Photo by Anna Sastre on Unsplash

Let’s Not Go Overboard With “The Kissing Booth”

We’ve Been Here Before & It’s Not Worth The Hype

At the behest of one of my friends, I watched Netflix’s The Kissing Booth. This movie, as she told me, started off as a story on Wattpad, got a book deal, then became the movie we all know today. It currently is one of the most watched movies in the country according to Business Insider. I’m 25 and married so I’m way past the intended demographic for this movie. The only reason my friend wanted me to watch it because of “how bad it was” and she challenged me to finish the whole movie. But she didn’t think I could do it, so out of spite I did.

While the movie is bad for a number of reason, some of them being obvious on the first watch, I couldn’t help feeling like I had seen something like this before. And that wasn’t due to the fact that this movie rips off iconic movies every chance it gets. No, as I was painfully watching, I just kept thinking “This is what everyone is making a fuss over? It’s like every bad teen movie ever. What’s the big deal?” And my conclusion is we should stop giving this movie so much attention because I think it’s relatively harmless and here’s why I believe that.

We’ve Been Through This Before

How many bad movies have we witnessed in the past two decades that have had teens and moms alike obsessing over them? Have we all forgotten Twilight? Fifty Shades of Grey? When the Twilight craze was happening, everyone pointed out how the relationship between Bella and Edward was abusive and controlling. There was think piece after think piece about it. And it makes sense why everyone wanted to bring the extremely successful series down a peg. Teens across the country bought Twilight merchandise, fiercely argued for #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob. It was out of control. But this is all to say, we’ve been through this before. The world didn’t end then and it’s not going to end now. In fact, I’m pretty sure most teens who were obsessed with Twilight back then now look back on their teenage delusions with a sense of humor. I do, at least.

Teens Are Going To Like What They Like

I first read Twilight when I was 14 years old. I was a young, romantically obsessed little lady who wanted a boy to care about me as much as Edward cared about Bella. I was obsessed with the series, so much so I read all the books and watched all the movies. And I can say with the utmost honesty, nothing anyone said about the series made me love it any less. I had heard the arguments that Bella and Edward’s relationship was abusive and toxic. I even heard people say the writing was bad and I, as an aspiring writer, should have been more attuned to that. Any criticism that anyone had about the series, I immediately explained away. Edward’s not abusive! He’s just trying to protect Bella. Bad writing? But I learned so many new words while reading her work. Like chagrin. It’s a learning tool!

I’d venture to say the same thing applies to teens watching The Kissing Booth now. There are so many reasons to love this movie if you’re an impressionable youth of today like: it has a hot guy; a plain looking girl who, by her personality alone?, scores the hot guy; the element of forbidden love; long lasting friendship; the hot guy goes out of his way to “make sure the girl is his;” they have a secret relationship with lots and lots of sex; it rips off older, better romcoms; there’s a dramatic reveal of love and there’s a satisfactory ending. It’s a fantasy similar to Fifty Shades of Grey that you, too, can be loved by an absolute hottie without having to do anything to pursue him or change anything about yourself. No matter how many holes you poke in the fantasy, chances are they’ll be ignored. So you might as well let the kids enjoy what they like.

The Movie Is Actually Pretty Tame

Compared to what else is out there for teens to watch, 13 Reasons Why, Game of Thrones, Westworld and more, The Kissing Booth is a pretty tame movie. Sure, there are several shirtless “high school” boys and multiple times when Elle ends up shirtless in the presence of Noah and the aforementioned “boys,” but compared to what other movies, shows, and Netflix content out there, this movie is child’s play. There are much worse movies out there to watch than this for teens of any age. There’s no denying the sexist and regressive dynamics the movie portrays but it’s not like it’s the only movie like that. Let’s not forget that most current movies fail the Bechdel test and this movie, surprisingly, passes. Honestly, there are worse things a kid can be watching.

It’s Just a Movie

Which is something you should tell your kids, siblings, nieces, nephews and whoever else. The romance depicted in The Kissing Booth is fake and it’s something that needs to be discussed. As previously mentioned, there’s huge appeal for this movie and for this kind of romance. That also needs to be addressed. The way you address this issue with your young ones is up to you, but my advice would be to 1) don’t make a fuss out of it, 2) recognize that your kid likes this movie and don’t make them feel bad for it, and 3) gently tell them that this is not real romance and that it’s fictional. Though I’m not a parent, I can say that would have resonated with me the most if my mother had that kind of conversation with me when I was naively dreaming of my perfect man.

And Finally

This movie is going to blow over. It’ll probably follow in the footsteps of Twilight, High School Musical, and The Hunger Games. The sequel will come around, it’ll probably cause more buzz, and we’ll be talking about this all over again as if it’s new. So it’s in everyone’s best interest to acknowledge that teens are attracted to these types of movies and let them have their fun. When they’re older, they’ll see how ridiculous their old interests were. This movie, like its predecessors, will be forgotten and another movie will take its place.

Life lessons as they come and other things. Email me johanie.cools@gmail.com or tip me on Venmo @Jojo-MC

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