Having recently watched Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist I got to thinking about the typical American coming-of-age story. I was a little disappointed that this particular film centered around high-school students, as I felt that the dialogue, actions and awareness portrayed by the characters was more typical of an early 20's character. It seems unrealistic to me that high school students would be allowed to traipse around NYC all night, driving, going to clubs, playing in bands, barfing in bus stations, without so much as an ID check from a bouncer, or a phone call from a frantic parental unit. I was reflecting on why this choice was made when it dawned on me that if they were to give these characters 20+ status it would interfere with the whole formula for the American Coming-Of-Age Story. The formula is precise. High school student nears graduation and faces minor or major crisis of identity and life focus. Student must decide what college to attend, and deal with current relationship and living situation in attempt to ready themselves for the roller coaster ride of dorm living collegiate existance. If you were to make a character over 20, still living with their parents, the message you send is that they have no ambition and will not succeed without attending college.
When did this highschool-college-career formula become so prevalent in American cinema? Is it still valid, considering the current economic forecast? Not to mention the amount of post secondary graduates who don't even use their degree in their career, the amount of students who have to work to save money before attending college, and the technology available today that teaches some kids certain things that a computer science grad from 3 years ago couldn't speak to. All this being said, will the coming-of-age story ever see the end of its reign? Or perhaps it is just too close to the hearts of so many to be knocked down a peg or two by the cruel mistress of reality.