At nineteen, I grew up within the wave of YA. “Harry Potter” was still incredibly popular (though J.K Rowling’s transphobia has definitely tainted my memory of the series), “Percy Jackson” was on the rise, and Team Edward and Team Jacob t-shirts were everywhere. And then “The Hunger Games” was released, quickly followed by “Divergent” and a slew of other YA dystopian novels with cool female protagonists. Fast forward a few years, and suddenly I’m older than everyone I looked up to growing up. And I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed this, but there are very few college-aged protagonists. Almost everything is either about high school students or post-grad adults with full time jobs and fancy apartments. And the movies that are made about college students are almost exclusively comedies that fail to actually capture what it means to be in college.
It’s not like there’s a lack of appropriately-aged actors to fill the roles. Instead, we see directors insist on casting nineteen and twenty year olds as high school students as long as they possibly can. Why do creators make a show about sixteen-year-olds but remove everything about being sixteen? Instead they create complicated excuses for why there is virtually no parental supervision, the constant parties and drinking, the general lack of time they actually spend in school, and the fact that the actors are clearly in their twenties (I’m looking at you, “Riverdale”). It would be so much easier to simply make the characters college students, where all of these things can organically occur.
o talk about coming-of-age movies, why aren’t there more about college? College is generally understood as the time for exploration, so why doesn’t the media want to document it? To make the coming of age almost exclusively a high school topic is to imply that people should have it all figured by the time we get to college. Why are these lessons ones that we have to learn before we turn 18, and what does it mean when we don’t? Why don’t we get to see movies about students realizing their major isn’t right for them, or movies about people exploring their sexuality now that they’re finally out of their small town? Why don’t we get to see movies about people making a mess of their newfound college freedom, or any of the other situations that college kids have to face? Is it that college is too complicated for filmmakers to capture, or is it the lack of media-related examples that make it this complicated?
To go from an endless supply of relatable characters to only a handful is jarring, to say the least. It feels like I hit this time in my life where I could really use movies and tv shows about my experiences, fictional characters I could relate to. But for some reason college students are completely skipped over, expecting us to go straight from confused high school students to fully-fledged adults in a matter of seconds.