Have you seen any good teen rom-coms lately? Or, rather, they don’t even have to be rom-coms. They could just be movies featuring teenagers. What’s the most unrealistic part? OK, ignore the wizardry or vampiric tendencies, but aside from the supernatural, what do you see?
Perfect skin, perfect teeth, perfect hair!
For real, y’all. The way the media portrays teenagers runs the line of absurd. Plus, most of the “teenage” actors are in their early 20s (as we all learned from Grease and Saved by the Bell, amiright?).
I recently became acquainted with Miranda Barnes, a teenage girl who used her opportunity to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award and draw attention to this teenage misrepresentation. Miranda created a website, The True Face of Teenage Beauty, which uses photography to showcase adolescent beauty in its truest sense. She hopes to promote self-esteem and lower an impossible standard.
Since I love this idea and found it uniquely inspiring, I thought I’d share her story with you lovely people.
Why does “Hollywood” choose to represent teens with older actors? How does this affect teens?
I am of the belief that it’s mostly because teenage features are viewed as ugly. And since everything in TV and movies is a prettier, more glamorous, more exciting version of real life, it’s, of course, unthinkable to portray unconventionally attractive features as a normal part of everyday life.
Even if teens aren’t being played by actual teens solely because of a lack of actors, this issue is still so ignored and glossed over that it’s incredibly easy to forget what we see in media isn’t real. My mission isn’t to completely change Hollywood, but to raise awareness about this specific part of the problem in an effort to get my peers to feel seen, to feel normal, and to love themselves in spite of what we see on screen.
Why do you feel like you need/want to do something like this project?
To put it simply, it’s because I’m a teenager, and my friends and I hate ourselves. Once I realized there’s no logical reason to think braces are ugly or to make fun of people with acne, I wondered why we think that in the first place. The answer was very clear as soon as I noticed the complete lack of teenagers in media that actually looked like me or my friends. So, to fix the problem, I figured I needed to go to the source.
How would our culture change if teens could embrace their natural beauty instead of comparing to an unreachable standard?
If we as teens could grow up with people like us, played by people like us in the media, we could see that it’s possible to be pretty even when you have perfectly normal acne, braces, glasses, or anything else. Then, the self-esteem and happiness levels of teens would be drastically better, and the stereotype of the depressed, moody, self-hating teen could finally end.
As it is, teenagers struggle with feeling invisible, but this just spreads the message that how we look isn’t appropriate for the public eye. If we spent our developing years with a mindset of self-love rather than the opposite, it would positively impact the self-esteem of teens now, and even later in life, once those habits are set.
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself? What do you like to do?
I’m an artist through and through. I’ll do any kind of art there is, which is why I wanted to base this project around photography. I’d love to go into illustration or graphic design in college.
Can you explain what a Girl Scout Gold Award is?
Of course! The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn. It can only be done as a senior or ambassador (the two highest levels; I’m an ambassador), requires 80 hours of community service, and must make a lasting impact in the community. I usually describe it as like earning the Eagle Scout rank, since they are recognized as equal achievements, but the Girl Scout’s is quite a bit more difficult in my opinion.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just one more note about Girl Scouts I’d like to mention. A lot of people are confused when I say I’m a Girl Scout since it’s pretty rare for someone to keep up with Scouts through the end of high school. But it’s a lot more than cookies and crafts once you get up to higher levels, and it helped me develop the leadership skills and assertiveness that I really struggled with when I was younger. It’s a lot more about encouraging strong women to be leaders than it is about cute kids selling cookies.
Doesn’t she sound cool? I wish I’d had a strong friend like Miranda when I was in high school. It hurts my heart to hear a teenager say she and her friends hate themselves and they way they look. What can we, as older members of our society, do to encourage those coming up the road behind us? For me, I previously shared about how it took years to truly feel comfortable in my own skin. I wish there were a way for us to help others feel that much, much sooner. Hang in there, young friends!
Definitely check out Miranda’s website. I love how she has a slider to demonstrate her project’s effect. It’s such a simple thing, but could have such grand impact.
What do you think? Is Hollywood doing a grave injustice to the next generation? What can we do?