Dysfunction Junction: Cinema’s 10 Most Troubled Teens

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5. Shaun Field—This is England
Year: 2006

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It’s always strange seeing a child as part of an adult setting. We are confused by the baby faces we glimpse behind a seemingly hardened exterior that welcomes the world of sex, drugs and party vibes. You’ll find yourself confronted with these feelings while watching This is England, in which 12-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) finds a second family in his skinhead friends. What at first seems like a bit of “harmless” fun soon turns into a nationalist uproar with the return of former group-member Combo (Stephen Graham). Combo’s prison sentence seems to have exacerbated his racist views, and although Shaun doesn’t necessarily agree with him, he looks up to Combo and joins him for a white nationalist meeting. Shaun’s motives for joining the group may have been clear from the get-go; however, we only really begin to understand how much of an impact peer pressure and involuntary influences have on a child when the film comes to its unexpectedly satiric close.

Dysfunction: Lost Boy

4. Elizabeth Wurtzel—Prozac Nation
Year: 2001

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Based on Elizabeth Wurtzel’s autobiography, this film is faithful to the story and overall feeling of the book Prozac Nation. It follows “Lizzie” (Christina Ricci) and her arrival at Harvard, where she’s studying journalism on a scholarship. She has a love-hate relationship with her single mother, who has been supporting her without much involvement from Lizzie’s father. It’s clear from the beginning that Lizzie has a manic personality and takes everything she does to the absolute extreme. She embarrasses herself and her fling Noah with a “loss-of-virginity” party immediately immediately after the event. She grows more self-obsessed and, despite having won an award from Rolling Stone for an article on Lou Reed, she jeopardizes her career by letting herself fall deeper into a vicious cycle of drugs and depression. Prozac Nation lets the viewer in on the roller-coaster ride that is manic depression and never fails to ride out the highs as much as it does the lows. Christina Ricci is great at slipping into the mind of a struggling teenage journalist in the throes of a Prozac Nation.

Dysfunction: Manic depressive

3. Alex DeLarge—A Clockwork Orange
Year: 1971

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Millions have felt inspired for Halloween purposes by the droogs’ peculiar dress codes; fortunately, only a few fanatics aspire to follow in the footsteps of A Clockwork Orange protagonist Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell). Set in a futuristic London, Alex and his friends have one purpose only: to raise havoc with a little help from “milk plus.” Their daily routines consist of engaging in ultraviolence in the form of gang fights, brutal beatings and rape. Alex’s obsessive vanity and musical preference lend a sense of stylish mania and sophistication to his horrific doings. Ludwig van Beethoven’s symphonies have been used in many a movie to enhance dramatic sensations and impending doom, but their usage in this film is far from the ordinary. Here they meliorate lunacy and urges formerly not associated with Beethoven.

Having taken his ultraviolence too far one night, Alex is arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison. While incarcerated, he is chosen as a test subject for the Ludovico technique, which causes him to get violently ill every time he thinks of sex or violence.

Dysfunction: Sociopath

2. Telly—Kids
Year: 1995

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We don’t know anyone who’s watched Kids and didn’t walk away from it feeling severely depressed for at least a week or so. We’d even go so far as to say that this is a movie you’ll only watch once in a lifetime. That’s not to say the film is bad. On the contrary, it’s probably because it’s too fucking good, so good, it feels real. Director Larry Clark has always been drawn to the type of plots and characters that ooze authenticity in his films, in such a way you might almost mistake them for documentaries. These kids are your neighbors, your friends, your own children; you recognize their language, their style of clothing and the things that keep them busy at night. It’s frightening because it feels as though Clark is documenting real lives here, not just a script.

The film follows 17-year-old Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) and his quest to bag as many virgins as he possibly can—the younger, the better. The film opens to Telly and a 12-year-old getting off in her room. It takes him a while to talk her into letting him pop her cherry, but eventually he gets his way and he’s not exactly a gentleman about it. He ignores her pain and later boasts about his latest conquest in full detail to his friend Casper (Justin Pierce). What he doesn’t realize is that one of his former hookups, Jennie (Chloë Sevigny), has tested positive for HIV and Telly is the only transmitter in question. Telly has already found a new victim in 13-year-old Darcy (Yakira Peguero) and plans on getting her into bed at his friend Steven’s party. Jennie desperately roams the city trying to find Telly and warn him before he infects another unknowing girl.

This film reveals the unbelievable truth behind the immature mentality toward sex and its possible repercussions so matter-of-factly that it is extremely worrying. Released in 1995, Kids feels as accurate now as it did then.

Dysfunction: Ignorant nympho

1. Christiane F.—Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo
Year: 1981

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We’ve all recognized the power her name can hold over a room: A shadow falls over parents’ faces, a grave atmosphere hangs over conversations, and the word “heroin” comes up repeatedly. The very mention of her name is usually followed by compassionate sighs and disgusted nose-wrinkling. If you grew up in Germany in the late ’70s and early ’80s, you were required to read the infamously shocking autobiography Christiane F.—We Children from Bahnhof Zoo, seeing as it was introduced into classrooms as a “Don’t Do Drugs” lecture of a different kind.

The book didn’t omit a single detail of Christiane’s life as a child prostitute and full-blown heroin addict at the age of 14. Situations and feelings depicted are often so surreal, our minds attempt to shield us from imagining a child amid this environment of tricks, junkies and johns. However, the film visualizes all the hardcore scenes in such realistic detail, it’s tough to stomach at times. Natja Brunckhorst is utterly convincing in the role of Christiane. Whether reenacting the S&M beating of a loyal john or hassling people on the streets for money, Brunckhorst does so with the raucous confidence and down-and-out stance of an ’80s Berlin child prostitute.

And yes, the real Christiane is still alive and kicking. She just released the follow-up to her first autobiography, entitled My Second Life.

Dysfunction: Notorious heroin junkie

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