The North American Teen High School Experience

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So I’m 16 and in grade eleven of secondary school, which is basically the same thing as high school except it starts in grade eight instead of grade nine. A few weeks ago, I was re-watching 90210 and realized that all of the characters were meant to be the same age as me. Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about how drastically different my experience in school has been to the usual North American narrative of high school that’s presented in fiction.

Like, in most fiction about the North American Teen High School Experience, there’s a very clear hierarchy that students follow. The popular people are Cheerleaders and Jocks, and all the Theatre Kids are weird alternative types who hate the popular people, and for some reason REALLY GOOD LOOKING, REALLY TALENTED PEOPLE are so uncool they aren’t even on the chain.

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A helpful pyramid.

You also get extremely similar plotlines on these shows—something Hayleyghoover hilariously breaks down in this YouTube video—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because genre conventions are helpful for audiences to understand what’s going on in any given show, and obviously this media isn’t written specifically to cater to me, but I find myself very… alienated by content that’s meant to be relatable.

So here is a chart that I made (mostly in jest… mostly) about how my actual North American Teen High School Experience would have played out if I were a character in a teen drama.

Disclaimer: This chart is a joke. And I understand that a lot of anyone’s North American Teen High School Experience is going to be influenced by where exactly that experience happens. I live in Vancouver, where people are generally pretty progressive (which is why I’ve escaped a lot of bullying for being a fricking weird creative nerd). And I do think that even if shows address an issue like homophobia or mental illness or whatever and they don’t handle it super well, it’s better than ignoring it completely, and it will hit home for some viewers, which is important because people should know they’re not alone! I understand that content isn’t made for me, and I don’t expect brilliantly written material from 90210.

That said…

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Maybe this is just the fact that I’m a teenage writer with a tendency to romanticize my life talking, but I actually kind of like teenagers. And I like writing about teenagers. And I mean, hopefully I never get to a point in my life where I find what I’m doing uninteresting (life in your 50s just seems like a lot of work), but adolescence is such an interesting point in anyone’s life. So much happens and changes and that makes dramatic writing really enjoyable. There’s such a wealth of experiences to delve into and portray, and I guess I just find it kind of amusing to see so many weak and non-complex depictions of teenagers in fiction when I’m surrounded on a daily basis by bright, funny, fascinating teenagers who deal with CRAZY STUFF all the time.

Can someone just force Shonda Rhimes to write a teen drama that respects the age group it portrays, please? That would be great.

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The Boyfriend Tag

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My boyfriend and I did the boyfriend tag. Except no one tagged me to do it. Also I edited out like 10 questions.

ayyyyy lmao

These were the questions we chose to answer, in case anyone wants a list:

#1: Where did we meet?
#2: Where was our first date?
#3: What was your first impression of me?
#4: When did you meet my family?
#5: How long have we been together?
#6: Do we have any traditions?
#7: What is an animal that resembles the other person?
#8: What was the first thing you noticed about me?
#9: What pisses him off?
#10: What are your favourite features about each other?
#11: What do we argue about the most?
#12: Who wears the pants in the relationship?
#13: Do I have any weird obsessions?
#14: Nicknames for each other?
#15: What is my favourite restaurant?
#16: If I’m watching TV, what am I watching?
#17: What is one food I do not like?
#18: What drink do I order when we go out to eat?
#19: What is one talent I have?
#20: What would I eat every day if I could?
#21: What is my favourite kind of cereal?
#22: What’s my favourite kind of music?
#23: What is my eye colour?
#24: Who is my best friend?
#25: What’s something I do that you wish I didn’t do?
#26: Where am I from?
#27: What kind of cake would you bake me on my birthday?
#28: Do I play any sports?
#29: What can I spend hours doing?

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I Want Your Feedback

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New video up in which I talk about

  1. my content’s quality vs. quantity
  2. making a boyfriend tag video (??????)
  3. how strange it is that so many stores/people are now calling cover-ups kimonos, and an apology for doing that myself
  4. how I sang some words in a song.

Give the video a watch, and the aforementioned song a listen.

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June Favourites (I’m Vlogging Again)

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In case you missed it, I started vlogging again. My most recent video is my first-ever monthly faves video!

