Growing up in the 90s, I had the privilege of being exposed to some very special movies. Between classics like Clueless, can Hardly Wait. And 10 Things I Hate About You, I also grew up with a series of more unique films. That can only be described as early 2000s teen mental health flicks. One of which was thirteen.
Here’s why being “Perfect” Will Ruin Your Life: Paul Haarman
- Thirteen follows Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), who starts 7th grade at a new school. She’s shy, insecure, and intelligent beyond her years, passionate. About salsa dancing despite no one else knowing what it is, and way more mature than any other preteen girl television. Everything seems fine until she meets Evie (the beloved Nikki Reed who’s career peaked in Twilight), a free spirit who quickly becomes her best friend. However, Tracy soon realizes the perks of being cool don’t always outweigh the negatives and after hearing about a party one night, she decides to give it a try. At this party, everyone starts pairing up and using drugs and alcohol until Tracy is left alone with Mr. Popular himself: Ben (the epically hot Thomas Dekker). They start talking and he immediately takes advantage of her naivety by getting her very drunk before doing things that need not be disclosed in an entry such as this.
- Of course enough bad stuff happens that the movie turns into a horrible but realistic 80s slasher flick where nobody believes poor Tracy who’s the real victim because she just wasn’t trying hard enough to fit in at this school.
- So now that you have a general idea of what happens, let’s dive into why it hit home so hard for me as a young thirteen year old. Growing up is really hard. You’re thrown into this world where everyone has different beliefs and attitudes toward life, but are expected to fit in with the norm without much say so. This movie really nails how terrifying growing up can be- especially when you feel like no one understands you or wants to help you through your issues without pressuring or judging you. It also explains how easy it can be to take that first step into breaking away from your parents, even if they’ve been nothing but supportive, because it feels like the right thing to do.
- In my case, I was always a happy child growing up even if I sometimes struggled with worrying about what others thought of me and feeling insecure. It wasn’t until I got to middle school that things started to change for me. Suddenly there were cliques everywhere, people who seemed so much more confident than everyone else. And a system that didn’t seem fair at all. Because of this movie and many other experiences going through similar feelings as a teenager. I could really relate to what poor Tracy was going through- perhaps a little too well. And while adults can watch thirteen and understand why these issues arose. Or how important it is for parents to listen when their children struggle, kids can’t. This is why this movie is so powerful and not only teaches kids to understand themselves. Better but also reminds them that they’re not alone even if it feels like they are.
- Unfortunately, because of the very real impact, Thirteen had on me at such a young age. I carried these feelings with me into my adulthood for years. Before realizing how to handle them (and trust me- it wasn’t easy). Anytime something bothered me or made me uncomfortable. I would shove it away as deep down inside as possible without dealing with it. It’s because that’s what seemed normal growing up. It was only when I started studying psychology in college that everything suddenly snapped. Into place and showed me how much pain I’d been inflicting. On myself by keeping everything bottled up for so long.
Conclusion by Paul Haarman:
This brings us to where things are today- What I want to do with my life. And how this movie specifically played a crucial role in that journey even. If it made me suffer for years before figuring everything out. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to become a psychiatrist or counselor of some sort. In order to help kids who might be suffering from the same fears and concerns I once had growing up. Something deep down inside of me tells me that this is what I’m meant to do.