Gone is the Age of the Coming-of-Age

Incohesive thoughts on the decline of a genre & its influence on young people

I finally saw Booksmart. It was honest & seamless & carried what felt like just the right amount of weight — and more than anything, reinforces my worry about the lack of films like this for young people these days. I think this current generation of teens will be the first to not be widely exposed to coming-of-age films — a genre that can do so much for their development.

The last generation or two had them, albeit at the expense of some responsibility and realism — the early 2000’s gave us less Stand By Mes & more Superbads — that is, films that are less concerned with depicting youths’ transition into maturity and more concerned with playing up the fun-and-games scenes of hookup hyjinks.

What even was the most recent Stand By Me? Kings of Summer? Remember that one? No? Well, that makes sense — it was a critically acclaimed comedy-drama that made back less than its low $1.5 million budget at the box office.

They aren’t being made, and when they are, they aren’t getting enough attention — by press, maybe; but not by audiences — particularly young people. They’re overshadowed by the mainstream slate of explosions & superheroes. If that’s what they want to watch, fine; but I think that COAs & indies & dramedies in general have always had to catch young people by surprise to make them realize they can care at all about those genres — especially young males. In their case, this is doubly unfortunate, because we’re in a time where those kinds of films, when made, are increasingly aimed at empowering women, in turn potentially reshaping males’ views of females, themselves, masculinity, etc.

tl;dr: Responsible, realistic coming-of-age films can bolster young people’s development & reckoning with the world they’re coming up in more directly than any other genre, but it often requires young people to stumble upon them. Without their availability or mass exposure/promotion, that’s not going to happen. Of course, they won’t be made available/exposed/promoted, because the industry doesn’t make films on sociological speculation. And so, the genre languishes.

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