Last week I went to talk to fifty-odd teenagers who’d gathered at the Roundhouse to take part in various activities laid on for them by the Spinebreakers website. These young people had been writing and making films and music and God knows what else, and it seemed to me that they’d been having a great deal of unfashionably constructive fun. They were nice kids, too. They listened politely when I read, and asked scores of intelligent questions during the Q and A. They weren’t from Bedales or Hogwarts, either: they were, as far as I could tell, from all sorts of different backgrounds, although I didn’t speak to anyone who seemed staunchly middle class, and the racial mix was both striking and heartening.
And on the way home, I read Derek Malcolm’s review of the new teen rom-com ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’ in the Evening Standard, and came across the following line, in the middle of a general complaint about the film’s lack of authenticity. “…These kids are so unlike the beastie boys and girls of tabloid imagination that you scarcely recognise them as modern children.” I’m sure Malcolm would concede that this isn’t the most cogent sentence he’s ever constructed, but even so, the logic here is baffling: he first concedes that these beastie boys and girls are mythical, and then faults the film’s realism on the grounds that its characters don’t resemble the myth. One doesn’t wish to underestimate the problems currently facing our teens, especially in London (where the film isn’t set, incidentally). But it’s important to remember that Gurinder Chandha, the director, has chosen to make a film about the majority of our young people, the ones who aren’t stabbing each other while pregnant and drunk on Bacardi Breezers, not some weird, phoney, goody-two-shoes subset.