A teenage girl is trapped in a hospital suffering from a mysterious fever, and hallucinating wildly. Someone is trying to kill her. Or are they?.... - use of ellipses is essential in describing any PH - It's such a terrifying premise, and Diane Hoh so brilliantly captures the vulnerability of being stuck in hospital with no one believing a word you say, that I think it could almost work written for an adult audience.)
I learnt masses about the appeal of popular fiction, how to write cliffhanger endings (master of the CE, a certain Mr RL Stine, who was also responsible for terrifying a generation of 8-10 year olds with his brilliant Goosebumps series), and how important such stories are in reaching kids for whom books and reading has passed them by. One of the very best bits of my job was receiving letters from kids, often wildly misspelt. So many of them said, I'd never read a book till I read a Point Horror, now I'm reading lots of different things. It made my job incredibly rewarding (and ok, yes, of course I loved reading the stories, and thinking, hey I get paid to do this.)
I see Stephanie Meyers' series in the same tradition as PH. Things have moved on of course, now. We weren't allowed to do sex ever (though I spread into other genres and I did publish and outrageously cheesy Beverley Hills 90210 lookylikey series called Ocean City which was pretty much a shag fest - all done in the most impeccable good taste), as though our target market was 12+ we knew that PHs were being read by 1o year olds. (An aside to that, we got into terrible trouble at the time of the Jamie Bulger trial, as two of my crime books: School for Death/Shoot the Teacher ended up in a primary school thanks to our book fairs, and the head teacher accused us of moral corruption. Story got picked up by the mainstream press, and Sunday Sport ran an article with a picture of one of our PH covers, which featured a bloody trainer - of course there was blood on the trainer that was used to kill Jamie, therefore we were responsible for the moral degeneration of today's kids, dontcha know? Anyone reading this who was a PH fan, please enlighten me if you think I debauched you. I'd love to know (-:)
Twilight is probably a lot more graphic then anything I edited, but as it focuses more on the emotional intensity of the relationship between the heroine Bella and the vampire Edward, to whom she is irresistibly drawn (and boy does it focus on that - jeez, I was all emotionally intensed out by the end), the sex angle is quite downplayed. And though the bad vampires (Edward and his family only feed off animals - in a rather witty quip, he tells Bella they're "vegetarian" vampires) do some fairly nasty stuff, it isn't graphic (just compare it with Interview with a Vampire and you'll see how toned down teen vampires are.) With my editor's hat on, I'd say Twilight could have been cut considerably - the most exciting bit happens in the last third of the book, the first two thirds have far too much of Bella and Edward mooning over each other (although Edward is an exceptionally sexy vampire, so I do get the appeal). Having watched the film yesterday, I'd say it suffers from the same problem (although it is quite moody, and I liked the grainy way it was shot). There were A. Lot. Of. Significant. Looks. And. Pauses. Which. I. Could. Have. Done. Without. And I found Robert Pattison's Edward deeply unsexy. I could have also done without so many vampire characters (a failing of the book as well) as I got them all muddled up. However, Kirsten Stewart's Bella is wonderful, and I also loved the character of Carlisle (he is outstanding in the book too) - the honourable vampire who is teaching them all to be better then they are. Interestingly enough, as Spouse pointed out, the whole thing is a metaphor for sexual restraint, which is quite refreshing in an era when our children are bombarded with sexual imagery and the expectation that they will be doing it before the end of their teens (before they're even legal in some cases....)
So. Not a bad effort, for a teen film. But not as good as the teen classic of my era: Gregory's Girl, which Spouse and I caught the end of last night. Actually, I have to fess up and say I've never managed to see this one all the way through (what can I say? I didn't have a boyfriend at the time, and it was a dating kind of film. My twin did, so she went and told me the plot, so I didn't need to go(-:) Watching it last night I was first struck with an OMG Did I really wear that moment? as one of the girls was wearing a print skirt with a Hawaiian beach scene, horribly reminscent of the one I had aged 16, and which I sadly loved. And secondly, I thought despite the sweet innocence of it, Susan who manipulates Gregory into going out with her seems way ahead of him in experience terms. And I loved the way it was her that walked him home, a really forward thinking stroke, that, for the time. I really must watch the whole film sometime...
A better modern comparison with Gregory's Girl, though, which is another of No1's favourite films is: Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging (the UK book from which this film comes, is actually, Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, but the US market still hilariously pretends to be prudish). The film is based on Louise Renison's best selling series, and features Georgia Nicolson, who is the inner teenager we all were.
I absolutely loved this film, because, while there are comments about thongs, and bras (hilariously, the bitchy character pads herself up) and slight whispers of sex, it is, like Gregory's Girl, a really innocent film. As a parent, I completely love the relationship between Alan Davies and Karen Taylor and the wry looks they throw one another as Georgia embarks on one potty scheme after another (guilty as charged. Spouse and I do that ALL the time.) But I also love it because it captures perfectly (as every good teen film should) the agonies, the ecstacies, the sheer embarrassment of teenage life. It's also superb on female friendships, and the awkwardness of dating boys. And it cheered me up to think that perhaps teenage life hasn't altered that irrevocably from my day, and despite my fears about the next few years featuring sex drugs and rock n roll, it might all turn out to be tamer then I think...
Here's hoping anyway...