Saturday, June 21, 2014

Coming-of-Age – as seen in Pop Culture

10:32 PM

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A common question we got as children was “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Looking back, I realize that I never thought anything of that question, and I haven’t met a child that didn’t understand it or even found it quite strange. At an early age, almost everyone has the notion that until a certain point, everything is in preparation for when you’re “grown up.” I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who’s been told that what I do now is in preparation for the “real world”, as if none of the what happens before “growing up” matters.


A common topic in pop culture called coming-of-age characterizes the point where one “grows up.” The appeal of works tackling this topic is understandable considering the subconscious idea that “life” begins after this point. Because of this, growing up is an appealing idea and just like they said in Peter Pan, every child grows up. Aside from an endless supply of people with growing up to do, coming-of-age works all want to give a different view on what “of age” means and different ways of getting there. It could be brought about by many things beyond simply turning a certain age: sometimes it’s falling in love; sometimes it’s going Into The Wild.

To some extent, every young person dreams of the day that marks the beginning of a better life or maybe even the beginning of life itself. When will my life begin? from Tangled hit a little too close to home for me. Every person at some point has dreamt of a coming-of-age scenario which explains the presence of these films. I do think however, that coming-of-age works – let’s focus on films – exist for reasons other than to reflect people’s desires and cater to their interests. It’s relatable because it wants to give its audience something. But what is that? Are they meant to inspire? Usher a new generation into adulthood?

Coming-of-age films have varied plots due to the multiple types of conflict and protagonist pairings. The common denominator that I’ve noticed from the plots of these films is a moment, a turning point leading to the protagonist coming of age. In films, these moments are necessary to make the plot move and usher the protagonist from the before to the after or the rest of their life – it is necessary for the story, but if there is something that you should take away, I strongly advise against glorifying such moments.

There’s a line from NBC’s Community, S02E20: “the pain of having no pain is still pain.” That’s the danger in holding out for one of those moments: people can find pain in almost anything for the illusion of story, and trust me when I say you don’t want that. Glorifying these moments can lead to glorifying pain because yes, pain brings about a shift, but it doesn’t seem right to let pain define what life is afterwards.

What I think films from The Perks of Being a Wallflower to Clueless want to show, and what I feel like we should take away from them, is the idea of change – change that makes you feel insanely happy to be alive, and that lets you know, that in the end, only you made it happen. If like Rapunzel you’re wondering wondering wondering when will my life begin? (Tangled), let me tell you this: it begins when you decide live it.

Wait for a moment all you want, but life isn’t a coming-of-age film, or any type of film for that matter. I think what we often fail to realize is that in films, in novels, everyone works together to make the plot move and that’s what such moments are created for. In life off-screen, coming-of-age isn’t when your life takes a turn for the better: it’s when you are both willing and able to take your life wherever it needs to go. 

Article by Livi
Art by Mich
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Livi has an uncanny talent of understanding everyone but herself. She’s not really sure what she is, but she thinks she’s pretty cool so I guess that’s fine.  She’s really into TV, movies, chicken, skirts, nail polish and talking (usually about herself to herself). She’s loud and crazy but you wouldn’t really describe her as happy. If asked to describe herself in a word it would have to be either strange, weird or complicated; or some word for I have no effing clue. She has inside jokes with herself, stalks her own twitter, forever game to have a 5-hour phone call about life and gives pretty good hugs. And she often refers to herself in the third person HINT HINT


Mich Cervantes is a 19-year-old Animation student (who doesn't actually want to animate anything). She draws a lot of comics. 

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