Full rundown of the things I mentioned:

Fashion/Cosmetics:

  • American Apparel skirt
  • American Apparel shorts
  • Mac Prep + Prime for Lips
  • Bobbi Brown Gel Liner
  • Old Spice Antipersperant + Deodorant in Swagger
  • Old Spice Sweat Defense Antipersperant in After Hours

Media:

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Ghost Stories – Coldplay (album)

You can also watch my last two vlogs here:

 

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fresh III

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Well. Lately-ish. These are some iPhone shots from mid-February to now. Some of these were also posted on my Instagram, and you can follow me on there if that’s your kind of thing.

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top left & right: 01/03/14, went to the bloedel conservatory with nick.
bottom left: 12/04/14, SAW WILDLIFE. bottom right: 04/04/14, SAW MORE WILDLIFE.
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top left & right: 09/05/14, capilano university sights
bottom left: 17/04/14, on the bus. bottom right: 26/04/14, driving through seattle.
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top left: 27/04/14, driving home from seattle. bottom left: 04/05/14, cherry blossom fallout after the rain
top & bottom right: 03/05/14, vancouver in the rain
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22/02/14: snow
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top left & right: 24/03/14, went bowling for a friend’s birthday.
bottom left & right: 10/04/14, school dance + settng up for it
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12/04/14: in gibsons
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12/04/14: my sister and i on oceanfront rope swings
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12/04/14: on the beach in gibsons– found this little “house” and hid from the wind in it.
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top left: 18/04/14, at sophie’s cosmic café. top right: 19/04/14, some melodramatic graffitti.
bottom left: 27/03/14 with nick. bottom right: 01/03/14 overlooking commercial drive
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22/02/14: in a school playground at midnight
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top left & right: 31/03/14
bottom left: 17/04/14 bottom right: 14/03/14
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left: 24/03/14, BIRTHDAY BURGERS right: 14/03/14, skytrain view
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26/03/13, the greatest DQ i’ve ever seen
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Movie Club: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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So here’s something I’d like to do in 2014: write more about films. I’m currently in my third year of film classes at school– my teacher is quite literally a genius, and he singlehandedly instilled in me a love of film. I’d been making youtube videos for a couple years prior to my first film class, but I hadn’t connected it with, like, actual movies.

Half the course is in film production, and the other half is in film studies & analysis. I’ve gotten a decent amount of practice writing about films now to, I think, have something semi-worthwhile to say about them on this here blog. These posts will include a lot of stills, a bit of analysis, a bit of reviewing, and (for my favourites) a bit of how these films have affected me personally.

Also, in the breakdowns of my rating I’m only including things that are relevant to that specific movie. Perks of Being a Wallflower isn’t getting judged on its sound design, but Close Encounters of the Third Kind probably would be.

Anyway, now that me trying to convince you that I’m at least somewhat credible is over: let’s talk Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel of the same name was written and directed by Chbosky himself, and he knew exactly what to cut from the book to make the plot as clear and focused as it is. Protagonist Charlie (Logan Lerman), who’s just starting to stabilize after being deeply depressed, starts high school, meets seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), and quickly gets wrapped up in their dramatic, beautiful world as he deals with his mental illness.

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One of many reasons I love this film is because of its treatment of mental illness. Lerman’s impressive portrayal of depression humanizes people with an illness that makes them feel much less than human. Seeing a protagonist with a mental illness that isn’t seen as a joke in a mainstream, comercially successful movie, makes me really happy. The only other films I’ve seen that deal with depression so well are films about depression.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about so much more. It’s about growth and learning, it’s about first loves, it’s about leaving (and being left behind), it’s about drugs and sex and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And some really beautiful shots, damn.

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The key to the movie’s relatability to, like, every teenager ever, is in the writing and the acting of the perfectly casted characters. As soon as Charlie meets Sam, the audience falls just as in love with her as he does. You get drawn to Patrick easily by his gallows humour and easygoing vibe. Your heart soars and breaks with these characters as their story unfolds. Chbosky captures the dullness of adolescence beautifully with lines that go from hilarious…

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…to almost painfully honest.

