Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fall 2014 Preview

This fall and winter, UT Press will publish very important works in photographyfood, film and media studiesarchitectureLatin American Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies, including two new translations of provocative Lebanese texts by Rashid Al-Daif: Who's Afraid of Meryl Streep? and What Makes a Man?

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Not only do we have a memoir from a former Miss America, we're also publishing the first comprehensive examination of the Mr. America Contest by an acclaimed sports historian. Also this fall, a Cuban exile ponders the meaning of Mayberry, a veteran reporter for National Geographic and Newsweek provides a how-to handbook for aspiring journalists, and distinguished screenwriter and producer Bill Wittliff tells an engrossing tale of a Texas Huck Finn.
Below is a preview of our fall books, with videos and other goodies. Browse our full catalog here.

By Steve Wilson

More than 600 rarely seen items from the David O. Selznick archive—including on-set photographs, storyboards, correspondence and fan mail, production records, audition footage, restored costumes, and Selznick’s infamous memos—offer fans and film historians alike a must-have behind-the-camera view of the production of this classic movie on its seventy-fifth anniversary.

By Frederick Luis Aldama

With insightful analysis of films ranging from El Mariachi to Spy Kids 4 and Machete Kills, as well as a lively interview in which the filmmaker discusses his career, here is the first scholarly overview of the work of Robert Rodriguez, the most successful U.S. Latino filmmaker today.

By Kate Shindle

Kate Shindle weaves an engrossing memoir of her year as Miss America 1998 with a fascinating, insightful history of the pageant to reveal why confident, ambitious young women still compete in a beauty contest that struggles to remain culturally relevant.

“Kate Shindle’s sharply observed, smart, and heartbreaking take on Miss America will be embraced by pageant super fans and should be required reading for everyone who’s thought about what it takes to be America’s ideal.”
— Jennifer Weiner, author of Good in BedIn Her Shoes, and All Fall Down

By Judith Smith

Spotlighting a vibrant episode in the evolution of African American culture and consciousness in America, this book illuminates how multitalented performer Harry Belafonte became a civil rights icon, internationalist, and proponent of black pride and power.

“I thought I knew Harry Belafonte pretty well, but Judith Smith’s book has given me deeper insights into him. A wonderful portrait of Belafonte and his times.”
—Robert DeCormier, musical director for Harry Belafonte, 1957–1961
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By Aaron Siskind, Introduction by Gilles Mora

The first true retrospective of a towering figure in American photography and the only book on Aaron Siskind currently in print, this volume features important, rarely published work and an authoritative text by noted photo historian Gilles Mora.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Violence and Central America’s Migrant Children

Unaccompanied minors from Central America migrating to the United States through Texas are making headlines across the country. We asked Donna De Cesare, an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Unsettled/Desasosiego: Children in a World of Gangs (2013), to wade through all the reportage and unpack what she's learned from decades of work with Central American children and gangs. 

De Cesare has documented a history of repression, violence, and trauma, in which gangs are as much a symptom as a cause of trauma, trapped as they are by social neglect. Here she offers her take on the current crisis and how policymakers in Washington should react.

The Violence Unsettling Central America’s Migrant Children

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by Donna De Cesare

Since June of this year an emergency at the U.S. Mexico border has been unfolding. The most immediate cause is a spike in the numbers of unaccompanied children picked up by the border patrol after making the dangerous and arduous journey from Central America to the United States. But the roots of this humanitarian crisis run much deeper. The stories the children tell involve such shocking violence that The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma was prompted to publish an online resource for journalists that references my own work of more than twenty years reporting and photographing the impact of gangs, violence, and migration on children living in Central America.

Gang violence and organized crime mayhem are major factors in the level of citizen insecurity behind the recent migration trends. Although most news stories have focused on Central American children, it is worth noting that rate of unaccompanied children from Mexico—while lower—is also increasing. A recent report by Mother Jones combines data on the magnitude of the surge in numbers of migrating Central American and Mexican children, discussion of the combination of extreme violence and poverty that these children are fleeing, compelling personal stories, and some discussion of the kind of monitoring and trauma counseling those who are able to stay here will need if they are to thrive.
San Salvador, El Salvador, 1989.
In the 1980s El Salvador had one of our hemisphere's worst human rights records. 

