Growing Up in the Golden Age of the Raunchy Teen Comedy

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Thousands of undergrads return to classes on campuses throughout the nation today. It’s a time of year that always makes me just a little bit more nostalgic than usual for my own college days.

I still remember some of the most mundane details about the week leading up to my first day as a college freshman — details like what movies I watched. Before shipping off from my small, mountainous hometown for the desert oasis that is the University of Arizona, I joined a group of high school friends one last trip to the local cinema to take in American Pie 2.

That same week, I purchased Road Trip for the DVD player I had just recently picked up. That DVD player played a pivotal role in my freshman year, and Road Trip was just one of the teen comedies that got repeat play.

Indeed, the Raunchy Teen Comedy had a role in my early college days. I even attended the filming location for one of the classics of the genre, Revenge of the Nerds. For two years, I lived on the same street as the Alpha Beta house “burned down” in the movie’s opening scenes.

Among my regrets from my undergrad days: I never participated in a beer-drinking tricycle race around the UA Campus Mall.

Damn you, unrealistic expectations set by Raunchy Teen Comedy, which were very much a real thing. I was prepared to arrive on campus and be a Seann William Scott character, when in reality, I was Trip McNeely.

For the uninitiated, Raunchy Teen Comedy is an unofficial, albeit universally accepted label for the genre of film focused on either high schoolers or college undergrads. Sex may not be the central plot point, but it certainly plays a role in any raunchy teen comedy worth its salt.

As a product of the genre’s Golden Age, the teen comedy genre holds a special place in my heart. And the late 1990s into the early 2000s were indeed the genre’s Golden Age, producing a litany of titles both memorable and forgettable — neither of which Hollywood seems particularly interested in the late 2010s.

Though the turn of millennium marks the height of the genre, we have to rewind two decades from then to fully appreciate the Raunchy Teen Comedy.

1978’s Animal House and 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont are the Godfathers of the genre, truly timeless comedy classics that transcend the label despite providing the blueprint. My first introduction to Fast Times — still one of my favorite films to this day — also came in the week prior to my first day of college.

The publication you can blame for me getting my start in media, The Arizona Daily Wildcat, mailed a special edition for incoming freshman earlier in the summer. I distinctly remember an advice column that issued pretty standard tips for surviving campus. Among them was explaining tardiness or absences to professors, which the author said would be met with understanding — so long as the prof wasn’t Mr. Hand from Fast Times.

Having never seen the film, I knew then it was as much a must as purchasing new bedding for the oddly sized dorm mattress. I made the 100-yard walk across State Route 89 to the local video store that is now a medical supply shop and grabbed a copy on VHS.

My life was forever changed. I conservatively estimate I have now seen Fast Times 77 times in the past 16 years, and I have judiciously sprinkled references to the film in various writings. Jefferson is an especially fitting topic for shout-outs in my career covering college football.

Of course, anyone who enjoys weaving pop culture into football would be remiss if she or he neglected Varsity Blues. The exploits of Jonathan Moxon and the West Kanaan Coyotes are of particular significance to me; Varsity Blues was the first R-rated film I sneaked into. The second was American Pie, an honor I owe to the older girl with whom I shared an It’s Complicated relationship during the summer of 1999.

American Pie is perhaps the most well-remembered of the Raunchy Teen Comedy Golden Age, often considered the millennium’s Fast Times. Pie stands out from a crowded marketplace of the era. Some of the more noteworthy titles from 1998 to 2001 include:

Can’t Hardly Wait

10 Things I Hate About You (which was a doubly trendy film, also riding the wave of Shakespeare remakes that were popular at the time.)

She’s All That

Jawbreaker

The Wood

Bring It On

Wet Hot American Summer (getting a nostalgic sequel on Netflix!)

Road Trip

Summer Catch

American Pie 2 unofficially marked the beginning of the end for the genre’s box office dominance. The jokes were retreads, and the heart of the original was gone — a fitting microcosm for the Raunchy Teen Comedy’s status as a whole.

Just don’t tell 18-year-old me that.