High-School Hellmouth

High-School Hellmouth

High-School Hellmouth

Arts, entertainment, and more.
June 3 1999 5:10 PM

High-School Hellmouth

In the wake of Littleton, the teenage American as an indicative entity has become the object of an intense media scrutiny that strikes Culturebox as even more clueless than usual. On some level, teenage culture is inscrutable by definition. On another, it is almost classical in its predictability. For example, this summer seems to be shaping up to be an unusually aggressive one when it comes to the sexual objectification of the teenage boy. In fact, as Culturebox gazes at the current aesthetic landscape, she feels that the metaphorical impact of Leonardo DiCaprio on the topography of American pop culture has caused an avalanche of Hansons and Backstreet Boys and members of 'N Sync, thus leaving a clear path for the descent from on high of Ricky Martin. But the pretty boy as a hot teen commodity is in itself nothing new. Even the prefab teen idol has, by now, at least 40 years' worth of precedent--Culturebox is sure that you all remember the film debut of Fabian in the subtly titled Hound Dog Man.

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To come to the point, or anyway a point, teens have died and worms have eaten them, but not, it is Culturebox's belief, because of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She is, of course, referring to the WB Network's decision to cancel Part 2 of Buffy's season finale, in which the mayor of Buffy's hometown of Sunnydale (Culturebox is sure that you all remember that Sunnydale High School is the locus of constant demonic activity owing to its being situated on a hellmouth, just like your high school) was slated to metamorphose into a gigantic supernatural monster during a commencement address, necessitating a heavily armed response from the student body. That the WB chose to err on the side of responsibility is laudable. But Culturebox honestly wonders what state-of-the-art research shows about the cause and effect relationship of works of imagination on reality. Jerry Seinfeld does a joke about a commercial for laundry detergent to the effect that if you habitually have bloodstains on your T-shirt, laundry probably isn't your first problem. Similarly, Culturebox feels, if a TV show in which a teenage girl battles evil by kickboxing with vampires forms the basis for your teenager's actions, your first problem is probably not the show's content.

In any event, innovative as it is in many ways, Buffy adheres to teen narrative convention when it comes to what Culturebox is sure that you all remember as the central issue of teen existence, i.e., sex. This convention is basically that the loss of virginity leads to disaster. In Buffy's case, the consummation of her relationship with her boyfriend Angel causes him to lose his soul (long story) and embark on a path of pure evil. The equation of teen sex with disaster has a pedigree at least as long as the pretty boy-as-commodity's--Yvette Mimieux wandering into traffic as a consequence of sex in Where the Boys Are springs to mind. Actually, these two conventions merge, at least symbolically, in a scene early on in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, in which Johnny Depp is consumed by his bed. Let that be a lesson to you all, although what exactly the lesson is, Culturebox, unlike the WB, could not presume to say.