How Self-Aware Teen Movies Almost Killed the Genre | Time Capsule

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, movies about teenagers were everywhere. Teen movies like She’s All That, Ten Things I Hate About You, American Pie, Bring It On, and Varsity Blues created an instant familiarity with their audience by tapping into known plot points and tropes, like the pressures of prom, the cruelty of popular mean girls, the sensitivity of social outcasts, angst about cliques, and a strange number of secret bets and financial arrangements. Between 1998 and 2002, there was a sudden boom in a genre that studios (and audiences) shunned for most of the ‘90s. But in these few short years, filmmakers pushed the teen-movie genre to such a self-aware, formulaic place that they nearly killed off the teen movie entirely. Ultimately, this genre’s self-reflective frenzy and near-death in the early 2000s helped pave the way for more original and less trope-based versions of the teen story. Here’s our Take on how this era showed that comic self-awareness isn’t the same as actual critique, and how the turn-of-the-millennium teen formula indirectly led to more nuanced teen comedies today.