Tribeca Film Festival 2013
By Don Simpson | April 27, 2013
Director: Matt Wolf
They were enslaved during the Industrial Revolution, then their subsequent freedom led to hooliganism. Next came the creation of Boy Scouts which prepared them for military service during WWI. After the war, they hated the old people who sent them to die in war; so, then came an opulently stylish rebellion with flappers, Brenda Dean Paul and her famously themed parties. Next, they were rendered unemployed and poor by the stock market crash. This led to massive revolutions around the world as they rushed to join groups that understood their significance, such as the Nazis, Socialists and Communists. Soon, they were all swing dancing and jitterbugging (around the world, thanks to the radio); but then they were sent off to war again, this time to fight in WWII. Those who stayed at home still found jobs participating in the war effort. Once again they were gainfully employed and participating in society. When WWII ended, their demographic was finally given a name: teenagers.
Nowadays, it is impossible to think of a world without teenagers, but for the majority of time that humans have existed, adulthood started before the teenage years even started. People went from being irresponsible kids to becoming responsible adults overnight. Young teens worked in factories and fought in wars, but they always returned to a state of rebellion. As we have learned over the centuries, young teens need the freedom to enjoy their youth and have fun, to live in the now. Simultaneously, they need to be kept busy and given a purpose; they need to be taken seriously and included as an integral part of the world’s solutions. There is no denying that teenagers are the future of the world, yet governments usually do not like to admit that. As Matt Wolf’s Teenage bravely suggests, Adolf Hitler’s purposeful inclusion of young people in the Nazi agenda was one of his greatest strengths. Functioning somewhat as propaganda, Teenage is a really great example of how successful and prosperous the world can become whenever young people are included part of the equation.
A loose adaptation of Jon Savage’s Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Wolf’s cleverly constructed documentary is told by way of archival footage, seamlessly rendered reenactments and voiceover readings from diaries (by Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher). Wolf saturates Teenage with a lot of interesting information, but this is a documentary that will almost certainly leave you craving much more. The quick pacing and relatively short (77-minute) run-time lend Teenage the feeling of an extended teaser for a massive PBS series about this subject; or maybe it feels like an introductory chapter to a documentary about teenagers post-1945. I never imagined that I would want to learn so much more about the teenage existence, but Teenage convinces me that this is a subject that I need to know a lot more about.