This victim was allegedly murdered by government death squads for violating curfew 
during the guerrilla offensive in November. 
Copyright © Donna De Cesare. From Unsettled / Desasosiego.
The crisis and the media coverage have also exposed the fear and fault lines in U.S. communities where emergency shelters for these children are being built. Protestors in Murietta, California, called to mind the ugly confrontations over school busing that plagued U.S. efforts for racial integration of schools in the 1970s. Claims that the Obama administration’s immigration policies are linked to the surge in children seeking asylum have had a polarizing effect on debate. They have little basis in fact, as Carlos Dada, director of the Salvadoran online news service El Faro and one of the best investigative journalists in Central America, can attest.

An excellent research study done in El Salvador last fall involving more than 400 child respondents by Fulbright fellow Elizabeth Kennedy, is available at the American Immigration Council resource page. "No Childhood Here: Why Central American Children Are Fleeing Their Homes" provides clear and incontestable data that child migrants are ignorant of Obama administration policies and are leaving because they are terrified to stay at home. To those who say, “If they are refugees, why aren’t they going to Costa Rica?,” the answer is quite simple. Many are going there, too. The UNDP has reported steep spikes in the numbers of unaccompanied minors flooding into Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize from the violence-afflicted nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

The reason that so many more children from those countries choose the life-threatening journey to the United States is that the vast majority of them know someone here. Ever since the Central American civil wars in the 1980s unleashed a flow of migrants fleeing for their lives, the trail has become a well-worn groove and a safety valve response to surges in economic and citizen security crises.

El Salvador / Hondoras border, El Poy, El Salvador, 1988.
Salvadoran families make their way to the village of Guarjila in a caravan of buses,
after leaving the Mesa Grand refugee camp in Hondoras.
Copyright © Donna De Cesare. From Unsettled / Desasosiego.
My book Unsettled/Desasosiego published by UT Press in 2013 chronicles the stories of war refugees and describes how deportation policies spread L.A. gangs to Central America. The stories are as chilling as the stories we are hearing from children at the border today. What has changed is that the explosion of crime and violence, related to the inability of the U.S. war on drugs to influence the enormous profits made selling drugs in the U.S. market, has exposed many more children who live in the trafficking nations to a ticking time bomb. It is impossible to make staying at home a safe and desirable option until the violence unleashed by current drug policy failure is addressed.

Despite the opportunism and shrill partisanship dominating the debate in Washington over the amount and allocation of funding needed to address the child migrant emergency, for the first time in a very long time the governability woes that have been worsening in Central America have made it onto Washington’s radar. Americans are taking notice. A recent poll published in Newsweek shows that most Americans want to treat the children arriving at our border as refugees. And as I write, Time’s Lightbox blog has published a compelling set of images documenting the exodus of children leaving Honduras—currently the world’s most violent country.

Certainly Central American nations bear responsibility for weak and often corrupt state institutions and for failure to make any significant progress on the impunity, which renders their judicial systems more decorative than functional. But many Central American citizens feel they have been held hostage to a drug war designed in Washington that can only exacerbate the levels of violence in the context in which they live. If we in the United States fail to recognize that this humanitarian emergency is a symptom of our own failed vision and drug policies, a crisis that requires a thoughtful collaborative long-term response in partnership with our neighbors to the south, we will ensure an even greater crisis ahead.

Soyapango, El Salvador, 1989.
During the rebel offensive in November, civilians in a zone held by insurgents 

flee their working-class barrio after three days of aerial bombing and strafing by the Salvadoran air force.
Copyright © Donna De Cesare. From Unsettled / Desasosiego.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Call for Papers from Journals

The Velvet Light Trap, a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media studies, has a Call for Papers: The theme is “Case Studies in Technological Change.” August 17 is the deadline, and submissions may be sent to

CFP: VLT #76 - Case Studies in Technological Change

To paraphrase Robert Allen and Douglas Gomery in Film History: Theory and Practice, media depends on machines. Technology contextualizes industrial and stylistic change, reveals and obscures sites of cultural negotiation and meaning, and enables new modes of media production, circulation, and reception. The significance of technology to media studies has only become more acute with the proliferation of digital technologies, which have changed the methods and tools of our scholarship—to say nothing of the object of that study.

