CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 15 . . . . December 14, 2012
Anyone who insists on clinging to the idea that childhood is a time of innocence might want to steer clear of this video. Filmmaker Lynn Glazier follows a number of teens from various sections of Toronto and lets them speak openly about their lives and what it is like being a teen. Their conversations reveal that being a kid really is not a lot of fun.
It's a Teen World is not for the faint of heart. The teens presented are aware of the challenges and pitfalls that lurk waiting for them. They talk to each other openly and comfortably. One girl reveals that she has been clubbing since she was 13. Girls who are socially active are seen as "skanks" while boys who act in the same way are "players". The gender inequity is clear. The comment, "Hey bitch" simply means, "What's up?". The speakers do not condone this reality, but they show that this is the world in which they live.
Young girls - grade 7 and 8 - , in trying to emulate the girls in the videos, look up to them and think, "If the boys like it, maybe I should do it too." So, wearing "short skirts to show off" in an attempt to catch boys' attention is acceptable. However, from the boys' point of view, the reaction is, "The way she dresses, maybe I could grab her ass." One girl who gained the desired popularity is seen as an easy target for the boys and a pariah to the girls who delight in spreading rumours about her.
Those interviewed talk about all-ages dances and how they are simply places for teens to do drugs and to become sexually active: "Just do me and here." They are too young to go anywhere else private.
Glazier interviews different groups of teens in various parts of Toronto. The overall tone is the same. The boys and girls featured tell heartbreaking stories of their own experiences. One boy recounts how his eight-year-old sister loves a particular song. She copies the moves from the video and sings the words although she has no clue what they mean. He is disgusted and talks to his parents about the song. When they learn what the song is about, they are also disgusted, outraged and embarrassed by the fact that they were so clued out.
While the teens have done some questionable things and have had some horrible things happen in their own lives, they are hopeful that change can happen. One writes a rap song, others put together a video about bullying. Initially, they seem jaded and cold, but as the film progresses, it is clear that they are neither. They see the problems and are willing to try to make a difference.
With a running time of 75 minutes, this film would be too long for one class. The length and the constant barrage of disturbing information could result in information overload. However, the extra feature section has the key aspects of the film in separate modules. Each could be used as discussion points for a number of classes.
The content of the film is very blunt and might cause some discomfort for some viewers. However, since the content looks at the impact on younger students, the risk might be worth it. This film should be shown to parents, perhaps at a special parents' night. The parents who were shocked by their eight-year-old's favourite song are normal caring parents. They were just unaware. Many parents are just like them.
User guides for the film are available on-line. It's a Teen's World has much to teach parents and to motivate students to fight the ugliness in their world. However, by no means should this film be shown without previewing first.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.