With its stock company of switchblade carrying juvenile delinquents, "chickie runs,"
rumbles, and "tragic romanticism" (White 10), the
has been called, variously,
"coarse and unreflective" (White 10), "a shitstorm of Boy Movies" (White 15),
reflections of teenagers' own "very shallow, very limited sense of emotional and social
reality" (Rapping 16), films about "the blank generation" (Smith 70), and of the Canadian
, an exercise in "suffocating dramatic sobriety" (Pevere 45).
many other films that examine the liminal period between childhood and adulthood, a
period that seems only to have become an important social category in the United States
after World War II. However, very little critical attention has been paid to the
which has been a staple of Asmerican cinema since at least the mid 1930s.
In his historical survey of the
, Thomas Doherty points out that the idea of the
teenager was unknown in U.S. society before 1935.(
) The postwar baby boom and the
new-found economic strength of the American family saw the birth of a large number of
affluent young people who were quickly discovered as a market by big business and
studios that manufactured the B, exploitation movie. Indeed, it is one of Doherty's
contentions that as a category "the teenager" has more to do with marketing practices
than with biology (53). As Canadian Seth Feldman argues, one might well view "the
adolescent as an American invention that has itself institutionalized the values of
American frontier society. Highly individualistic behavior, unmitigated aggression, and
the assertion of a personal right of preeminent domain are rewarded by the Americans
with the blessing of eternal youth" (211). But, as Jon Lewis points out, whatever the
status of the teenager as a category, most
films and their critics have been concerned
with youth as a problem (35), and with the often-fear-inspiring, black-leatherjacketed
delinquent represented by the young Marlon Brando, the tragic James Dean, or the
swivel-hipped Elvis, who are among the
most glamorous icons.
Both Doherty and Charles Acland, in his book Youth, Murder, Spectacle, maintain in