Maybe it is generational nostalgia, but I have a deep affinity for 90’s movies. While I realize the romantic comedy genre was done in by this generation and many are still happy to see it’s almost nonexistent presence these days, there are certain movies from this 90’s golden genre that hold special places in my heart.
One thing that is fun about them is that they are so dated. Between the styles, cars, hair and makeup, music… If you were alive in that era, that alone makes them fun!
In the vein of 90’s Rom-Coms, let’s talk Never Been Kissed, shall we? I mean, COME ON, this movie is SO TOTALLY RUFUS! In the context of 1999, this movie was pretty amazing. Most of its core audience was ready to relive the youth of our own bad high school crushes, embarrassing moments and adolescent misery. In one way or another, each of us had been our own version of Josie Grossy, and adult Josie gave us a special mix of encouragement, validation and motivation to move past those heinous scars locked tight within our memory.
With a (still) perfection-woven soundtrack, this movie evokes so many warm fuzzies that it is easily a feel good favorite, twenty years later… (Twenty?!?!?! What?!?!?! HOW?!?!?! I know…) But seriously, this soundtrack is timeless. I could talk for a good 2000 words about this album, but I won’t. (you’re welcome! Unless you were hoping I would, in that case- hit me up! Let’s chat!)
What about when we let our violet lensed, round 1999 shades fall to the wayside while we view this sweet little movie from today’s contextual perspective?
The scales are completely different.
Let’s chat the bad out of the way- this movie would never be made now. COULD never be made, not without so much internet rage, controversy and bad press that it would kill the project, anyway. The fact that a huge portion of this premise involves men well into their adulthood talking about the high school girl’s bodies pretty openly is pretty terrible. Add to that the adult male (older brother) dating the high school student whose ready to have sex with him. Great, he hasn’t technically broken the law yet, but also- if she’s “ready for sex” odds are they’ve at least fooled around. So wrong...
Lastly, as if these things aren’t enough, we have the teacher who has feelings and an attraction to Josie, whom he believes is 17. He is willing to alter an, although completely flawed, long-term, long distance relationship to explore being with her- HIS STUDENT. In many circumstances he is placed in positions of being with her enough to open up about personal things AND spend alone time with her, while no one bats an eye.
As a mom, I cringe. I mean, we viewers know she’s really an adult and that no one is doing anything wrong- but he and the school staff witnessing such things DO NOT KNOW THIS. Just like we, the viewers, know these scripted pervy comments about the “high school girl’s bodies” are really being said about adult women playing high schoolers… but still.
And I swear to you, I am not trying to ruin this beloved movie! I’m not. I love it, even with my 2019/42-year-old bifocals on, I still love it. Let’s be honest though, suddenly this sweet movie sounds pretty terrible, pretty un-#timesup/#metoo and we have to pause for a moment to wonder what the pitch of this film must have sounded like, and were any women in the room to say yay/nay? (of course not, it was 1999) (also… fun fact… Most of you know (or should) that I find James Franco ABSOLUTELY REPULSIVE. I had no idea he was in this movie until we rewatched it the other night.)
While these things are troubling, what it shows me is that we really have come a long way in our entertainment. Do I still love the movie? YES! It plays off more innocent than it should because we weren’t aware of the underbelly of the entertainment industry and what was happening. Most of us didn’t know about human trafficking, sexual assault/abuse was not part of every day dialogue and women/girls weren’t in belief of being owed respect and valued for more than their physical assets…
But, the scales of balance are alive… Though not at all as timeless as its soundtrack, what about this story is still relatable to anyone, regardless of age? In a time when these kids had no social media presence, what could Never Been Kissed possibly show us about internet life?
Josie stands on a literal mound in complete transparent vulnerability… She shares her own journey of humiliation, peer pressure, the need for attention/approval, etc- and took the difficult journey to see herself for the mess she’d become. People were hurt, she had misrepresented and disrespected herself and she has to own up to it. Even pre-instagram/Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter, we all struggle to authentically be real and honest representations of ourselves. Even without understanding what a “filter” would become, we filtered ourselves.
This human struggle for love and acceptance has always been, and it will always continue.
Wherever you are at, in life, as you’re reading this, tell yourself you will be ok. Put on some Smiths, throw your hair into a messy bun and take inventory of the hard stuff. It doesn’t matter if that guy likes you, or those girls are unkind, what matters is how you feel about yourself. Work on you, and if your soul needs a quiet moment of entertainment, grab a 90’s flick and kick back with your diet coke- just remember, it was a different time and then allow yourself to be grateful because when the world is feeling all topsy/turvey, you have the subtle proof right before you’re eyes: we’ve come a long way, baby, and it will get better.