Don’t overthink it – quick, what do Charlie Brown’s teacher, The Graduate, and Heavenly Creatures have in common?
I bet you know in your gut, but if you’re like me you prefer not to think about it. They are all connected because they portray — sometimes frighteningly and sometimes humorously — what it looks like and sounds like when young people don’t really see anyone older than themselves as real.
I first started thinking about this in an ongoing way after seeing Heavenly Creatures. I was an adolescent girl once upon a time, and it was quite disturbing to evaluate my comprehension of what happened to the girls in the film. In short, they become obsessed with one another and the world they create for themselves, and when their parents develop concern that their connection is unhealthy and try to separate them, one of the girls kills the other one’s mother. The film is based on a true story.
As with any shocking tale, there were a lot of water cooler conversations about, “Can you believe that happened?” But there were also a lot of private conversations between women who trusted each other about how, yes, they could believe it happened. It opened up a whole dialogue about the dangerous capacity of adolescents to disconnect from adults, not just by going to their rooms and turning up the music, but by completely discounting the humanity and “realness” of those adults.
I had a lot of conversations with friends from my youth about our perceptions of the adults around us. Unlike the movie – thank God – there was never any serious animosity toward anyone. But there was this shared sense of not perceiving our parents and their friends as really inhabiting our world. They were like satellites orbiting around us, and while we acknowledged them, accepted their offers of food and a ride to the mall, we didn’t really connect with them at all as truly part of our reality.
It’s very weird to reflect on that psychological place. But you can experience it as an observer any time you are in a crowd of kids. Notice how they make eye contact only with each other, how they seem to hear only each other, how you could swear if you didn’t make a fuss about it they would trample you flat as they walk in a group down the street……….
I love young people. Remembering how I perceived the world then helps me not go bananas when they seem to not even see me, because in truth, they don’t. And it’s not exactly a picnic for them either. I think it just means we have to try harder to reach them on their terms, and to remember that we were young once too.
2 thoughts on “You’re Not Really Real Sometimes. Really.”
You make a very valid point here. Unfortunately, many young people do not see adults because too many adults do not see them. Too many people are now objectified, across all age groups, seen only as a means to an end or a responsibility or an inconvenience. This is especially apparent in the recent Mallo trials: the response of an older brother as to why the 14-year old was arrested was “Because he killed the old lady”. Until each of us recognizes that we’re all connected, all affected, we will continue to have societal and interpersonal disharmony. Good luck in your chosen course of action regarding your intent to write. You have many good things to say, just as the young writer you have referred to in this blog. Let me go hit that “Like” button right now!
Paula, thank you so much! And you make a really important point. The “not seeing” does go more than one way, all too often. It’s truly a strange thing. In my experience, there is fine distinction, in that adolescents can truly dehumanize adults as a group. We are better at just discounting and ignoring them, which is really not good either. We all need to do better. And thank you again for engaging the blog. I know a huge part of being a successful writer is the willingness to just write, even a little, every day. It’s a solitary task, and having engagement from others is very helpful.