‘I wish I’d been a teen idle, wish I’d been a prom queen fighting for the title’ laments Marina Diamandis on her beautiful new album, Electra Heart. Americana is never far from the singer’s thoughts. Electra Heart is an alter-ego, a fading starlet. On earlier single Hollywood, Marina sang how Hollywood led her to expect ‘kisses in the rain’. It’s only recently, since my very own prom queen race was announced, and the subsequent awakening of my competitive streak, that I realised how much America has influenced my thought processes too.
Children born after 1970 are the children of American import television. Star Trek was first shown on BBC1 in 1969, and since then glossy US imports have filled our screens. Hollywood has been the principal manufacturer of cinema since the advent of the concept. As a child, growing up in the eighties, I was OBSESSED with anything American. I wouldn’t even watch British-made TV. I wonder to this day if young people, and more saliently, young readers, are as spellbound as I was by all things American.
British drama just felt so GRIMY and SERIOUS and WORTHY. Everything in Grange Hill and Byker Grove seemed so monochrome and gritty. At the time, I didn’t give two shits about how well written Children’s Ward or Press Gang were. I wanted the sun drenched shores of Baywatch and the whitened smiles of Saved By The Bell. As ground breaking as heroin addiction at Grange Hill was, I was much more interested in Jessie Spano’s twenty minute addiction to caffeine pills.
All-American High Schools seemed so much more glamorous than my dreary Grammar in West Yorkshire. At the time, the fact that all the ‘teens’ were being played by actors in their twenties didn’t really concern me. Beverly Hills 90210, California Dreams, Maxie’s World, Jem and the Holograms and Out of this World were my one way ticket out of reality and into a world of cheerleaders, prom queens, homecoming dances, drive-thrus and letterman jackets.
Andy from The Goonies is my earliest memory of pin-up cheerleader perfection. She’s beautiful, popular, blonde and rocks a pair of tube socks like no other. As a child the fact that she’s purely there as ‘the pretty girl’ was totally overlooked. I’m gonna put this out there – I don’t know a lot of children who worry about whether characters on TV are good feminist role-models.
My obsession continued well into my teens and beyond. Sunset Beach got me through my A-Levels. Also, if you haven’t seen Heathers, do so NOW. Just put down what you’re doing and watch it. As I got older, I was ready to dissect the culture I was craving and appreciate that all that glittered is far from gold. That said, my love for Clueless, and its bubblegum pop art colourfulness, remains to this day. I don’t care what high school is like, in my head everyone is having nose jobs and living in mansions. David LaChapelle, noted fashion photographer, seems to have the same taste for hyper-Americanism as I do. If you aren’t familiar with his portraits of Britney, Lil Kim and Dolly Parton, I’d recommend them.
The thing is, I still have no desire to watch Shameless or Eastenders. To me, they’re still grim. I’ll take Ringer and Glee thanks. Hell, I even watch the rebooted 90210. Hollow Pike is something of a hybrid. I almost took the British characters and transposed them into an American high school in Yorkshire. I suppose I wanted to represent those young people in the UK who, like me, secretly want to be cheerleaders and ‘quarterbacks’ (no, I have no idea, either). The difficulty was in creating characters who are aspirational but real to a UK readership. I think you can do both. I can hear you screaming ‘WHY SHOULD EFFING YA CHARACTERS HAVE TO BE ASPIRATIONAL?’ and my answer is, because I wanted them to be.
Being nominated for the Queen of Teen Award has brought out the Molly Ringwald in me. At my old school, had we had a prom queen, there is a very real possibility that, like Kurt in Glee, I would have been nominated as a cruel prank. I’d have gone full-tilt Carrie White, but still. Now that I’m nominated, you can’t help but picture the moment the music stops and, wide-eyed and hand on chest, you make your way through the student body and streamers to collect the crown.
I can’t help it. Hollywood infected my brain, I wanted kisses in the rain.
You can helped my DOOMED OBSESSION by voting for me HERE!