Movies + TV

Great Romances of Teen Cinema, Revisited

My life will never be like 10 Things I Hate About You, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

I recently turned 20, which means I’m officially retired from being a teen. For my first act as a crotchety old person, I’d like to to tell you a hard truth I learned during those not-too-distant years: Your romantic experiences are never going to be like the ones in teen movies. I know, I know—you wish your life could be directed by John Hughes. But that’s impossible for a number of reasons, chief among them being that no one can direct your life except for you…unless, of course, you’re the star of a reality show (and if you’re a Kardashian who happens to be reading this article, please know I am available for adoption at all times).

Now, I’m not saying any romantic dalliances you might have as a teenager will be devoid of their own kind of wonder and intrigue—there’s no doubt that you’ll experience more of feelings than you might ever expect right now, and they’ll be way cooler than the ones you’ve swooned over onscreen because they’ll be real. It’s just that they probably won’t involve frenching Ryan Gosling in the rain.

But don’t feel bad! Because if you think about it, none of those swoony movie romances could survive in our modern world. I have in fact thought about it, and I have some predictions. (And while it may seem like I’m ragging on the internet and how it’s totally destroyed romance, the truth is that these scenarios were always unrealistic, regardless of the existence of Wifi.) As you’ll soon discover, even the greatest of cinematic romances are best left on the DVDs in your parents’ living room.

1. The Boombox Scene From Say Anything

SCENARIO: Even if you haven’t seen this movie, you’re probably familiar with this scene: The protagonist, Lloyd, is trying to win back the love of his ex, Diane, by standing outside her window and holding up a boombox that’s blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” the song that was playing when they lost their virginities to each other. Somehow, it totally works—she takes him back.

As with many iconic scenes that feature grand displays of love and ardor, there’s a solid chance that this would come across as cringe-inducing and stalker-y if it hadn’t been scripted. And don’t even get me started on the idea of throwing rocks at a girl’s bedroom window. Like, god forbid the glass should break, because if there is one thing I find incredibly unsexy, it’s PROPERTY DAMAGE.

MODERN-DAY REALITY: A boy lugs his iHome over to your house and stands outside your window. He plugs his iPhone into the speaker, raises its volume all the way to the top in preparation, and opens up his Spotify app. He presses play on “In Your Eyes,” but instead of the classic love song, you hear, “THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, SHOW YOUR FAMILY YOU CARE BY GIVING THEM THE GIFT OF HOT ’N’ FLAKY PILLSBURY CRESCENT ROLLS.” Well, well, well…seems as though someone couldn’t even upgrade to premium for his big fancy scheme to get you back. As you listen to the commercial, you don’t even get out of bed. Instead, you just think, Hmm, I could really go for some dinner rolls right about now.

2. The Jake Ryan Leaning on His Red Car Scene From Sixteen Candles

SCENARIO: After learning that Molly Ringwald’s character, Sam, likes him, heartthrob Jake looks through his yearbook to find a picture of her, under which her HOME PHONE NUMBER is listed because this movie is basically set in the Stone Age. He calls, but her zany grandparents pick up and thwart his attempts at courtship. This leads him on a search for her, which comes to a head when he conveniently comes across the church where her sister’s wedding is taking place and suavely perches his body against his car as she exits. They head to his house, where a birthday cake is waiting. How he knows it’s her birthday or has time to acquire a custom-frosted cake is pure cinematic magic/lying.

Another unsettling aspect of this movie is that Jake embarks on this heroic quest knowing nothing about Sam beyond than her ability to make intensely awkward eye contact with him. OK, sure, he wants to get to know her better—I’m just saying that, if periods of intense awkward eye contact elicited such outsize responses in real life, I would probably have boys showing up outside of my house on an hourly basis.

MODERN-DAY REALITY: Upon learning of your existence, the person you’re crushing on simply Facebook-stalks you. They see that it’s your birthday, but instead of showing up with a cake to wherever you’re hanging out with your family, they takes Facebook’s incredibly helpful suggestion of sending you a virtual Starbucks gift card with a value between $5 and $10. You’re mostly confused, but also somewhat excited that you now have enough money to buy most of a complicated latte.

3. The Computer Chat Scene From Pretty In Pink

SCENARIO: Blane, a rich, blazer-wearing dreamboat, proves to Andie, his unlikely love interest from the other side of the tracks, that he likes her during a surprise IM session in their school’s library. Instead of just coming out and telling her who he is right away, he sends her their yearbook photos, which demonstrates that he’s put actual thought into approaching her. They stand up in the library, lock eyes, and smile, radiating ~fresh love~.

