When writer, filmmaker, and professor Michele Meek first got the idea for her latest book, Consent Culture and Youth Films: Adolescent Sexuality in US Films, In 2014, he quickly realized that he might have to wait for culture and society to catch up before it could be published.
“That was before MeToo,” Meek tells the Daily Beast via Zoom. He was receiving his doctorate at the time. She holds a PhD in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island, and she wanted to build on the work she did for her thesis, which was all about consent. So when the MeToo movement broke out in late 2017, which led millions of women to voice their experiences of sexual abuse and harassment, Meek took action to see the progress that could be made with widespread awareness.
“I thought it was great to have this topic in public conversation,” he says. “I was wondering if the problem would be fixed.”
But as he entered an “age of consent culture” as Meek described, he continued to consider how movies contributed to the problem and how they could help improve it. The result of their findings Consent Culture and Youth FilmsPublished in April by Indiana University Press. In the book, Meek chronicles the history of teenage sexuality in modern movies and reveals how they now consider consent, as well as the flaws still prevalent in the teen genre.
This includes how movies explore consent, how they are typically heteronormative and cis-centric, and most sexual encounters are still highly sexist, with girls’ concerns prioritizing over boys’ concerns. Ultimately, Meek’s book shows how movies and modern culture should continue to build a more inclusive consent framework that normalizes teens’ sexual desires.
About the focus of her book, she says: “I decided to really focus on teen movies because I was really interested in how youth was represented and imagined in terms of sexuality and consent.” “American movies have definitely improved a lot since the 1980s. But that doesn’t mean they stop showing how complex consent is.”
Consent Culture and Youth Films It reveals how problematic American teen movies have been over the past few decades, especially from the 1980s. in the 1984 comedy Revenge of the Cows, for example, characters spy on and take pictures of naked girls in the sorority and then distribute the footage, while another man impersonates a girl’s boyfriend to have sex with her. pork There is a similar scene where the characters look at a girls’ dressing room. And ’80s idol teen star Molly Ringwald has previously spoken of how Judd Nelson’s character Bender “sexually abused” her character Claire in John Hughes. Breakfast Club.
“These were movies that were popular with teenagers and were watched by many young people,” Meek says. “Making movies is really hard, but I think filmmakers have a responsibility to think about what they’re putting out. Many scholars argue that these films were not made as educational films about how young people should behave. I agree that the idea is not to show the ideal situation. But there’s a balance and responsibility, so people don’t see it as a model of behavior.”
Meek is at least somewhat hopeful about the progress made in modern youth films following the MeToo movement. characters in Blockers, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Kissing BoothAnd Alex Garipask each takes consent into account, while also depicting the complexities and difficulties that arise before and after intimate situations.
“MeToo has had a direct impact on how Hollywood presents sexual interactions,” says Meek, who adds that female directors working in the youth genre such as Olivia Wilde and Greta Gerwig have helped to explore these sequences in a new and more nuanced way. Specifically, Wilde’s smart book For the awkward sex scene between Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Hope (Diana Silvers). While “consent is definitely still a part of it”, Meek is full of “incompetence and mistakes” as the characters get drunk. “This is where the complexity of consent really comes to the surface. The scene is so subtle, confusing, and real.”
Meek also highlights what the script for the 2019 come-of-age comedy was like. good guyswas changed about three sixth graders trying to attend a party. “They wrote consent to the story. One of the characters asks if he can kiss one of the girls.”
Despite this progress, Meek also good guys as an example of how the genre still often relies on problematic stories. “The fundamental basis of the plot good guys They want to spy on a young girl next door and see what she is doing sexually,” Meek explains. “There’s a built-in resentment into the idea. We are still at the stage where rape culture and consent culture coexist.”
Meek blames the lack of imagination in Hollywood for the genre’s failure to fully move beyond these misogynistic tropes. For example, he says that some contemporary teen movies only replace teenage boys with teenage girls in sexually “offensive” roles – which does nothing to fix anything.
“Some new movies try to reverse the formula. They make girls more aggressive than boys,” she says. “Even if we know it’s wrong, we have to accept that it’s normal for them to act this way. That’s where the lack of imagination comes in. They think it empowers girls. Not only that, you also don’t have to empower them at someone else’s expense.”
While not many teen movies are airing directly in movie theaters that continue to be dominated by superhero movies, sequels, remakes, and other blockbusters, the genre continues to thrive on streaming services. “Some of the most popular movies on streaming have been teen movies,” Meek says. “These movies are immensely popular with adults and teens, and they have great staying power. They are part of the public imagination in a way that other species are not.”
“Some new movies try to reverse the formula. They make girls more aggressive than boys. … They think it empowers girls. not like that”
This stamina reinforces the importance of ensuring that the genre portrays sex and consent in a responsible way that doesn’t get too old-fashioned like in ’80s movies. Meek says Hollywood still has big strides to make—though the only solution is to sew them in their faces.
“Obviously, we need to move beyond a show age. We need more diverse voices in storytelling,” says Meek. they really talked about what was important to today’s youth.”
Meek believes the framework, creative talent and accessibility are already in place to make this a reality. In particular, he’s encouraged by the flood of teen creators sharing and shaping their own narratives around sex on TikTok and YouTube, and suggests movie studios could start working with them to come up with more interesting teen stories.
“The media is constantly changing and evolving. “Independent content is more popular than ever, the equipment is more accessible, and we are heading into the era of short-form content.” “There could be some really interesting collaborations or outcomes from that.”