Talking to Luke Goodsell, whose genius Tumblr captures teen bedrooms in movies and TV
Luke Goodsell is a genius who has been posting stills from film and tv teens’ bedrooms on his Tumblr since 2011. He is a writer and critic, who loves movies and writes careful analyses of them. His Tumblr reads as an homage to film and set dressing, the careful collection of lived-in objects that help inform an audience about a character. It’s funny to see the patterns of objects that permanently reside in teen bedrooms, both on and off screen: “keep out” signs, telephones, mirrors, shrines to beloved artists. A place we paper our insides outside, teen bedrooms are honored and exaggerated on screen, and conveniently collected for us now on Luke’s site.”The best-designed rooms in films capture the tension between coddled childhoods and newfound creative expression,” he has said. We talked to Luke Goodsell about his pet project — stay tuned after for some of our favorite teen bedrooms on screen.
You have described teen bedrooms as “essential hideaways and shrines to ego.” Do you think the ways that teens decorate their bedrooms are more performative and ideal-oriented, or more secretive and introspective? How does that change when we grow up?
That’s an interesting question. I’m guessing it’s a combination of both, since in one sense they’re introspective places in which to hide from parents, school, etc, and yet they’re also a very direct outward expression of personality — and as you say, ideal-self — that I suppose at some point are going to come in contact with friends and peers. So there’s a performative aspect to that, wanting to express your tastes to potential friends and such. Without playing amateur sociologist, there’s maybe also more of a performative aspect in the Internet “era,” in which teenagers can project their inner sanctums to the world via webcams and such. I think you see that element a lot more in movies over the past decade. As people grow up they’re perhaps compelled to appear more adult, I guess; there’s a fine line between teen bedroom aesthetic and serial killer dungeon chic. Again, I hate generalizing on behalf of an entire culture, and some people have great houses that are just more elaborate shrines to their personality and taste — look at John Waters’ apartment, for example — so, in that sense, our lives can still just be our teenage bedrooms writ large for all the world to see. Also extended adolescence, blah blah, is making this more of a phenomena to continue into adulthood.
Is this kind of world-building a particular strength of a visual medium? There are always ways that books, for example, can get inside a character’s head more literally than a visual movie, so is this a solution or a response to that?
It’s a strength in that a film can convey a whole wealth of information about a character in just a couple of shots of their bedroom, without having to “get inside their head” via the hackneyed ways of voice over and exposition. A book has more luxury to explore those things, whereas a movie needs to use visual shorthand. So it’s probably a solution? Doesn’t mean it’s always effective, of course — so many teen movie bedrooms are generic, but distinctive ones tell you almost all you need to know about their characters immediately.
What was your bedroom like as a teenager? What was the most embarrassing thing in it?
I wish I could tell you it was a cool basement with trap door stairs and a pet lizard and a mannequin of Cher or something, but it was pretty ordinary: lots of movie posters, records, and glow-in-the-dark stars on the roof — the constellation of suburbia. Probably the most embarrassing thing was when I had written lyrics to a Cure song in a Curlz-like font and stuck them on the wall. You know, the requisite gloom.
If someone were to create your bedroom for a film set, what would be the most important/evocative pieces to include to get a sense of you and your interior life at the time?
Well, definitely aforementioned Cure ephemera. A TV set constantly left tuned to a dead static channel (a habit I’m still fond of.) An caved-in wall covered up by an old poster of Michael Jackson… which is another story.
Have you watched all these teen movies? What’s your favorite?
Most of them, yep, barring a few that people submitted. It’s probably still Heathers. But I could also say Over the Edge, or Daisies, or Ghost World.
And now, some of the most evocative teen bedrooms ever caught on camera.
Pretty In Pink
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
Bring It On
The Virgin Suicides
The Princess Diaries
(Images via teenagebedroomsonscreen.com.)