Too often, however, scholarship relegates technology to the background, rendering it less an object of study in and of itself than a cause of, or context for, broader situations. While useful and often necessary, this tendency can have unintended consequences. It risks the assumption that technological changes automatically engender concomitant changes in our “real” object of study, when representations and practices that endure despite technological change offer equally important insight. Similarly, focusing on broader trends may steer us away from failed efforts at technological change, where entrenched structures of cultural or industrial design are exposed and tested, while treating technology as the agent of change can ignore the roles of cultural and industrial demands in technological advancement or stasis.

This issue of The Velvet Light Trap specifically seeks case studies of historical and contemporary technological change that privilege technology itself as the object of study. We wish to focus the issue’s attention on specific technological changes in context rather than theories that explore how technology in broad terms is changing media and culture. We especially welcome studies that reexamine accepted histories of technological change, reveal little-known changes worthy of attention, or show important continuities despite technological change.

For those interested, please send anonymous electronic submissions between 8,000 and 10,000 words, formatted in Chicago style, along with a one-page abstract by August 1, 2014. To submit a manuscript and/or any questions, please email

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In related news, the coeditors of The Velvet Light Trap in the Radio-Television-Film department at the University of Texas at Austin will host the 2014 Flow Conference (September 11–13). Conference participants will examine topics connected to the current state of TV and media through roundtable discussions and new plenary sessions devoted to three specific themes: “Television: Looking Back,” Television Restoration: Pragmatic Realities and Implications for Media History,” and “TV Or Not TV: The Future of the Television Industry.” Information on registration, the program schedule, and more details can be found on the conference site.

Follow The Velvet Light Trap on Twitter @VelvetLightTrap.
Follow the Flow Conference on Twitter @Flow_2014.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

10 Staff Tributes to Texan Modern Art

The very Texan "us against them" spirit drove the midcentury modern art movement in Texas before New York City's Abstract Expressionism was canonized as American postwar modernism. This barely known chapter in the story of American art is the focus of our new book Midcentury Modern Art in Texas by Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum curator Katie Robinson Edwards. Listen to Katie Edwards talk about the book in our podcast series.
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To celebrate the book's publication, we asked our staff to get artsy and craft their interpretations of major paintings from this canon-defining period. We were not disappointed with the results. We're showcasing the staff submissions below with examinations of the original pieces from the book and statements from our staff artists on how they connected with the pieces they emulated. Here's a video overview of all the submissions from our staff:


Left: Joyce Lewandowski, untitled collage
Right: Toni LaSelle, Study for Puritan, 1947-1950
Artist Statement: "My entry was a Lance Letscher inspired collage using scissors, paper, and glue―brought on by a 50+ year delayed reaction to skipping kindergarten."
—Joyce Lewandowski

From the book: The study for Puritan (1947) indicates the labored premeditation LaSelle undertook. The study, with its slightly less complicated design and more horizontal format, is harder edged. The final Puritan remains geometric but painterly, with forms fluctuating between floating and receding planes. Although looking nothing like Hofmann’s work, it achieves the German painter’s famed “push-pull,” which generates dynamism.

