For the past five days it’s been 115 degrees outside. I live in Phoenix and the heat here is not unlike being in a pressure cooker. Or a pizza oven. Or some other thing that is so insanely hot that you would never want to find yourself trapped in it.
And yet, here I am in Phoenix with record highs and last night, I went out at 12am (I felt like grocery shopping- what?) and the temperature in my car still read 105.
Those dog days of summer have arrived. It’s the time of the season when all the good teen movies take place. Those last few weeks before school starts again. It’s like all these teenagers panic and feel like they have to go live their lives as though Cameron Crowe was writing them.
I was no different back in high school. I was about to be a senior when Garden State was released and, although it’s not a teen movie, it was like somebody finally tapped into my brain and said, “Oh by the way, you’re a hipster. You just didn’t know before.” And that somebody was Zach Braff.
It was like before Garden State I didn’t realize my taste in music and my love of plaid all added up to mean one thing: Hipsterville. Honestly, I just thought it meant I was more cultured that the people who had never heard Belle and Sebastian. I mean, I went to high school in Phoenix, which may as well be The Middle of Nowhere culture-wise. The only culture we have blatantly displayed is located somewhere in our art museum on loan for one month from New York City. The rest I really had to go digging for, so Garden State came out at a time where I could suddenly find like-minded people at the movie theatre and go, oh I finally have something in common with someone.
And that’s all anyone wants, right? To be understood. That’s part of high school. Trying to find which group you belong in. If it wasn’t such a universal feeling, there wouldn’t be so many teen movies. I moved around from group to group a lot in high school. I never really fit in with the nerds (I had a hard time remembering the Star Wars planet names despite the fact that Phoenix is basically Tatooine). I was bad at every sport except tennis. I couldn’t play the violin or the flute to save my life… I was this writer who spent all my time in the journalism room, yet didn’t even know until I was nearly twenty that all I really wanted to do was write.
That may have been why I loved Garden State back in high school. I was still trying to figure myself out, I still kind of am, but at least I know what I want to do with my life. Andrew Largeman, Braff’s character in the movie, sort of just moves around in a fog in the movie, not quite sure what he wants to do- or needs to do- to get his life back on track. I was lucky that I didn’t have to really think about any responsibilities at the time and I could just move in and out of groups, trying on different personality masks to see which one fit me best and who I should be in life. It was only when I got out of high school and stopped trying to figure out what “fit me best,” and just concentrated on being the most authentic me, that the fog cleared up.
High school isn’t easy for most people and I think everyone sort of forgets that. I mean, if you think I’m kidding, just look at what a hard time Jamie Lee Curtis had in the remake of Freaky Friday when she had to take over for Lindsay Lohan. Or every “very special episode” of any teen centered show. If you want to really get into it, Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s entire premise (killing demons) was major allegory for all the crap people go through in high school. I think for that reason, there needs to be an “It Gets Better” sort of campaign for high school students. Because, it can seriously be daunting trying to fit in, so just try to remember that you don’t always have to. The most interesting people don’t fit in anywhere. Well, maybe except maybe Tatooine.
Image courtesy of Kevin Krejci.