“Edge of Seventeen”’s Suburban Teenager Trope Must Die
If you were looking for an eloquent movie review with detailed analysis, you had better keep on scrolling.
While on my way to the Caribbean, I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch The Edge of Seventeen. This is a movie about a 17 year-old-girl, Nadine, who has the “worst life ever” and is not shy of letting those will listen know about it. The movie is essentially her story as a run-of-the-mill American teenager attempting to navigate that crucial year right before you become an adult. Like many other movies similar to this, she has a tragic backstory (her dad dies while driving her back home from getting burgers); her mother doesn’t understand her; her brother is so much better than her in practically every way, so much so she hates him for it; her best and only friend leaves her side for her own slice of happiness; she has no more friends and no one seems to like her. Conveniently, she doesn’t notice the people who do until she needs something from them. You know, like the average suburban millennial.
Well, as riveting as I have made this movie seem, I apologize for my inarticulate review of this movie but sometimes it needs to be done. I, personally, am sick and tired of this very specific character in every American teen movie. It’s always a teenager in a perfectly functional suburban household. One of the parents (or both in some cases) die or are dead. They hate their lives for seemingly insignificant or solvable reasons. They fail to notice the people around them who actually care about them. Lastly, they say the rudest most offensive things both intending to be offensive but not quite meaning it. “I hate you,” “I’m going to kill myself.” ”I hope you crash into a tree and get paralyzed,” (which she actually says in the movie) and so on. Quite frankly, this type of character is so overused and BO-RING. I’m surprised this trope still appeals to anyone. Most of the time these girls are supposed to be incredible and somehow unique when in reality they are just as average as everyone else. At some point during the movie after everything has come to a complete stop for them, they finally realize they’ve been pretty shitty to the people around them. Things magically get better for them and the movie ends with a nice happy indie pop song. Hooray hooray.
I find it really difficult to empathize with characters who are so inherently unlikable. These character’s problems are so…minimal. Nadine in the movie has a roof over her head, food to eat every day, she can skip school whenever she wants and even gets permission to skip school from a teacher, has a best friend that has stuck by her since they were in 2nd grade, has an adorkable filmmaker boy who is completely smitten with her, and all the potential in the world if she were to actually apply herself. She is just as unlikable as she thinks she is to everyone else and yet I’m expected to feel sorry for her. The question I kept asking myself was “why?” How could anyone justify her getting any sympathy? The answers I’m usually given to this question are “well, she’s a teenager. Teenagers never know how self absorbed they are.” or “That’s the point. The character is supposed to be unlikable. Like we all were when we were teenagers.” or the classic “Calm down. It’s just a movie.” To all those remarks I say I think the only reason people sympathize with those characters is because they either are that character, know someone who is or at one point were that character.
Nadine reminded me so much of Mia from If I Stay. They could be twins in terms of how much people feel the need to coddle their irritating little attitudes. In Mia’s story, she can’t see how cool her parents are or just how lucky she was to have two parents that loved her so much. She had a whole community of people who cared about her and supported her. Yet I don’t think she truly appreciated them until they were all gone. It’s sad. What I would have really loved to see from The Edge of Seventeen is someone who had objectively difficult problems like she was worried where her next meal was coming from. Or potentially her only way out of her little town was if she could score a scholarship. Something with substance. Nadine may be like a lot of the privileged youth of America, but she certainly isn’t all of us. If this movie was going to be as great as The Breakfast Club like it claimed it was going to be, then it needs to have much more depth than it had.