Left: Bailey Morrison, untitled collage
Right: Marjorie Johnson, Still Life with Grapes, 1951
Artist Statement: "I was drawn to the colors Marjorie Johnson used and took the opportunity to raid my craft box for old Alamo Drafthouse and Tribeza magazines to collage this 'masterpiece.'"—Bailey Morrison

Regina Fuentes and Sharon Casteel, In the Press Yoga Car
Jerry Bywaters, In the Chair Car, 1934
From the book: With its themes of youth, old age, piety, and modern transportation in a spare setting, In the Chair Car might be thought of as a pictorial novella. Bywaters spent decades documenting, promoting, and creating the state’s art.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fiction of Brazil

For those of you who may have already unplugged for the summer, the rest of the globe is in the throes of World Cup mania. Every four years, the fùtbol-loving public gets nationalistic and tunes in to watch match after match at all hours of the day. The host country always gets its fair share of attention as the media produces human interest stories to provide some context. This year, the world’s attention is on Brazil, and even if you’re not a sports fan, it’s an opportunity to delve into the culture, politics, and art of this BRICS emerging nation.

Fortunately, we have the Clásicos/Clássicos Latin American Masterpieces in English series. This series of translations is rich with diverse Brazilian landscapes and colorful characters and many are classics (hence the name...) of Latin American literature. So maybe when your eyes are glazed over from watching too many matches, pick up one of these books and get to know the real Brasil.

The full Clásicos/Clássicos series
laid out in a grid!
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“Colored by an intense feeling for her own people, 
by an omnipresent social consciousness”

The Three Marias

By Rachel de Queiroz

The Three Marias will be, for many non-Brazilians, an introduction to this nationally known South American author whose books have been widely praised for their artistic merits.

“an exciting novel with an unexpected plot”
Profile of a Woman
By José de Alencar

In this Brazilian novel, originally published in 1875, the heroine uses newly inherited wealth to "buy back" and exact revenge on the fiancé who had left her for a woman with a more enticing dowry.

Read an excerpt here >>
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“A classic in contemporary Brazilian literature”

Barren Lives
By Graciliano Ramos

A vivid novel about the solitary life of a peasant family in a harsh and unforgiving land, austerely told by a classic Brazilian writer.

“The author has a keen visual sense, and the reader becomes one with the part of the earth where Fabiano's life unfolds.... Barren Lives is a moving novel, one to ponder on."—Library Journal

“Social satire and experimentation in psychological realism”
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The Devil's Church and Other Stories
By Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis
Translated by Jack Schmitt and Lorie Ishimatsu 

The modem Brazilian short story begins with the mature work of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839-1908), acclaimed almost unanimously as Brazil's greatest writer. In his technical mastery of the short story, Machado was decades ahead of his contemporaries and can still be considered more modern than most of the modernists themselves. That his stories elicit such strong and diverse reactions today is a tribute to their richness, complexity, and significance.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

LGBT Pride Reading List

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month! We've got a diverse round up of titles spanning the LGBT experience from the colonial Andes to prehistoric Greece, from revolutionary Mexico to modern Lebanon, and from queer representations in film to defining the Chicana lesbian identity in literature. So let's celebrate all the recent victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and continue the fight for acceptance that remains.
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Browse more in queer studies on our website!

Queer Beirut
By Sofian Merabet

Going beyond notions of identity that have been defined exclusively on the basis of sectarian and religious affiliation, this book explores the performative practices of gendering by young Lebanese gays as they formulate their sense of what it means to “exist.”

What Makes a Man?
Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin
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Rashid al-Daif and Joachim Helfer
Translated by Ken Seigneurie and Gary Schmidt

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This “novelized biography” by Lebanese novelist Rashid al-Daif and pointed riposte by German novelist Joachim Helfer demonstrate how attitudes toward sex and masculinity across cultural contexts are intertwined with the work of fiction, thereby highlighting the importance of fantasy in understanding the Other.

Pillar of Salt
An Autobiography, with 19 Erotic Sonnets
By Salvador Novo, Translated by Marguerite Feitlowitz

Written with exquisite sensitivity and wit, this memoir by one of Mexico’s foremost men of letters describes coming of age during the violence of the Mexican Revolution and “living dangerously” as an openly homosexual man in a brutally machista society.