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Perks deals with typical teenage drama, and issues that teenagers shouldn’t even have to think about, brilliantly. And all without invalidating the feelings of their characters because of their young age– which, side note, is made clear by really clever costume designing. They don’t all dress like they have a stylist. The costumes capture some of the awkwardness of teenage forays into fashion super well. Though not necessarily a feel-good movie (watching Charlie’s friends go off to university kind of kills me– a lot of my friends are graduating at the end of this school year, it’s just #2real) it leaves you with a message of “hey. Hey you. Your feelings are ok. Have feelings. Okay good bye.”

Except maybe more eloquently than that. Probably way more eloquent than that.

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A Bunch of Blobs: The Importance of Abstract Expressionism

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I will never ever understand why people care about the dumb things I write about but I’m glad they do because it gives me an excuse to post essays I write in my spare time explaining the difference between modern art and abstraction and why abstract painting is important on the internet? Like I never talk about feminist issues anymore and this is about art history which is entirely different? I don’t even know why I write about this stuff? I just care about things? None of these sentences are actually questions, grammatically speaking, so I don’t know why I’m ending them with question marks?

This is probably why people think I’m weird.

BUT ANYWAY. LET ME BRIEFLY RANT ABOUT MODERN ART.

So either you have heard something like this, or you have said something like this:

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Every time someone speaks these words, an art history major spills their coffee on their shirt.

People usually say that after seeing paintings by Jackson Pollock, or Mark Rothko, or something that was probably influenced by them. And the immediate problem isn’t how wrong they are about those paintings being “a bunch of blobs,” (even though they are so, so wrong) the immediate problem is that they think modern art is just abstraction. I have no idea how terminology amongst the public evolved so that we picture abstract art whenever someone says something about modern art, but it should stop. The art magazine curator in me is being killed very slowly because of it.

Here’s why people don’t “get” modern art: because the way we refer to it makes it seem like it’s just another art style, and not a whole period of art development that took place over almost an entire century that is filled with hundreds of movements—including abstract art (or abstract expressionism), which is all we picture when we hear the term.

Modern art encompasses the work of artists like Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, not just Pollock or Rothko. Modern art was simply about ignoring the standards of a time and experimenting, doing something different. There’s no way to really mark a clear start to this idea of “omg guys we can do things other than neoclassism,” but a lot of art critics & historians credit Edouard Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe as being one of the first paintings from this period, and it was first exhibited in eighteen freaking sixty-three.

DOES THIS LOOK LIKE BLOBS TO YOU

In 1863, shockingly enough, depicting a nude woman chillin with two clothed dudes was not really a thing that was socially accepted. It created a lot of controversy by doing something unheard of. Something new. Something modern. And boom, art development period started.

Look, here’s a list of all the movements that took place within the modern art time period. There are… There are a lot. And all the art made during them count as modern art. Which is why it’s extremely confusing to me that people generally only recognize abstract expressionism as being Modern Art. And then they make fun of it. Despite it having an incredibly valuable role in art history. It was what solidified New York City as the center of the art world. Pre-World War II, Paris reigned supreme, and most people figured if you wanted to be A Real Artist, you ought to go to Europe. During World War II, more and more of Europe fell under Hitler’s rule, and “degenerate” artists were frighteningly intensely persecuted. Artists could either flee or change their styles to escape artistic tyranny—and many of them chose to go to New York, which had been the art capital of America for a long time. Abstract expressionism soon evolved (in the late 1940s) and it was what put American art on equal playing field as European art for the first time.

White Center (Yellow, Pink, and Lavender on Rose) by Mark Rothko, 1950

Personally, and this is just coming from some teenager who researches art history in her spare time because she’s wildly uncool, not an academically-trained historian, I just find it important because it’s art for art’s sake. The process of its creation is usually more important than its result. Every time I hear someone say “I could’ve done that,” I want to cry. Because like, yes, you could have done that, but you didn’t. Abstract expressionism seems like such a simple concept to us now, it seems so obvious, but before the 1940s, nobody had ever thought of anything like it. Nobody had ever splattered paint all over a canvas and called it art before. And that is why it’s important: because it was innovative.

And I mean, I guess I can see where people are coming from when they look at White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) and think, “I don’t get it,” but something that we all need to understand about art is that, well, art isn’t always about being understood.

 

-Sarah

 

ps: I’m not actually an elitist art snob this is just one of my pet peeves

pps: some of this might be historically inaccurate and if it is please tell me

ppps: Mark Rothko fan club forever

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