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10 years of Wild Child - challenging the American monopoly on the teenage experience


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Ten years ago today, Wild Child hit our screens and became a fast favourite amongst British teens. However in the ten years since the films' release, there has been a relative scarcity of British teen movies produced. American teen movies are in abundance, with recent release The Darkest Minds being a one in a slew of American teen book adaptations, but for whatever reason, British teen movies have not had the same traction.

In fact, I can only really think of three big teen movies produced in and starring British characters: Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Wild Child and St Trinians, all of which were released at around the same time, 2007/2008. In the ten/eleven years since then, the number of movies about British teens have been few and far between, and it's not for a lack of an audience.

The box office success of films like The Inbetweeners (which had the most succesful opening weekend of any comedy film in the UK at the time of its release, with the sequel then surpassing that record) and St Trinians which was one of the top grossing films of the decade, shows that these films can gain an audience. So why then the lack of British teen films?

The American teen experience has become ubiquitous with the teen experience, and because the American film market is so much larger than the British one, it seems natural that when it comes to teen movies, American teen movies are far more dominant than British ones.

American teen movies also seem to do quite well here in the UK, with films like Mean Girls, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Juno and many others being very successful. The same is not true for British teen movies across the pond, with Wild Child being released direct to DVD in the US and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging only being shown on TV. 

So perhaps filmmakers think that we don't need British teen movies? After all, we have so many American teen movies, those who are interested in that kind of film have a lot to choose from, and films like Wild Child have not done as well at the box office as something like Mean Girls, suggesting that the cross-country appeal does not work from Britain to the US. 

But the thing is, our experiences as British teenagers are so different to the experiences of American teenagers. Yes, our societies are similar, we have similar values and culture, but when it comes to school, which most teen movies naturally focus on, the experience of a British teen and an American teen will be completely different.

As much as I love Mean Girls, Wild Child is a lot closer to my experience of school life, especially given that like Poppy, I also attended an all-girls boarding school! British and American school lives are so separate, with different uniforms, different exams, different lessons, etc. that the two cannot be treated as the same.

It is such a missed opportunity that there are not more films like Wild Child or St Trinians out there. All are films with majority female casts, all are really funny and heartwarming and all show different angles on the experience of being a teenage girl. There is so much media out there about the American teen experience, and yet the same cannot be said about the UK teen experience or the experiences of teens in other countries. We should be striving to tell the stories of all sorts of teens, not recycling the same American high school experience over and over again.

We should take something from the success of The Inbetweeners: that British teen movies can sell and sell well. There is clearly an audience out there who want to see the stories of British teens and there has been a lot of success with British teen TV shows, like Skins, The Inbetweeners, Bad Education. We need to stop seeing the American teenage experience as the be-all and end-all when it comes to films.

Hopefully Wild Child was not the end of an era, and ten years on may we start to see British teen stories being told once again, because they deserve to be seen and heard just as much as American teens do. 

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