Confession: I saw Crossroads in theaters and it was pure movie-going magic. Wow it feels good to tell you guys that.

I was 17, I wore denim on denim (paired with a short-sleeved button-up blouse that I just knew made me look fierce), and I dressed in said finest because THIS WAS AN EVENT. First, because Crossroads was a Britney Spears’ feature film. Second, because I was going on a bona fide friend date with one of the “popular girls” at school and I wanted this to be my IN with the rest of the Cool People. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.) (Correction: It was, until said girl pushed me into her pool and I scraped my leg down the side and iced her out of my life forever. But that’s a story for another day, inspired by a recent Facebook status by HG’s own Erin Mallory Long.)

But yes: If anything bound suburban teen girls together in the naughties, it was Britney. And even though I made my too-cool-for-school quips during various scenes and the appearance of Kim Cattrall as Spears’ mom pushed me a little over the edge, I was still hooked. Why? Because, as stated about a million times already, this was Britney Spears people.

From this cinematic treasure trove, I learned a few things. Here are some of the most important things that Crossroads taught me (and all of us, really):

1. Never recruit strangers to drive you cross-country

And I don’t just say this as someone who thinks this is a bad idea in general, I say this as someone who has seen Crossroads and is happy to cement the Driving Man (he gets no name as he has no personality) as a true, genuine buzzkill. Remember when he makes fun of their music? Remember how he DOESN’T SMILE? Remember how he’s like, 40, and makes these TEENS feel bad about themselves and their life choices? Do you know who this guy is? Remember that episode of Friends where Joey and the Hombre man go head-to-head in their cowboy costumes? He’s that man. He is Hombre. And he is basically the best case scenario of what will happen if you ask some random dude to drive you someplace. THE BEST CASE.

2. Another thought: that Britney-Hombre hook up is ill advised

I’m going to jump ahead here because I’m a monster/I do what I want: Britney Spears (aka Lucy, but we will be calling her Britney Spears) hooks up with Hombre. And hey! Mazel tov. You do you. You wanna hook up, you hook up. But like, Hombre hooks up with Britney Spears when she’s crying in the bathroom after her Mom basically disowns her. And then they end up together? GUYS I DON’T KNOW. Sure! I mean, hey. No shame or blame. But I’ll be honest: Hombre has the personality of the cold coffee I’m sitting next to. And Britney Spears is all, “I AM A TALENTED INDEPENDENT WOMAN!” What I’m saying is not to trust some brooding dude who makes you feel dumb for singing along to Sheryl Crow, which he did. THERE. I said it. (He didn’t even make her laugh!)

3. “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” is SO REAL, tho

And I mean “real” in a “I’m 29 years old and I hear this song and think, ‘YES YOU GET ME, BRIT-BRIT.” In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say it right now: This song is amazing. I love this song. And if anybody has a problem with that, they have OBVIOUSLY not seen the video where Britney’s chilling out on a cliff, representing the safety of youth with the risk of adulthood. YOU ARE A SURVIVOR, BRITNEY, YOU GO.

4. I have also learned that Crossroads represents a whole new level of darkness, teen-film wise

Remember the bombshells that dropped in this movie? BOOM: Lucy’s mom hates her. BOOM: Zoe Saldana’s mother sent her to fat camp and she’s clearly battling an eating disorder. BOOM: Pensatucky’s pregnant from Zoe Saldana’s boyfriend, who sexually assaulted her. BOOM: Pensatucky loses her baby after she falls down the stairs, escaping said boyfriend. I think I sat there, 17 and elbow deep in popcorn thinking, “I have absolutely no idea how to process any of this, I thought this movie was going to exist solely around Britney’s cover of ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.'” I make jokes when I’m nervous. I made zero jokes and just felt uncomfortable — mainly because we weren’t taught about any real social issues at school, and my feminist heart had yet to beat.

So, I mean, are any of these plots bad? No. Why? Because aside from the boyfriend not going to prison (where he belongs), the rest is handled rather well: Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning and Britney Spears work together to deal with their heaping pile of heavy, heavy material. (And I mean, HEAVY.) What I wish I’d known at the time was that, despite it being presented in a way that didn’t make it seem that real, these things are all alarmingly real. That way, I could’ve said, “Isn’t it great that Zoe Saldana punches her boyfriend in the face instead of blaming Taryn Manning?” Or, “Isn’t it great that they rallied to support each other in the end?” Because arguably, considering this film was marketed to 17-year-old girls, it could’ve been a great opportunity for discussion about sexual assault and disordered eating.

Instead, it was marketed as the movie where Britney Spears wears a trucker hat and sings in a convertible. So strange.

5. Never discount teen films for they hatch amazing stars

Like, TARYN “PENSATUCKY” MANNING stars in this. Zoe Saldana. Britney Spears is a BIG DEAL. Dan Akroyd! KIM CATTRALL. ANSON MOUNT. (Who, granted, I am still unfamiliar with, but that might be my fault, so I’m going to include him here.) Tonight, when I look up at the sky, I will search for a shooting star. And on that shooting star, I will wish for a reunion movie and/or Oprah episode. Or, at the very least, a roundtable discussion on why Crossroads is the Spring Breakers of 2002, minus the violence and robberies.

AT THE VERY LEAST I am saying that if released in 2014, we would’ve blogged our fool heads off about this. And do you know what? I’d wear denim on denim to see it all over again.

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