Teen films of the 1980s : genre, new Hollywood, and generation X



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Teen films from the 1980s are a part of the zeitgeist, but there is very little we actually understand about how they can be qualified and defined, and about the phenomenon of their prolific production, box office success, and cultural relevance. Gaining greater insights about these issues is essential for recognizing the significance of a specific group of films and the ways they address concerns of how teens come of age, but is also important for learning about the films’ historical and industrial contexts of production. Asking the questions why these kinds of films, why at this time, and what do they mean, leads to an awareness and identification of the phenomenon, but additionally, these lines of inquiry explore how the films and their success are tied to changing Hollywood industrial conditions, and to the shifting political, economic, social, and cultural climate of the U.S. in the 1980s.
While previous scholars have studied the industrial context of production of teen films in the 1950s, and some have looked at the different types of films produced in the 1980s, the matter remains as to whether teen films actually constitute their own genre. Examining this question of genre is necessary for clarifying a number of issues: how the films relate to the culture at large; how representations of youth on screen can help us understand and reevaluate Generation X, the demographic group coming of age at the time; and how an assessment of these films contributes to a re-conceptualization of the ways films are produced, marketed, and categorized in the New Hollywood. Using primary data consisting of textual analysis and contextual analysis, and applying both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the study builds on and adds to previous approaches to genre. The contributions of this research are multifaceted. By gaining insights about these films, we can begin to appreciate more fully a maligned generation, the changing landscape of the entertainment industry, and a cultural phenomenon.