Teen Spirit

Teen Spirit might be a fantastic movie; but, not belonging to the target demographic of teenage girls, I really have no idea and I don’t especially want to know. From my perspective as an irrelevant, middle-aged man, this is a pretty drab attempt at giving a new generation its Flashdance – a cultural touchstone referenced briefly in Teen Spirit. Elle Fanning does nothing to endear herself to this reviewer with her sullen, uncharismatic performance as Violet Valenski, a Polish girl who longs to escape humdrum farm life on the Isle of Wight by winning a singing contest. Supporting player Zlatko Buric is Teen Spirit’s sole saving grace as a washed-up Croatian opera singer and alcoholic, Vlad, who becomes Violet’s voice coach and manager. I suspected the movie was about to become fun and interesting when Vlad takes a shine to Violet’s stubborn mother (Agnieszka Grochowska) and tries to court her; but, alas, this little thread is abandoned in favor of several instantly forgettable Katy Perry tier synthesized musical numbers and brainless teenage drama.

2.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Teen Spirit is:

Anti-Christian. Singing in a choir is boring for Violet, who wants to be the next Gwen Stefani. Her mother gives her a crucifix that belonged to her father, warning that she is unsure whether it brings good or bad luck. Violet, who finally decides to remove it, must come to the conclusion that Jesus is fake news.

Inclusive. Whites, blacks, and mystery meats intermingle freely, and Violet recruits a rock band of odd-looking black youngsters to tour with her.

Disingenuously pro-Slav. In contrast to the villains and prostitutes typically presented by Hollywood as representative Eastern Europeans, Teen Spirit offers Slavs a path to redemption by immigrating to Western Europe and becoming global citizens – in effect, ceasing to be themselves and reproduce their own cultures. Violet does, however, at least appear to stay true to her roots in that the ugly outfit she wears for her climactic performance seems to have been a designer’s botched attempt to glamorize an Adidas tracksuit.

Globalist. The arbitrary choice of the Isle of Wight as a setting appears to have no serious purpose, apart from promoting placelessness, as Teen Spirit might just as well have been set in any other region of the neoliberal West. Like every other such locale, no matter how remote or ancient, it exists as an interchangeable piece of real estate merely waiting to be populated with increasing quantities of diversity. The island ultimately validates its existence by integrating its cultural life with glitzy globohomogeneity. Teen Spirit’s end credits roll to Elle Fanning singing “Wildflowers”, the lyrics of which celebrate lost innocence and cosmopolitan triumphalism: “Every city was our city. Every road was our road.”

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

Rainer is the author of Drugs, Jungles, and Jingoism.