This scene is incredibly romantic when you consider that, since this movie was made in the ’80s, decades before the invention of Google Image Search, it must’ve taken Blane hours (maybe days?!) to acquire and upload TWO pictures on those prehistoric-looking computers.

MODERN-DAY REALITY: Someone snapchats you a cringe-inducing class picture of you that he found in his middle school yearbook. You are mostly spooked because you have no idea who it’s from, considering that the sender’s username is “notliketheotherguys69420,” and you’d rather not be reminded about your penchant for wearing blush as eye shadow (you thought it was the same thing back then). You choose not to screenshot it.

4. The Rain Scene From The Notebook

SCENARIO: Our heroes, Noah and Allie, reunite years after the summer when they fell in love as teenagers and were cruelly torn apart by her disapproving parents. Noah reveals to Allie that, despite their separation, he never stopped loving her—in fact, he wrote her letters every day for a year! Her mom just hid them all because he was poor! They passionately kiss in the rain (because there’s just something about humidity and raindrops obscuring your vision that makes people really hot for each other).

MODERN-DAY REALITY: That cutie you met and fell in love with when your family went on a weeklong cruise immediately sends you a Facebook friend request upon returning to shore. You realize that their only profile pictures are a selfie they took three years ago with a caption that reads, “chillin in the JC Penney dressing room,” and a Conspiracy Keanu meme, so you lose interest and stop responding to their IMs. Long after you’ve forgotten about them, they send you a message that says “I SENT YOU 365 REQUESTS. I SENT YOU 365 CANDY CRUSH REQUESTS EVERY DAY FOR A YEAR.” Unlike Allie and her letters, you got every one of them, although you wish you hadn’t.

5. The “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” Scene from 10 Things I Hate About You

SCENARIO: Bad boy (with a heart of gold!) Patrick has been paid by classmates to win over ice queen (also with a heart of gold!) Kat, but it turns out—surprise!—he’s actually falling in love with her. To prove it, he takes over the school’s loudspeaker system, recruits the marching band, and stages an elaborate musical performance to impress her.

MODERN-DAY REALITY: Your suitor arranges a Vine symphony of your favorite song, and it goes viral amongst your classmates. Wait—that’s actually pretty sweet!

The good news is that the internet is actually helping the human race beat out baby goats for the title of cutest species in existence. We now live in a glorious age when people’s phones include all the technology necessary to organize and record an entire flash mob to ask someone to a dance! Like, watch that happen in this video and tell me it doesn’t stack up with any of the scenes above:

Even though I’ll always love teen movies for their beautiful misunderstanding of how actual human interaction works, I cherish living in the real world, complete with all of its awkward Snapchats and unwanted Candy Crush requests, even more: We’re lucky enough to live in a time when a means to show someone you care for them is always at your fingertips. If a teenager wants to woo his or her crush, they can order a pizza online, specifically ask that the pepperoni spell out “Prom?” and watch in real time as it’s delivered to the person of their dreams! Forget a boombox outside a window—that’s what I call romance. ♦


  • bookworm123 January 7th, 2014 7:12 PM

    “because there’s just something about humidity and raindrops obscuring your vision that makes people really hot for each other.”
    Fab article wow is rookie on point this month or wHAT

  • Alex S. January 7th, 2014 7:13 PM

    This is amazing

  • sn0wwhite January 7th, 2014 7:15 PM

    This is exactly everything that I felt when I turned 20 and realized I never had a John Hughes moment.

    The week after I turned 20, I met my long distance boyfriend at the airport. It was so cinematic all that was missing was OMD playing in the background.

  • January 7th, 2014 7:27 PM

    Jake Ryan is the most horrifying romantic hero of all time! In exchange for Sam’s panties, he tells Ted he can have sex with Caroline if he drives her home, despite the fact that she is clearly too drunk to consent. He then tries to convince Caroline that Ted is him. Ted date rapes Caroline, though the fact that she likes waking up in his arms magically makes this ok. Also, the depiction of Long Duk Dong is really racist.

  • Belinda January 7th, 2014 7:41 PM

    gabby if i were a kardashian i would adopt you

  • rhymeswithorange January 7th, 2014 7:43 PM


  • Ana January 7th, 2014 8:10 PM

    hahaha! This is amazing!

  • littlediamonds January 7th, 2014 8:35 PM

    I’m laughing so much at this! The “and you’d rather not be reminded about your penchant for wearing blush as eye shadow (you thought it was the same thing back then)” line hit a little too close, tho, ha ha. But regardless of the fact that this would never happen to me and probably to anyone nowadays, i still totally love the scene where Heath sings in 10 things. He was so dreamy.