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Wicked Cinema
Sex and Religion on Screen
By Daniel Cutrara

With close readings of films such as The Last Temptation of Christ, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Closed Doors, this book investigates cinematic representations of transgressive sexuality within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to argue that religious believers have become the new “Other”.
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Queer Bergman
Sexuality, Gender, and the European Art Cinema
By Daniel Humphrey

Foregrounding a fundamental aspect of the Swedish auteur’s work that has been routinely ignored, as well as the vibrant connection between postwar American queer culture and European art cinema, this book offers a pioneering reading of Bergman’s films as profoundly queer work.
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Male Desire in Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin
By David Greven

Examining the intertextual reverberations between canonical Hitchcock films and the New Hollywood of the 1970s, this revisionist reading challenges the received opinion of misogyny, racism, and homophobia presented in male desire featured in works by Hitchcock, De Palma, Scorsese, and Friedkin.

Filming Difference
Actors, Directors, Producers, and Writers on Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Film
Edited by Daniel Bernardi

Reflecting diverse voices in film and television, more than a dozen industry professionals explore how their works represent complex identities.
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The Lieutenant Nun
Transgenderism, Lesbian Desire, and Catalina de Erauso
By Sherry Velasco

Catalina de Erauso (1592–1650) was a Basque noblewoman who, just before taking final vows to become a nun, escaped from the convent at San Sebastián, dressed as a man, and, in her own words, "went hither and thither, embarked, went into port, took to roving, slew, wounded, embezzled, and roamed about."

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Whatever Happened to Dulce Veiga?
A B-Novel
By Caio Fernando Abreu

Translated from the Portuguese with a Glossary and Afterword by Adria Frizzi

Whatever Happened to Dulce Veiga? is a descent into the underworld of contemporary megalopolises where, like the inside of a huge TV, life intermingles with bits of music, film clips, and soap opera characters in a crazy and macabre dance, moving toward a possible catharsis.

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How Gloria Anzaldúa's Life and Work Transformed Our Own
Edited by AnaLouise Keating and Gloria González-López

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Thirty-two wide-ranging voices pay tribute to the late Gloria Anzaldúa, the beloved poet and fiction writer who redefined lesbian and Chicana/o identities for thousands of readers.

Reading Chican@ Like a Queer
The De-Mastery of Desire
By Sandra K. Soto

The first full-length study to treat racialized sexuality as a necessary category of analysis for understanding any aspect of Mexican American culture.
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Queer Issues in Contemporary Latin American Cinema
By David William Foster

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Highly perceptive queer readings of fourteen key films to demonstrate how these cultural products promote the principles of an antiheterosexist stance while they simultaneously disclose how homophobia enforces the norms of heterosexuality.

Brown on Brown
Chicano/a Representations of Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity
By Frederick Luis Aldama

An investigation of the ways in which race and sexuality intersect and function in Chicano/a literature and film.

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Men as Women, Women as Men
Changing Gender in Native American Cultures
By Sabine Lang

Translated by John L. Vantine

As contemporary Native and non-Native Americans explore various forms of "gender bending" and gay and lesbian identities, interest has grown in "berdaches," the womanly men and manly women who existed in many Native American tribal cultures.

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Decolonizing the Sodomite
Queer Tropes of Sexuality in Colonial Andean Culture
By Michael J. Horswell

Early Andean historiography reveals a subaltern history of indigenous gender and sexuality that saw masculinity and femininity not as essential absolutes. Third-gender ritualists, Ipas, mediated between the masculine and feminine spheres of culture in important ceremonies. These values traveled to the Andes and were used as powerful rhetorical weapons in the struggle to justify the conquest of the Incas.

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Among Women
From the Homosocial to the Homoerotic in the Ancient World
Edited by Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz and Lisa Auanger

This book explores a wide variety of textual and archaeological evidence for women's homosocial and homoerotic relationships from prehistoric Greece to fifth-century CE Egypt.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Next Generation Multiplex

This weekend, the sequel to an adaptation of a television show that first aired in 1987 starring Johnny Depp will hit theaters nationwide. 22 Jump Street finds the characters from the 2012 iteration of 21 Jump Street now heading to college, which begs the question: why do some movies get produced? In his updated and expanded Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in American Cinema since 1980Timothy Shary examines the appeal of boy nerds, nerdy girls, prep school rebels, the emotional male athlete, and other archetypes whose dramas either appeal (or don't appeal) to a primary Hollywood target audience: the young. In addition to the 'school film', Shary explores three other subgenres of the teen film: delinquency, horror, and romance.

