‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’: A Film Teenage Girls Can’t Watch
Critically-acclaimed indie film, ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’, has been given an 18 certificate in the UK. Yero understands why, but wishes 15-year-olds could watch it.
Meet Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley). She’s a 15-year-old cartoonist living in the dreamy, hilly streets of 1976 San Francisco with her mum (Kristen Wiig) and younger sister. She’s also sleeping with her mum’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) who is 20 years older than her. It’s messy, confrontational and somewhat creepy, but it’s also emotionally gripping. Writer and director, Marielle Heller has made it clear to viewers that this film is not a Hollywood gloss-over of real-life.
‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’ is told through a mixture of voice-over generated voice recordings, live-action drama and animation. It tells the story of dysfunctional family relationships and the journey to adulthood for Minnie unfolds. Minnie is played by up and coming British superstar, Bel Powley who at twenty-one at the time of filming, plays the most convincing multi-faceted, troubled, and fantastical teenager I’ve seen onscreen in a long time.
In true ‘70s liberating fashion, there is a lot of sex in the film, a lot – and drugs. Minnie and Monroe sex scenes, Minnie having sex with her classmate (I don’t even remember if we know his name), sexually charged illustrations drawn by Minnie, Minnie talking about sex, Minnie dreaming about sex. You get the picture. This is why the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) thought the amount of ‘strong sex, sex references and the drug use were too frequent and sustained for a 15 classification’.
I don’t think it was just written for middle-aged men at an indie film festival
I understand why the BBFC has to adhere to regulatory guidelines and rate the film an ‘18’, but I just wish that fifteen year old girls can go and see it. So does Bel Powley, who urged girls under 18 to buy a fake ID to see the film. Alexander Skarsgard reckons it could be shown on ‘Cartoon Network’ in Sweden. This is a shame, because the film felt like it was written for the teenage girl who has questioned the size of her breasts, been told she ‘could be pretty if she tried’ and started to explore her sexuality. I don’t think it was just written for middle-aged men at an indie film festival to coo over the latest quirky coming-of-age drama, or for older women to reminisce on their youth.
It is set in the past but the issues raised are entirely for the present.
I also understand that the BBFC’s intentions aren’t to thwart young people from watching films about sex, especially when the protagonist is female. But talking about female sexuality has been so repressed in Hollywood, let alone in real-life. Allowing teenagers who are 15+ have access to films like ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’ would promote conversations and engagement about topics such as safe sex, and relationships.
The camera never lingers over Bel Powley’s body in a male gaze exploitative manner, unlike the usual case of female bodies in films like ‘American Pie’ or any other summer bro-ey flick given a ’15’ rating.
Talking about female sexuality has been so repressed in Hollywood.
Setting aside the fact that I was a mature teenager, I feel like I could’ve watched ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ when I was 15 and enjoyed it. It was entertaining, funny, uncomfortable and real. I may not have been able to relate to all of the issues, but I would’ve been able to appreciate a film like this being made, and being able to see a realistic portrayal of someone of a similar age to me on screen. I would not have appreciated being told that the “strong and frequent sex” would be unsuitable for me to watch.
I hope that more films like these are made, especially for young women. I don’t want to publicly endorse illegal activity to watch this film if you’re unable to in the cinema, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I’ll leave it at that.
Have you watched any films that you felt should have been given a different rating? Let us know — @rifemag
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