Jess Commons | Deputy Editor | Friday, 7 August 2015

Diary Of A Teenage Girl Is Everything You Needed To Know As Teenager And More

The Diary Of A Teenage Girl Provides The Role Model I Wish I'd Had As A Teenager

The Debrief: Which makes making it an 18 kinda silly don't ya think?

Being a teenager was a scary business. Being a teenage girl was all the more so. Now you're older, and you can look back on it with all the world weariness of a fully grown adult, you've probably realised that, rather than being powerless, the control you had over your own destiny you held in your unassuming hands was actually huge.

New film The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, out later this week, has once again raised the issue of teenage sexuality. It follows the story of 15-year-old Minnie, an articulate girl growing up in the bohemian world of 1970's San Francisco. Her mother (played by Kirsten Wiig) is an artistic type with a job at the library who spends her free time knee-deep in drugs, booze and her boyfriend Monroe (Aleksander Skarsgard). After an impromptu night out, Minnie embarks upon a sexual relationship with Monroe and records her thoughts on an audio diary created for the purpose of documenting her journey into womanhood. The film is daring, insightful and groundbreaking and, a few weeks back, the British Board Of Film Classification gave the film an 18 certificate. It's reasoning? The film's 'theme and manner'; with the main issue being the sexual relationship being between a 15 year old girl and a 35 year old man.

The film's creators were disappointed with this outcome that essentially barred real-life girls of Minnie's age from seeing the film. Director and writer Marielle Heller said of the decision; 'A girls' coming of age is rarely seen on screen or given the same treatment as a boy's. The media has endlessly told teenage girls that boys are the only ones who are going to want sex. Nobody tells a girl what it's like if you want to have sex.'

Vertigo, the film's UK distribution company added 'The film has been viewed by men at the BBFC and we feel that they have missed the point of the film and its message. In an age where young women are continually being sexualised and objectified we feel The Diary of a Teenage Girl sends a very positive, reassuring message to young girls about female sexuality and body image. It is a shame that audiences will not be able to legally see a film that was made by women for women of all ages.'

The treatment of teenage girls is a curious subject. They are sexualised in the media (hello images of 17-year-old celebrities lounging by the pool), and in porn ('teen' is currently the second highest search term on PornHub amongst Millenials). We are a society that fetishizes youth, with our pop stars getting younger and younger, while we continue to age. And yet, when a character like Minnie comes along, who knows she likes sex, we try to subdue her. Teen films again and again have high-fived boys for losing their virginity, and having sexual experiences with older women (from two very different ends of the spectrum, think American Pie and The Graduate) but when the roles are reversed, things are received very differently.

Minnie, who aspires to be a cartoonist one day, is the sort of unabashed teenager that I wished I could have been; intelligent, confident and independent, whereas I on the other hand looked to my friends to make the first grown-up moves before I would even consider following suit. Minnie explores her impending womanhood with curiosity and a willingness to learn, whereas I shied away, wore kids clothes and had real trouble figuring out whether I was doing stuff because I wanted to or because I felt other people wanted me to. Perhaps if I’d had a role model like Minnie I would have been able to decide more easily.

I would imagine that the problem that lies at the centre of the certification row is that the BBFC are worried about normalising a relationship that is (and let us not forget this) illegal in today’s terms. But it doesn’t, just because we celebrate Minnie realising her sexuality doesn’t mean the audience will find it easy to watch a man have sex with such an obviously young-looking girl. Unlike films where middle-aged Hollywood A-listers have sex with barely 18 year old teenage girls, Bel Powley, who plays Minnie, looks the age she’s meant to be playing, a fact which prevents viewers from forgetting the age difference. What’s important to remember though is that as the adult, it’s Monroe’s responsibility to decide whether or not he acts on his feelings, not Minnie's, and the focus of Minnie's journey is her own sexuality. Surely then, to prevent teenage girls from seeing a girl their age do exactly what they're probably also doing, only serves to reinforce the stereotype that they should be chaste and not heard.

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Tags: Film