Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Smells like Teen Spirit: Andrew Billen Enters the Scary World of Huge Spots, Stress and Raging Hormones. (Television)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Smells like Teen Spirit: Andrew Billen Enters the Scary World of Huge Spots, Stress and Raging Hormones. (Television)

Article excerpt

"Ask anyone. Fourteen is shit," concluded the Village Voice writer Richard Goldstein in "Gear", his definitive portrait of American adolescence, preserved in Tom Wolfe's anthology The New Journalism. The first programme in BBC1's three-part Teen Species (Wednesdays, 9pm) explained why. And the answer was "puberty".

"Today, we look at the girls, spots and all," enthused the narrator, Amanda Redman. Frankly, I have heard greater come-ons for a television programme. Fortunately, Teen Species had the good judgement to interweave its gee-whiz popular biology, meaningless but colourful close-ups of exploding hormone crystals and pyscho-sound bites, with the stories of five extremely personable girls who had agreed to be filmed and to confide in the cameras over two years. Each illustrated an aspect of the shittiness.

"Unfortunately, Claudia has lost control of her body," intoned Redman, reciting one of those bits of script that you hoped Brass Eye would have made it impossible to write. Claudia was studying ballet and had been fine, until she shot up six inches in a year. Her limbs were growing faster than her muscles (quite normal, incidentally). As a result, she kept falling over.

Sharmaine, from Wolverhampton, rowed incessantly with her mother, from whom she hid the bad news that she had got 37 per cent in a maths exam. "No way is she getting pregnant at 18," said Sharon, who could not at this stage have heard the gloss of Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, a professor of child development. Where better, Brooks-Gunn enthused, than the safety of the family to learn how to argue? Concealment? That was all part of resetting the boundaries" with your parents. Chill, ma.

Poor Alex, meanwhile, had suffered the first intimations of puberty at seven. She was diagnosed by a doctor who took an X-ray of her hands and discovered that she had the cartilage development of a teenager. Her adoptive parents -- who originally assumed that her moods were the legacy of her first five years in a Romanian orphanage -- reached the same conclusion, as their little girl began to need regular showers, deodorants and a razor for her armpits. Alex was a rarity and hormone treatment quickly hatted her blossoming, but, we were told, the onset of puberty at nine is no longer uncommon, thanks to the accelerating effects of all the fat that kids now eat. This makes for a very protracted adolescence indeed -- and even more shit. Girls who experience early puberty are three times as likely to have eating disorders as girls who develop later, twice as likely to have a drug problem, and twice as many attempt suicide. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.