Generation multiplex: The image of youth in American cinema, 1981-1996

1998 1998

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Abstract (summary)

An examination of the representation of young characters (aged 12 to 20) in fictional feature films made in the United States between 1981 and 1996. The author argues that youth films constitute a legitimate genre of cinema study, and that five subgenres of the youth genre have been prominent during the 1980s and 1990s: school, delinquency, horror, science, and love/sex films. These subgenres, through their various codes and motifs, engender particular images of youth over time and under certain circumstances, yielding a complex structure of teenage identities and styles. The character types within each subgenre are analyzed, as are the release patterns of the films and their connections to contemporary cinematic and cultural trends, such as: the proliferation of multiplex theaters in shopping malls, the introduction of the PG-13 movie rating, the increasing production of straight-to-video films, and the political-economic emergence of Generation X.

A further argument is that genre study cannot properly be conducted without a widely inclusive frame of textual examples, and or addressed. Each film is studied within its relevant subgeneric category, and its narrative depiction of young characters is detailed. By placing these films in their social and historical contexts, and foregrounding the film industry's attempts to appeal to young audiences with these films, the dissertation concludes that most youth films present a complicated image of young people: conflicted yet stoical, hedonistic yet sensitive, naive yet insightful.

Indexing (details)

Motion Pictures;
Mass media;
American studies
0900: Motion Pictures
0708: Mass media
0323: American studies
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Adolescence; Cinema; Generation X; PG-13; Youth
Generation multiplex: The image of youth in American cinema, 1981-1996
Shary, Timothy Matthew
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 59/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
0591961016, 9780591961010
Anderson, Carolyn
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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