Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rebellious Young Teens

Have you noticed that the `rebellious' part of rebellious young teens tend to be an informed ability?  Not that I mind reading about non-rebellious teens.  I just wish people would stop assuming if there's a teenager in the story they must be rebellious even when all evidence points to the contrary. 

I once read a movie review that described Mulan as a rebellious young teen.  Yeah... no.  Trying to save your father by risking your own life may be impulsive, but it's not rebellious, folks, sorry.  You want a rebellious young teen from among the Disney animated ladies, you've got to go with The Little Mermaid.  Ariel is the genuine article when it comes to rebellious.  Nobody can tell her anything (though they sure try).  We meet her exploring a sunken galleon behind her father's back, egging Flounder into joining her, and nearly getting her friend killed as a result.  Sebastian is sent to keep an eye on her, and before you know it he's pulled into lying to his king.  This kid is reckless and it's hurting everyone around her.  (Except Prince Eric, whose life she saves.)

The subterfuge cannot last, and of course it doesn't.  Sebastian turns out to be a lousy lier.  King Triton finds out that his daughter's been regularly risking her life and predictably blows his top.  This is where the eels come in, tempting Ariel into a devil's bargain.  No matter how hurt and angry she is, Ariel loves her dad too much to just swim off to his worst enemy.  She almost resists temptation. 


In the human world Ariel is, for the first time, vulnerable.  In an ironic twist, now that telling the truth would help her, she has no voice.  This time it is Ursula weaving deceptions around Ariel and Prince Eric to make sure Ariel stays indebted and enslaved.  Everything comes crashing down at the end of the second act when Eric finds out who Ariel is just as she turns back into a mermaid and gets dragged under the ocean only to learn that Ursula used her to lay a trap for her father, who takes her place as Ursula's slave. 

Then the climax happens.

In The Little Mermaid the authors actually showed that Ariel was rebellious, they didn't just stick `rebellious young teen' in the tag line and expect you to accept their word for it.  They didn't just leave her swimming around getting her friends in trouble, either.  They took her to the place where her actions have deep consequences; her father enslaved, Prince Eric almost drowned by the eels, her kingdom on the verge of destruction.  Then they have her realize her mistake and fight for her friends.  In the end, to prove that she's really changed, the authors have her reconcile with her dad.  (That bit where she hugs him goodbye makes me tear up every time.)

A rebellious young teen can make for a great protagonist when you give them a good story arc and make sure you're not just using `rebellious' as a synonym for `teen'.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Sorry for the lengthy silence.  I've been spending time with my family here in the real world and fighting off the cold that Would Not Die.  I'll try to post something next week.  (Try is the operative word here.)  In the meantime, I hope you all are having a terrific new year.