Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Where's Our Stand By Me?

Illustration for article titled Wheres Our iStand By Me/i?

With Twilight driving teenage girls across the country insane this weekend, the character of Bella Swan has cemented herself (whether we like it or not) among the ranks of teenage heroines who appear to embody the angst, confusion, and general weirdness of adolescence. It's an easy character for us to tear apart, but the fact is that for whatever reason, Bella Swan speaks to young girls the way that Lydia Deets, Veronica Sawyer, and Samantha Baker spoke to us. It's hard to argue, however, that Twilight is the best thing we can offer adolescent girls. The truth is that there's always been a lack of films that really capture what it's like to be a young girl these days; many of them are watered down or exaggerated to the point where even child actresses can be pegged in the standard roles of hookers, doormats, and manic pixie dream girls. I recently came home to find my boyfriend sitting in front of the television, watching Stand By Me, which led me to wonder: Where is our coming-of-age movie?There is a jealousy that creeps in whenever I watch Stand by Me. The relationships shared between the boys seem so real, so true. You forget that you're watching young actors; you feel as if you really get to know what it's like to be an adolescent boy. Yet there isn't really an equivalent for girls: I suppose the closest thing we have to a female version of Stand By Me is the 1995 film Now and Then. Now and Then is a sweet little film about four friends growing up in the suburbs in the 1970’s. It is also a stereotypical mess. The four friends each represent a different female standard: there is the tomboy, Roberta, who is raised by her father and chooses to hide her sexuality by taping her breasts to her body; the eccentric, Sam, who turns to science-fiction in the wake of her parents’ divorce; the goody-goody caretaker, Chrissy, who worships Marcia Brady, and calls her vagina her “flower”; and Teeny, the sex-crazed daughter of rich, absent, flighty parents, who seeks–what else?–fame and fortune. Now, I know those descriptions sounded a bit harsh, but sincerely, I do like Now and Then, a lot. The issues I take with it, I suppose, only come about after I watch something like Stand By Me, where the characters, who have also been through some serious trauma, relate to each other not as stock versions of childhood stereotypes, but as honest depictions of little boys. In Now and Then, we move between the characters as adults and the characters as young girls; the most frustrating aspect of the film is that the characters barely grow or change at all. The tomboy grows up to be a doctor played by Rosie O’Donnell, the sci-fi geek grows into a chain-smoking, black-wearing, bitter writer played by Demi Moore, the fame-seeker becomes a celebrity played by Melanie Griffith, and the goody-two-shoes ends up a pregnant house wife played by Rita Wilson. They are, essentially, older, taller versions of their 12 year old selves. What they want in life hasn’t changed. How they define themselves hasn’t changed. The film ends with all four women meeting up at their treehouse, after the birth of Chrissy’s baby. I think we are supposed to find this moment very sweet and endearing, but I always saw it as very sad. It is fairly evident that the girls in the flashbacks have grown apart; watching them interact as women is sort of like bumping in to your best friend from high school who you don’t talk to anymore. It’s not because you two had a fight, or because you no longer like each other, it’s just because life got in the way, and whatever bonds you had were broken by time and distance and that strange transition from adolescence into adulthood. You remember the endless supply of inside jokes and stories you once shared, but you’re afraid to bring them up, because she might not remember, and even if she does, she might not think they’re funny anymore, or that the whole thing is just forced and painful. If the two of you had a time machine in 1999, and saw yourselves as you are today, you would never believe it. It’s a very peculiar thing when you grow up and your friends become complete strangers. I guess that’s why I prefer the ending of Stand by Me. Gordie lays it out as bluntly as possible: the boys grow apart in junior high. More tragedy strikes. Life, however, goes on. Despite the loss of the friendships, Gordie is able to look back on them with a heartbreaking fondness that rings so true it almost hurts. Typing at his desk as an adult, he delivers one of my favorite lines of all time: "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" I don’t know if there will ever be a film that really captures what it is like to be a 12 year old girl. There are too many factors running against it: in order for a film about young girls to be successful, it seems, you need to have some kind of marketing deal, some type of sexed-up pop-star princess tie in that gets the kids excited. Maybe the movie shouldn’t be made for children, but made for adults, the way Stand By Me, with its Rated R rating, was. Perhaps there already is an equivalent out there that I’m missing. If so, you guys should fill me in. Or maybe it is impossible to make a film about us, because it is easier for the world to watch boys come-of-age than to watch girls do it; god forbid we grow up, in this culture of eternal youth and princess glory. But the world, I think, is missing out on something. There was a very quiet beauty in growing up, and though parts of it were awful, and parts of it were strange, I think there is a period in every woman’s childhood that stands out as the time when she began to figure out who she was and where she was going. And though we may not have a “classic” film to represent or explain that time to others, we wear the scars and carry the lessons always. And whatever we learned on playgrounds or kickball fields or at sleepover parties or roller rinks somehow plays a part in the decisions we make today. You may not be friends with the girls you told your secrets to, or had adventures with, or wondered about the future with, but they are somehow always around, even if you’ve forgotten their names, their faces, the sound of their voices; they were, at one time, the vaults you locked the best parts of yourself in. They were the people who liked you for who you were, even if you didn’t know who that person was yet. Maybe nobody does have friends like the ones they have at 12. Or maybe we seek out the best kinds of replacements, the types of friends who, at any age, will take your secrets to the grave and stay up with you on a Saturday night, laughing and laughing about nothing at all. Earlier: 80% Of Women Babes Plan To See Twilight


Share This Story

Get our newsletter



Does anyone else get jealous of other people's nostalgia? Like I remember being 12, but I don't really remember it as being a terribly important part of my life really. I think i have no real memory of "coming-of-age". I remember being a kid, like up to age 10 or so, and the kind of things I did, mostly with my brother. And I remember being a teenager, like from 14 onwards, but those in between years I remember just kinda sucking. Age 12 kinda sucked in general, too old to be a kid, too young to be a woman (thanks britney!) I just went to school, watched Snick on saturday nights, did mad libs on the phone and yeah I had sleepovers and hung-out with my friends, but there were no pivotal moments that remain seared in my brain, no deep conversations about who we were and what it meant. I've always loved Stand By Me, but I always watch it with a feeling of envy over this bond they had, and also felt guilt when the writer at the end says his line about not having friends like the one's when we were 12. I missed out! Why didn't anyone tell me I was meant to be having meaningful conversations?!