Consider for a moment the impossible loneliness of being fifteen years old. The way so little makes sense. The big wide open world and your small little self, trying to make sense of a hundred different things. The way your mind, your moods, scatter about—high, low, and everywhere in between—within the space of even a single day. Consider how much you don’t know about things, but how much you think you do, and how frustrated this makes you. The way childhood evaporates, slowly then oh-so-quickly, while adulthood remains some far distant horizon. How you feel perpetually stuck in between, expected to keep moving forward despite shoddy directions and fallible guides.
Remember how you were once so young and full of something like promise. Think about how hard you tried to seem older, to make it all make sense. How you didn’t understand kissing, or how your body worked, or what it meant to feel like you loved somebody so much that you almost couldn’t stand the weight of it. Think about how you stood in front of the mirror and nearly cried some days, hating the reflection but feeling powerless to change it. How nobody understood what it felt like to be you, to be a teenager, anchored and unmoored and ever-changing. How you promised you would never forget the way this felt, mpt ever, even when you got old and married and had kids of your own. But how of course you did, because it’s impossible to hold onto an urgency like that once you’ve seen enough of life and your hormones have settled down a bit.
Think about how much you loved your parents, but felt the urge to push away from them. That aching need to somehow define yourself in the world. How they were all you knew, but how that limited you in some indescribable way—how their protection came to feel like a confinement, something you needed and hated in the very same breath. Think of all the secrets you started to squirrel away like treasures; all the things they didn’t know. The sneaking out and the trying cigarettes and the friends whose parents left town for entire weekends. The wide open feeling of a brand new night, the hope of something happening, and the way it so rarely did. The freedom and the boredom of it all. The way music felt as you started to really connect with it, and all the books and movies that started to matter so much more. How important everything felt some days, everything, all of it.
Do you remember what it feels like to grow up?
Because this month, we’re here to remind you. We’re diving headfirst back into that teenage world, looking at how movies have tried to capture adolescence on screen over the past few decades. Our essays this month attempt to navigate and explore familiar teenage milieus—high school (Pretty in Pink, Charlie Bartlett, Elephant), the suburbs (Superbad), social cliques (Heathers), self-acceptance (My Mad Fat Diary), summer vacations (Stealing Beauty), and menial jobs (Empire Records)—while offering new perspectives on old tropes. It’s incredibly difficult to write about teenage life, or “coming-of-age” films, without falling into a whole host of terrible cliches and traps, but our writers this month were more than up to the challenge. The resulting issue, we hope, captures a felt sense of adolescence, in all its confusing, awkward glory.
But first, a couple of housekeeping notes. We’ve started up a free biweekly newsletter, helmed by Elizabeth Cantwell, our managing editor extraordinaire. The newsletter is a way for us to try and connect a bit more with you during the month-long gap between new issues and to let you know what the editorial staff is watching and reading and thinking about—as well as to keep you in the loop about all things BW/DR (news, podcasts, film recommendations, calls for new submissions, upcoming issues). If this sounds like something you want in your inbox every two weeks, you can sign up for free here.
We’re also currently attempting to raise some money to cover our operating costs, via Patreon. Most of us who work to put this magazine together each and every month do so for very little, if any, money. Bright Wall/Dark Room has always been a labor of love, but as we continue growing—while remaining independent and committed to an ad-free reader experience—we need to figure out a way to make what we do here a bit more sustainable for all the writers, editors, and artists who give large swaths of their time to us each month for free. So, check out our Patreon page, and please consider donating even just a couple of dollars a month if you can—every single dollar really and truly helps us keep this whole thing going. We’re also working on some cool donor rewards (gift subscriptions, original artwork, special issues) to make it even more worth your while, because we really want to be doing this whole magazine thing for many years to come.
And finally, this month we’re excited to welcome a brand new Senior Editor into the fold. Kelsey Ford, long-time contributor and all-around wonderful person, is dipping her toes into the water, and we hope she settles in for a long time to come. Kelsey made her first appearance on our podcast last week, edited a couple of pieces in this issue, and already feels like part of the gang.
So, let’s get our teenage angst on. Here we are now, entertain us. —Chad Perman, Editor-in-Chief