I was involved in a long Empire Records ‘quote-off’ with Brooke of Blonde Ambition last night (you know, where you riff back and forward with quotes from – usually – a cult movie), and it got me thinking that 1995, when Empire Records was released, was a pretty intense year for me.
I was 14, and in my second year of high school at one of the more exclusive private schools on the Sunshine Coast. My father had just left my mum, brother and I, to live a jaunty life of new women and weekday yacht sailing. I wore a back brace all day every day (thanks scoliosis), had a very small group of friends, wasn’t invited to many parties, and whilst I had discovered boys… they had not yet discovered me.
I struggled to express myself verbally, so when Empire Records hit the screen, with all the angst that only the 90’s could offer, I felt like I’d found characters who were as messed up as I was. (Disclaimer: in hindsight, I had a pretty good life. Thanks Mum.)
Working in a high school now, watching teenage girls struggle with all the same kinds of dramas that my friends and I went through – but with the added stresses of technology and early sexualisation – I wonder how teens these days manage to express themselves without such killer lines as ‘We mustn’t dwell… no, not today. We CAN’T. Not on Rex Manning Day.’
Here are my top life lessons for teens, as taught by the indie kids of Empire Records.
For me, the dynamic between good-girl Corey and fun-loving free spirit Gina is my favourite part of Empire Records. They secretly love each other in a weird ‘I wanna be you’ kind of way, and the movie ends with both girls understanding and appreciating some of those differences.
Also, safe-sex lessons. There are plenty of safe-sex cautionary tales in this sarcasm-fuelled relationship.
The recalcitrant shoplifter Warren is a kooky kid with some eclectic taste in CDs, and I guess his message to the youth of the 90’s is that you should love what you love. If you like weird ukelele music from Eastern Europe, like it hard. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t like it. Same goes for fashion and style, do your own thing, try something that your friends aren’t trying. We’re not all meant to be clones… even as teenagers searching for our clique.
His tough-love boss Joe is here to tell him that it doesn’t need to be hard. It really doesn’t. Sometimes we (and I clearly mean ME) overthink things to the point that they can’t be said, and unless we have written instructions, the words never come out.
Be your own tough-love boss, and make yourself say the things you feel. Even if they come out awkward (and they 99% will come out awkward, move on).
Which 90’s movie coaxed you through the awkwardness and pain of your teen years? Any of your fave Empire Records quotes that I missed?