The New Coming Of Age
I’ve always loved and been consumed with watching coming-of-age films. I’m not sure if it’s because most of these stories are often set in the past (I have a habit of looking back at things through rose-colored glasses, which some people theorize helps increase self-esteem and a person's overall sense of well-being. Yup, sounds about right.) or because I have a narrative about my own teenage years that definitely includes the combined soundtracks of The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Say Anything, Clueless, Almost Famous….well, I could go on….playing in the background.
Mostly, I think I’m drawn to this genre because I’m always rooting for the underdog, I’m constantly romanticizing teenage angst, and I’ve always felt like the awkward kid that never quite fit into any particular scene. I’m not sure if that feeling has ever really gone away and honestly, I’ve embraced all of it over the years. Most importantly, I’m thrilled to now fully confirm I didn’t peak in high school. Thank god.
As you can probably tell, I grew up watching a lot of stories crafted by the remarkable John Hughes. Man, how I yearned to live in that world. But as life goes, age forces us to look back at phases in our lives through more of a black-and-white lens. Adulting, am I right?
Reflection has taught me that those coming-of-age films that I would watch repeatedly were never really meant for me. I could not genuinely belong in that world because ultimately, I never saw myself on screen.
Watching Definition, Please-written, produced, and directed by Sujata Day-helped remedy my broken “I am Molly Ringwald” heart. The film tells a heart-warming story about a South Asian female protagonist who is having her own arrested development moment in life, a story about a first-generation Indian-American going through the day-to-day challenges of cultural and familial obligations that are unique to our community.
More than writing our very own coming-of-age story, Day forces us to think about topics such as how the model minority myth affects us and why the topic of mental illness is brushed under the rug within our own homes. The best part for me is that Monica (played by Sujata Day herself), was real. The film didn’t portray her as this glamorous Bollywood starlet, a perfect Instagram picture cut and pasted onto the screen. This was a real Indian-American woman facing obstacles, however large or mediocre, that many of us have had to deal with. And really, if you can tell a great story through portraying the everyday humdrum, well, you’re doing something right in my book.
Look, at the end of the day, a part of me will always want to be in detention with the crew from The Breakfast Club. The difference is that now, someone who looks like me, someone who definitely has the soundtrack ready for her own coming-of-age/arrested development movie, could be the one fist-pumping in the last shot.