So what characters and attitudes make an American teen film bankable and how have they changed in the YouTube era? Read on for an excerpt from Generation Multiplex:
Get Generation Multiplex here.

The Cinematic Image of Youth

The 2012 film 21 Jump Street depicts two rookie cops posing as high school students to break up a drug ring. Much to their surprise and chagrin, popularity among teenagers has changed radically since they graduated in the previous decade: traits that had made students seem square and unattractive—studying for classes, caring for the environment, being politically sensitive—now make them appealing and cool. Such is the nature of adolescence, fluctuating on a continual basis with the various whims of time, which vividly illustrates how difficult understanding youth culture can be because it is so mercurial and fleeting.

These aspects of youth have led American cinema into a curious and often inconsistent fascination with stories about and images of young people, a fascination that became abundantly manifest in the last decades of the twentieth century. Various film trends catering to young audiences had emerged over past generations, but movies since the 1980s have appeared almost fixated on capturing certain youth styles and promoting certain perspectives on the celebration, and survival, of adolescence. Many arguments persist as to why teenagers have been targeted by both Hollywood studios and the American independent movie market: youth have disposable incomes that they like spending on entertainment; today’s children are inculcated by media to be the consumptive parents of tomorrow; filmmakers engage in the vicarious experiences of their own lost youth; and young people make up the largest percentage of the movie-viewing audience. All of these points are valid, yet this book argues not as much for the reasons behind youth representation as for the issues and trends that representation engenders. Evident from the contemporary outpouring of American movies about youth, and the parallel production of teen-oriented television shows, magazines, and multimedia outlets, as well as the cultural attention paid to youth attitudes and behaviors in the wake of various scandals, crimes, and accomplishments, the imaging of youth has become indicative of our deepest social and personal concerns.

Consider, for instance, the most successful recent young adult phenomenon, the Twilight books and subsequent movies, which covered the years 2005–2012. The revenue generated from just these two media—not including subsequent products such as clothing, music, and ancillary texts—has been in excess of $5 billion, and while their number of readers and viewers is impossible to determine, their audience is unmistakably enormous. The stories about and images of the teenage characters in Twilight spoke to fantasies of the supernatural as well as romantic destiny, sexual development, and family politics, utilizing native and ancient mythologies, exotic regional locations, brutal violence, and myriad other dramatic elements within an otherwise conventional struggle between right and wrong. Further, the sensation spread beyond teens to adults, and beyond the target demographic of American youth to a global scale that extremely few stories have enjoyed with such speed and success. Through this universalization, the tormented love triangle of a girl with a vampire and a werewolf presented an incredibly satisfying journey that revealed our cultural appreciation of youth itself.

All dramas thrive on conflict, and the process of maturing is a natural conflict familiar to everyone by their teenage years. While many filmgoers freely participate in screen fantasies about the possibilities of life as a secret agent or of saving a loved one from the clutches of death, most of our lives are filled with less spectacular phenomena, such as how we come to be accepted by society, discover romance, have sex, gain employment, make moral decisions, and learn about the world and who we are in it. Most of us first encounter these phenomena in our adolescence, and how we handle them largely determines how we live the rest of our lives. The gravity of adolescence thus makes for compelling drama, even if many of us would rather forget those trying years. Understanding how we learn and grow in our youth is integral to understanding who we become as adults.

Since the 1950s the American movie box office, with varying interests, has been relying on people under thirty to pay for movies about their daily dramas and fantasies. Of course, one of the telling dilemmas of youth films since cinema began is that while they address young people they are not produced by young people, for children and teens are effectively restricted from the filmmaking process. Thus, screen images of youth have always been traditionally filtered through adult perspectives. As a result of these commercial and political conditions, teen films have evolved into a visible and often coherent genre that has thrived for over half a century.


Youth in School

Academics and Attitude

"You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal."
—Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) to his principal in The Breakfast Club (1985)