  • paige.xo January 7th, 2014 8:41 PM

    rookie is really working 2014. go gabby

  • sophiethewitch January 7th, 2014 8:48 PM

    “total bitch Kat”
    …not something I would expect to read on rookie. Especially since the things that supposedly make her a “total bitch” are that she’s a feminist, a riot grrrl, and happens to not be interested in dating the guys in her high school.

    I liked the article, but that seemed unnecessary.

    Unless maybe I’m being an idiot and flipping out over something that was obviously sarcastic? If that’s the case I’m really sorry.

    • Amy Rose January 7th, 2014 10:06 PM

      Hey, Sophie. I think you make a really good point. I don’t think Gabby meant “bitch” as a pejorative, but I can see how someone might read it that way, and I should have picked up on that while I edited this awesome piece. I’m gonna adjust the wording—thanks for your thoughts here!

      • sophiethewitch January 7th, 2014 10:28 PM

        Thank you for responding and changing it! I really appreciate it. And, for the record, in case there was any doubt: Rookie is the best, and Gabby is the best.

  • Microbyte1 January 7th, 2014 10:00 PM

    the notebook one is my fave, hahaha!

  • Mattie January 7th, 2014 10:12 PM

    This is hilarious and I laughed out loud for real, yet my heart is broken, and I was unimpressed by the prom proposal. Prom is lame, like I’m going to it, but it’s un-fun because everyone acts happy for an hour then leaves because they want to go get drunk. But I’m still going, just because I just like need an opportunity to wear a puffy vintage dress for like once, in my life, okay.

    P.S. Lloyd Dobler is the cutest, am I not right? He is the epitome of cute? He’s like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, only fake.

    P.P.S. 10 Things I Hate About You is a gem and I cry because I will always love Heath Ledger and his talent.

    UGH. Like this post makes me laugh and cry I don’t know what to feel.

    • Amy Rose January 7th, 2014 10:16 PM

      Hello, ya sweetness. Sorry you’re feeling heartbreak-y. As far as prom goes, Gabby actually wrote a really rad piece about why going to school dances is great (even if you DO end up hating it) that might make you feel a little more excited about going to yours. Plus, you’ll get to wear that dress!

      • Kirthi January 8th, 2014 7:41 AM

        Yeah i thought the prom video was too corny . But probably because I’m jealous I’ll never have one. Damn you India and its arranged marriage!!

  • e1znekcaM January 7th, 2014 10:50 PM

    10 Things I Hate About You melts my heart. Heath Ledger was so cute. RIP.

  • lexjuly January 7th, 2014 11:07 PM

    Love this post. Except for the band part, their horn angles are terrible and they lack a colorguard :( Blue Knights does Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You so much better. If you understood that last bit, i love you, come talk to me. I love the cheesy teenage romance. Rock on Rookie!

  • Hales January 7th, 2014 11:35 PM

    The dinner rolls part killed me. I’ve always hated those Spotify commercials, maybe now they won’t be so bad. Also, I love every single one of these movies. I can’t help but live vicariously through the non-realistic depictions of high school romances. Sometimes I long for the days before crappy cell phone romances, but you’ve opened my eyes to all the good possibilities!

  • llamalina January 8th, 2014 12:02 AM

    I love this; as much as I love my John Hughes movies, I’d much rather have them stay that way- movies. A pepperoni prom pizza proposal sounds muuuch more romantic (but can it just be spelled out in pineapple or something? I’m a vegetarian plz & thnx). Rookie just keeps banging out these fantastic and perfect articles.

  • Pearl January 8th, 2014 12:04 AM

    I like how you started with words of wisdom by stating that “Yeah, all this is not particularly going to happen IRL and the movies hold an unnecessary standard against romanticism in general.”
    Also I love your modern day takes of romantic movies!
    P for Pearl

  • LexiV January 8th, 2014 12:24 AM

    The “if periods of intense awkward eye contact elicited such outsize responses in real life, I would probably have boys showing up outside of my house on an hourly basis.” is too perfect omg

  • thegrumpygirl January 8th, 2014 2:48 AM

    I blame you, Rookie, for an upcoming Romantic Teen Movie Night. That is, my wife will blame you. I am just thrilled I now have someone to pin it on ;)

  • honorarygilmoregal January 8th, 2014 3:39 AM

    Haha! My favorite part is what you wrote about the guy not ev even willing to update to Spotify premium in order to win back a girl. This whole article made me laugh. Teen romances in movies are so sweet but also hilariously unrealistic.

