Not Another Teen Movie, The Purge and Capitalism

When I was in the eighth grade I went on a dull sleepover. My host was a girl from my school who happened to know a relative of mine who had arranged for us to hang out. Although we were in the same grade and knew each other, we could not have had less in common. She had the emotional reasoning of a stalker and insisted that we go to the theater to see the popular film at the time, She's All That. When the film was over my host cried the entire way home saying "I'm so glad that they are a couple now!" as if she were unaware that the film was comprised of actors playing a part and not members of a documentary cast. This was why when the film Not Another Teen Movie came out, essentially making fun of the teen romance genre and its tropes, I laughed especially hard. Recently, when I rewatched that film, it hit me how much the ideals toward personal accountability and cultural acceptance have changed. This is my fan theory on why.


The film, Not Another Teen Movie apart from the side-eye toward tacky romances, is also centered on the early 2000's view of success as being something a person can achieve if they are without major personal failings. Major failings as in a life of vices or habits that cause financial and career setbacks. This is based on the concept that capitalism or the free market allows for possibilities for those who partake of it depending on their inputs within the system. Inputs could be positive career traits like being a knowledgeable employee or negative traits like being a truant for assigned tasks, or so that was the thinking of many of my generation for awhile anyway. Technically, if I learned anything in my college economics class (and my C+ grade proves I'm no expert), it's that capitalism is all about free trade. For better or for worse in the early 2000s people thought that money was up for grabs if you can use your mind, body, or any other resource to procure it. Not Another Teen Movie had a character that was known as the poor girl because her father was a mentally unsound, alcoholic war veteran. The male love interest had a family of well-to-do (albeit sexually abnormal) ivy league educated parents. This was used to define the pair's socio-economic standing within their school.


At the time it was believed if you came from a poor family you could eventually be accepted by the elite if you made it on your own despite any humble beginnings and with the right etiquette to fit in. In respect from at least my perspective, this has evolved in the last 20 years, but not in the way that I expected. Which brings me to the film, The Purge. The first film in the now franchise focuses on a wealthy suburban neighborhood and the fighting from within. A subplot of the film is that the neighbors become jealous that the lead family in the saga had done well for themselves and thus are being attacked for it. Setting aside that Jeff Bezos probably has a lot to say on this subject, the main point is that it is relevant that those who feel financially insecure are now socially accepted for lashing out at their monetary betters. This directly contrasts from the film She's All That and its theme of wanting to be accepted by those of higher social standing. The thought of wealth has gone from longing envy to seething wrath.


The change between the lack of financial success and personal responsibility is palpable. The cheesy romance film says it is from vice and faults that a family is poor. While the more recent horror film shows wealth as a hot potato that if displayed puts a target on your back. What it really means, is that the blame for poverty has shifted from you to them. The "them" being those who have money regardless of earning it or being born into it. This may have been a byproduct of the shrinking middle-class as a fallout from the 2008 recession or that quality of life expectations now have broadened due to social media. Either way, this change is temporary as all are, and in a few years, the Gen Z era will be looking back wondering if they too are outdated. I suppose the takeaway is to be kind to those that you do not understand as what you assume to be concrete regarding your assumptions of the world can be upended in accordance with the next wave of something or another. Do you think that I got it right? Are global economical influences the center of your value system? Or is it something more? Say so in the site forums and as always, Let Your Inner Shut In Totally Wig Out!