Puberty Blues: Old vs new

Puberty Blues, 1981

Hit and miss

Puberty Blues: Old vs new

27 October 2012 | 8:30 am

The trials and tribulations of teen angst are a winning formula in film and television, but is it really necessary to rehash and remake past successes?

Puberty Blues the TV series is the latest offering in a long list of remakes. Sure it’s entertaining and looks great, but does it offer anything new that the original film failed to cover?

Hit: Puberty Blues (1981)

Puberty Blues, the iconic Australian film that all of us have heard of and most of us have seen, hit the screens with an explosion when it was released in 1981. Following hot on the heels of the 1979 book by teenagers Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey, the Bruce Beresford film created a sea of controversy with its graphic depiction of teenage sex and drug taking.

It’s a raw, dark film, and even today the blatant misogyny of the boys and submission of the girls is very difficult to watch. At the time, the book and film were groundbreaking, showing Australia that teenagers were getting up to a lot more at the beach than just surfing, sunbaking and eating Chiko Rolls.

Miss: Puberty Blues (2012)

There’s no doubt about it, the TV series is very slick and entertaining. With a stellar cast including Claudia Karvan and Dan Wyllie, it’s hard to put a foot wrong. It evokes the feeling of a Big M ad with its warm lighting and gorgeous bikini-clad teens, but it all seems too beautiful. It has a lightness that makes it easier to watch than the original and doesn’t shock in the same way because our society has changed so much. And sorry to all you beach babes, but why do we have to be subjected to another Aussie beach series? Surely there’s more to our culture than surf and sand?

There are so many more relevant stories that need to be told. We should give new writers a chance to express what’s going on with youth today instead of safely rehashing past hits. With mobile phones, the internet and party drugs, teenagers today live in a far more complicated world and their actions can potentially affect the rest of their lives.

And surely we’ve moved beyond depicting only the Anglo-Irish portion of our society on screen? With so many rich cultures living in Australia today, it’s sad to still only see a token European and Asian character (often caricatured) on TV.

The verdict

Sure, Puberty Blues was a story that needed to be told in 1981, but in 2012 it’s a look to the past that says, “My, how things have changed.” Have they? Well, how about being brave enough to show us.

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