Teen culture is dismissed by some as comprising only music, fashion, and vulgar language, but writing this book has taught me that it is much more. It includes the personal, the aesthetic, the educational, the medical, the economic, the political, and the technological elements of American life-- as well as music, fashion, and vulgar language. This book is written for teen and adult readers who want to enter this complex and fascinating territory.
It seems to me that we have a new archetype, that is, the teenager. We have always had the archetype of the youth, the fresh, innocent young person unatainted by the culture around him (and the archetype is usually male). The teenager is the young person, male or female, who is completely immersed in the surrounding culture--its music, its gadgets, its fashions and fads and slang. On the one hand, youth are the shining hope of the future, unspoiled, energetic, and ready for the task ahead. On the other hand, teengers are the eager consumers of everything consumable, and for some they are the curse of the modern world, the representation of all that is wrong with us, the ultimate downfall of our country.
This is why I chose to use the word teen throughout this book. It seemed to avoid the overglamorizing of youth, the sociological tone of adolescent, and the negative Fifties overtones of teenager, while still suggesting all of the above. As I moved through the large task of writing this book, I realized that the contradictions had not disappeared--which is, I suppose, the sign of a true archetype. The image of the "clean teen" beams out from Sunday supplement articles on teens who succeed in sports and school and politics, who stoutly maintain their belief in the American system, who love and