Originally published at Cinema Sugar.
Too many unsupervised teenagers at a fancy house. Red Solo cups strewn about. A couple making out. A skater kid sliding down the stairs into a tower of beer cans. Someone throwing up at just the wrong moment.
Welcome to a high-school movie house party.
Despite seeing this kind of party depicted on screen over and over again, I never actually went to one in real life. I was an introverted and mostly well-behaved Christian lad who considered sex, drugs, and drinking taboo. Which is how I usually found myself on Friday nights hanging out with my church youth group friends.
It was a lot more fun than it sounds! We goofed off, played games, pranked each other, watched movies, and shared an occasional deep discussion.
I’m grateful for those times because they kept me out of serious trouble and proved you don’t need mind-altering substances to have a good time.
But they weren’t very cinematic.
A Better Story
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to adopt a deeper appreciation for the high school movie party. The best ones aspire to more than just adolescent revelry; they act as a catalyst for chaotic, dramatic, comedic, or romantic things to happen to the main characters in order to further the story.
Sometimes those things happen away from the ruckus, in a quiet or intimate moment. Think Kat and Patrick bonding on the swings in 10 Things I Hate About You or Josie crushing on Guy while trying to conceal her ruse in Never Been Kissed.
And sometimes the heightened environment of a party can bring simmering conflicts to a boil, as with Seth and Evan’s street showdown in Superbad or Amy and Molly’s bracing blow-up in Booksmart.
Those crucial moments didn’t happen while the characters sat at home dutifully studying for a test or even watching things happen to fictional characters on a screen.
They had to go get into a little trouble. They had to take chances and for once risk not making the safest choices.
If I could share a bit of wisdom with my 15-year-old self—and any other high schooler who’s a little too comfortable with the safe and responsible path—it’s this: Lighten up just a little bit. You can stay true to your convictions (which, by the way, are going to change) while still living your young adult years to their fullest.
So go ahead: join that party. Cheer on Schmidt pulling the knife from his back in 21 Jump Street. Jump into the “Paradise City” mosh pit in Can’t Hardly Wait. Cruise through a moon tower kegger like in Dazed and Confused.
Find ways to make a better story. Because that’s L-I-V-I-N.