During our teenage years, we seem to be at our most susceptible – everything we see, hear and feel, can often seem amplified. The most insignificant of issues can infect our minds like a disease. We’re naïve, we have idealistic views, and, in accordance to our seniors- we’re yet to experience ‘the real world.’ However, the vulnerability we possess as adolescents is also challenged by an element of strength, because it is in our teens that we start to acquire a sense of what we truly believe in. At this age, passion begins to burn like coal inside of us. As we grow older, this fire can sometimes die out, so it is essential that we keep fueling it, so it continues burning.
As young people, we can often feel that our role in society and in political movement is overlooked because of our age. Although we usually have a lot to say, putting our thoughts out there is a lot harder than it seems, and no matter how democratic a government claims to be, it will always be difficult for young people to be heard, especially as individuals. However, it is when we unite, that our voices can be noticed.
It’s interesting to reflect upon the role of the teenager in the past. For a long time, there was no term for the stage of adolescence between childhood and adulthood. You were either a child, or you were a worker. It was through rebellion and opposition to rigorous regime that the ‘teenager’ was born. Young people started to recognise that adolescence deserved to be a separate demographic from children and adults – that they had a right to a period of prolonged youth between sleeping in a cot and working in a factory, or becoming a soldier. It was through this recognition, and this desire for change, that rebellion took place, and soon the way in which people perceived how we come-of-age, was altered.
The fascinating 2013 film ‘Teenage’, created by Matt Wolf and based on the book ‘Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture 1875-1945‘ by Jon Savage, perfectly illustrates the evolution of youth movement between the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Through a scrapbook of rare archival footage, earnest dairy entries and captivating reenactments, the stories of fearless individuals who grew up in early 20th century Britain, America and Germany are unraveled. It documents the revolution of youth rebellion and uprising, the young people’s desperation to oppose society’s expectations, and their desire to continue being young, despite the political turmoil that forced them to grow up too quickly. From the starry-eyed ‘Flappers’ to the jazz-crazed ‘Jitterbugs’, to those who refused to succumb to the ‘Hitler Youth’ – it talks of the revolutionary music they found solace in and a new-found interest in drugs and cigarettes, all which fueled their desire to live fast and stay young.
Despite the differences in time period, the message the film poses is one that will be incessantly relevant – ‘Those who get the youth, get the future.’ The political decisions made now, will effect no one more than they will affect the youth of today, as it is us who will be living in the aftermath of political dispute.
Perhaps we are in a better place now than those in the film ‘Teenage’, but there are still many issues that a lot of young people want to address – but often feel they don’t possess the power to. At an age where we are relentlessly passionate about what we believe in, and in a time where freedom of speech and the technology to express it is more prevalent than ever before, it would seem a waste to suppress the views that burn inside our brains and watch decisions being made that we disagree with. Youth movement is one of the strongest capacities for change –because when young people unite it poses a threat, it is a kinetic energy that is both contagious and compelling – and it spreads like wildfire.
The teenager is something that every adult has once been, yet no adult can comprehend. We’re too young to understand, but we’re old enough to know better. We romanticise everything and we’re yet to experience the ‘real world’, but our passion and willingness is our strongest weapon. Nobody wants to be a member of the lost generation; we all want our voices to be heard.
Watch the trailer for the film ‘Teenage’ and find out more about the youth movements that inspired it, here: