The idea of the teenager didn't much exist until after World War Two, but the plight of the years bookended by adolescence and adulthood have been the subject of popular culture since Rebel Without A Cause.
I didn't have a seminal, generation-defining movie. Growing up, my favorite John Hughes film was Home Alone. It wasn't until the end of high school that I saw The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, at which point any angst and alienation had been turned wry, weird, and black by Kurt Vonnegut. What I found in those Hughes movies was a burnished, eloquent, cool ennui--a romanticized version of the inarticulate travails I'd been through before. The troubled kids I grew up with were not especially well-spoken or good-looking. The most frustrating aspect of adolescence is the lack of experience, and the failure of your language to organize whatever morass you're slogging through.
From the soil of Hughes grew the chatty erudition of Dawson's Creek. Again, I was a little old for Dawson, and when I'd see the show in passing, the whip-smart rhetoric of these small-town teens seemed highly dubious. No one talked like that. Most people in their twenties couldn't string those lines together. The thing is, the kids that grew up after Dawson's Creek and the John Hughes canon, and Juno actually--to my old ear--talk in this highfalutin', slangy, irony-rich hybrid. Everyone now seems so much cooler, so much smarter than everyone was twenty years ago.
It's odd to think that a puffy, bespectacled thirty-four year old was behind the films that seemed to have articulated the garbled expressions of teen strife. Of course we were all teenagers once, and so long as that dirty bomb that is the pituitary gland ticks, the experience will be similar from generation to generation. In a way, I think it helps to have a stylized version of your ungainliness to refer and escape to in that period. However, I can't help but think that some voice-cracking yawp is being lost the more kids refer to an adult's idea of how their clumsy teen years should look and sound. The meat of those years is about finding your own voice, and I guess I worry about that voice being given instead of found. And I know that's totally a fusty, fuddy old worry to have.