If you’re looking for a creative coming-of-age story, I highly recommend the exuberant Diary Of A Teenage Girl.
In 1970s San Francisco, a precocious 15-year-old embarks on an enthusiastic sexual odyssey, beginning with her mother’s current lover.
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl is by no means a perfect film, but it’s definitely a film I could have used growing up. Girls are slut shamed and taught that they are sexual objects from a very young age. I remember feeling ostracised for being sexually active at Minnie’s age and I really lacked a sex-positive influence. Although Minnie doesn’t start her sexual journey with an appropriate person, she sure does learn a lot about her appetite along the way. And I really applaud the people behind this wonderful story for depicting teen sexuality in such a sex-positive way.
I think the movie does a great job in depicting the inaccuracies we’re led to believe about sex as teens, particularly how we’re inclined to measure our self worth on how much sex we have. It doesn’t matter who we’re having sex with, as long as we’re having it. I’ve been watching films from an unhealthily young age and I have never seen a more relatable depiction of a teenage girl discovering her sexuality. What I liked most about Minnie is how much I saw my younger self in her. In Hollywood movies (and even some Indie movies to be fair), it’s the popular girls who are having sex. Minnie doesn’t really fit into any tropes other than confused teen. She discovers she loves sex and there’s very little regard for any moral ambiguity, because what tween knows the difference between right and wrong? She takes charge of her sexuality and completely ignores what other people make of her promiscuous ways. This is incredibly refreshing to see for various reasons, the most important one being its healthy depiction of sex. Virginity is merely a social construct which shames people, most notably women – you don’t lose anything when you have sex.
One of my favourite scenes from The Diary of a Teenage Girl is where Minnie is having sex with somebody her age. She’s not feeling it, and switches the position so she can actually climax. It’s the little moments like in cinema that really are underestimated.
WHAT DID OTHERS THINK?
Male coming-of-age stories tend to feature a lot of bravado and unfeasible nerd-boy fantasies, whilst for young girls there is an unnecessary wistfulness. There’s always a loss of innocence as it’s a bad thing when a girl discovers her sexuality. Why is it that women are taught from a young age that our virginities are something that can be “given” and “taken”?
The Diary of a Teenage Girl is not that kind of film. The first line of the movie is uttered by 15 year old Minnie, “I had sex today. Holy shit.” And that’s pretty much the tone set. The one thing Minnie is sure about is that she wants to lose her virginity. She doesn’t see Monroe as a sexual object, but as an opportunity. At first, Minnie tentatively associates sex with love and feelings. Her role model is her mother Charlotte and in some ways she has feminist ideals, but she also has a problematic view of what (and who) she needs in her life to be happy. Charlotte wants to be a feminist, but it’s almost as if she doesn’t quite know how to.
“You know, you’re not going to have that bod forever, Min. I know that’s not very feminist of me to say, but you might be happier if you put it out there a little bit you know? Wear some makeup, or a skirt once in awhile. Jesus. Get some attention. You have a kind of power you know, you just don’t know it yet.”
She’s progressive in some ways but the way she speaks about other women suggests she believes them to be competition. The value she places on herself and her daughter depend on how their perceived by the male gaze.
Whilst other coming-of-age stories centre on a female protagonist becoming a woman who somehow changes after mediocre sex, in The Diary Of A Teenage Girl Minnie comes to the realisation that she likes sex a lot. She is just a randy 15 year old who embraces new experiences and it’s just awesome to see. There is this standout scene where she is having sex and isn’t feeling it, so she takes control, changes things up and gets herself off. This is a key scene because it’s important to teach young girls that they can actually enjoy sex. It’s also terrifyingly accurate; young boys will go to extreme lengths to convince a girl to sleep with them, and yet are intimidated when she actively enjoys it.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl has feminist themes and strong female characters. Whether it can be considered a feminist film is less clear cut.
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