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Rob Edelman: Female Sexuality

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, new to theaters, offers a take on teen sexuality that is, well, different. So many films that spotlight the growing pains and yearnings of high school-age youngsters center on males, with their female counterparts presented as little more than stereotypically unobtainable trophies. In other words, the only teens with sex drives are the boys. The girls too often are the fantasy figures. They either are pretty virgins who do little more than smile sweetly or sluts with large breasts who are the personal property of the school football star.

But DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is, as I say, unusual-- and refreshingly so. It is the tale of Minnie, a precocious fifteen-year-old girl, and the focus here is on Minnie’s budding sexuality and, in a more general way, the complexities of the female libido. As it spins the tale of Minnie and her plight, THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL-- directed and scripted by Marielle Heller and based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s novel-- is plucky, refreshingly honest, and genuinely funny. And given its potentially controversial subject matter, it never is in any way objectionable. Bel Powley, the 23-year-old British actress cast as Minnie, offers a star-making turn. THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is her film, and this despite the fact that Minnie’s boozy bohemian mother-- the story of set in San Francisco during the 1970s-- is played by Kristen Wiig: one of the contemporary cinema’s endlessly watchable scene-stealers.

Finally, one particularly disturbing “news item” involving THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL reflects on the marketing of movies-- or, for that matter, the marketing of any product-- and how, these days, the hard sell may be misrepresented as hard news. One of the headlines on the front page of the August 7 edition of the London Evening Standard was an attention-grabber. That headline was: “Star tells girls to see her X-rated movie.”

No, this was not the granddaughter of Linda Lovelace suggesting that underage females seek out the just-released DEEP THROAT, PART 50. The “star” in question was Bel Powley. Her “X-rated movie” was THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL and the article, which appeared on page 3, was nothing more than a puff piece in which Powley lamented the fact that the British Board of Film Classification had given the film an “18” certificate. In England, films rated “18” are strictly for adults only. No one under eighteen can see an “18” film at the cinema or purchase or rent an “18”-rated DVD. (Let me add that, here in the U.S., THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is rated “R.”)

In the piece, Powley offers the following advice to the under-eighteens: “I’m sure I’m not meant to say this but try and see the movie. Get a fake ID and go and see it!” Now clearly, she is trying to sell her film. Its box office numbers will have a mighty impact on her career, and it is perfectly understandable that she will want to urge moviegoers-- any moviegoers-- to pay to see her film. But still, the paper’s “coverage” is a textbook case of publicity-generated spin being sold and presented as a genuine news item.

Rob Edelman has written several books on film, television, and baseball, and was a longtime Contributing Editor of Leonard Maltin’s annual Movie Guide. He teaches film history at the University at Albany.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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