By Zoe Turner
The coming of age film that finally denotes a female’s discovery of her sexuality as the norm, rather than something to be embarrassed about or frowned upon. Until now, media has too often appointed this role to young men, characterising them as the sex who will seek and initiate any sexual contact. Boys are supposed to dominate and find pleasure in the act, whilst the girls they pursue are expected to take on a cautious guise and be almost abstinent of the engagement.
In reality, the desires of women are just as strong and just as natural and therefore should be embraced just as easily. Director Marielle Heller told The Independent that “If you’re a teenage girl that wants to have sex, there’s still this thing of feeling like a freak because everything you’ve ever read or seen tells you – you shouldn’t want it.” So here’s her alternative.
‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ follows the development of female protagonist Minnie, strongly performed by Bel Powley, and is conveniently set in the 1970s during what was known as ‘Second Wave Feminism’. The film tackles these issues of sexism head on, by weaving the direct problems into a comic relief picture, driving the audience to see the humour in the ignorance of such attitudes. What it also achieves however, is a raw representation of the effects these can have on a young woman.
Minnie starts an affair with her mother’s boyfriend at the tender age of fifteen, a time when a girl begins to try and find her purpose; Monroe, the older man, takes advantage of her vulnerability and the situation inevitably leads to something more emotionally charged. Minnie attempts to forget about her feelings for Monroe by sleeping with a boy from school but, having already experienced sex with a grown man, the outcome is somewhat different; this boy cannot handle either Minnie’s dominance or enjoyment, proclaiming that it ‘scares’ him. This is a prime example of how boys might make girls who defy their expectations feel as though they’re abnormal, because they can’t handle the reality.
We are presented with a scene in which Minnie is much younger, and her father persuades her mother that there is something disconcerting about Minnie’s need for physical affection from her mother. Of course, such a desire is normal, and it can be assumed that her father may have merely felt excluded or out of control, and so resorted to manipulation.
This ever desperate need for equality is also demonstrated by the females of the film and their warped reactions to such types of oppression; Minnie is mercilessly named a ‘slut’ by a girl from school, presumably due to rumours about her active sex life. On top of this, Minnie’s mother seems to want to be ‘in’ with feminism as a trend but is unable to carry out its objective, as she spouts dialogue such as “I know it’s not very feminist of me, but you should try showing off your body once in a while” to Minnie, with regards to her not having a boyfriend, implying that this would be the most effective way to acquire a man.
The only offensive aspect of this piece of work is its classification of ‘18’, which denies its specific target audience access to the film’s relation to their own lives, eradicating the understanding and support it offers them. The women who need to be continuously congratulated on creating such a female advocating picture, strove to ensure that their work would be rated a ‘15’, but were ultimately and perhaps unavoidably overruled by a board of men, which only proves the need for such a film to be made and to be available.
Thankfully, nobody is ever too old to realise what Minnie herself does by the end of the picture; that life needn’t have to be about being loved by anyone but yourself.
Zoe Turner is a second year student at MMU aspiring to write outside of her English studies. She is 19 years old and was born and raised in Staffordshire. Her areas of interest are predominantly music, literature, film and art.