  • diniada13 January 8th, 2014 6:11 AM

    This is hilarious oh god ily Gabby. I need to be reminded on daily basis that things like these only happens in movies (and should stay that way!), and maybe my life wouldn’t seem so bad. Also yay for Molly Ringwald!

  • onlykhenzo January 8th, 2014 6:37 AM

    This article was the beysus!
    10 Things I Hate About You will always be special because it’s always reminded me that no matter how much of an ice queen I am/may seem, Heath Ledger will sing to me and buy me a guitar and love me forever <3 <3 <3

  • Flossy Mae January 8th, 2014 11:45 AM

    This article made me laugh, but it was also slightly depressing – did anyone else feel that? I mean maybe I’m just a romantic and part of me really wants to hope that romance still exists among teenagers today, but I kind of disagree with Gabby’s dismissal of it. I totally get her point about the absolute cheesiness of teen films, and the way we must accept they are not real, but the prom video felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be like a teen film. There are loads of really cute romantic gestures that I believe still exist that could have been used to better illustrate the point, rather than making our generation sound doomed. But a good article anyways x

    • Cerise January 8th, 2014 11:03 PM

      Yeah, I laughed, too, but I also don’t think romance is dead among teens. Although, to be honest, I don’t really think Gabby necessarily thinks that either, since this was a humor piece.

      Anyway. I think it just really depends on the people and what they’re into. I’ve known couples who wrote love letters and went swing dancing together, and I’ve also known couples who were cute and romantic with their Pokemon and Marvel references. I think often what makes something romantic is the meaning behind it for the people involved. So, yeah, something can be cheesy (and maybe weird) to someone on the outside, but for the people in question, it could be all sparkles and cartoon hearts.

      I agree with the thing about teen films, though, and think sometimes we feel like we have to replicate that, but the thing about our romantic relationships is that they’re *ours*. We don’t need to borrow from someone else’s story when we get to make up our own. (Although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being inspired with someone’s romantic gesture, fictional or no) Just do what works for you and the person you love.

  • Hebe January 8th, 2014 12:25 PM

    this is my favorite EVER article

  • Melissa @ WildFlowerChild January 8th, 2014 3:12 PM

    Killing it!!


  • elliecp January 8th, 2014 4:43 PM

    this is so true…movies are so different to real life!

  • Moonshoes January 8th, 2014 6:27 PM

    This article crushed my dreams but in a nice, funny way… which is probably better than actually having to come to this realization on my own. Love.

  • christinachristina January 8th, 2014 7:18 PM

    According to Ted Mosby, how a romantic gesture is received all comes down to whether or not both people like each other or not – the Dobler vs. Dahmer theory:–the-dobler-dahmer-theory

  • Dominique January 9th, 2014 12:52 AM

    If I may add one amazing video to your really well though post that reminded me of all my silly teenage dreams, I would say Seth Cohen and Summer, first season, first kiss. Tears still drop from my eyes every time I watch it in an akward/embarassing way. :]

  • lotusmarina January 9th, 2014 2:42 AM

    This post was a good one, but I thought it may have been a little too… intense, maybe? I totally get that some teens (me included) sometimes get hurt because of these type of movies, they get false expectations etc. just like you said. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying a good fictional movie once in a while. With movies you escape from reality and I think that if you want to that once in a while, then that’s all g, and it shouldn’t be ridiculised…
    Huge fan of Rookie, just not so much of this article.. But, again, this is only my opinion! : )

  • Erin. January 9th, 2014 11:11 AM

    My heart breaks every time I see Heath Ledger.

  • lexilikes January 9th, 2014 12:46 PM

    This is brilliant.

  • SWaters92 January 9th, 2014 4:27 PM

    This literally is the best thing ever! Can’t wait to fall in love all over again with this season’s TV!

  • profanepartykitten January 10th, 2014 5:10 PM

    This is such a different outlook from the, “ugh I wish my life was like the movies,” and I really appreciated it!

  • anaisabel13 January 10th, 2014 11:24 PM

    The Pretty in Pink one is hilarious! As much as I’ve always wanted to EMBODY a John Hughes movie, you gotta take everything with a grain of salt. Sorry for the cliche.

  • Alia. January 11th, 2014 2:41 PM

    I disagree. I watch these movies because they make me feel happy, not because I want to overanalyze and pick apart and compare my life to the people in these movies. I’d much rather watch the movies happily than intentionally depress myself like this article did. I appreciate the articles on Rookie, but I think this one really missed the boat.