Meet the last teenagers who haven’t been ruined by reality TV

In theory, today’s teenagers should be too self-aware to make compelling documentary subjects. Having grown up with reality TV their

In theory, today’s teenagers should be too self-aware to make compelling documentary subjects. Having grown up with reality TV their whole lives, they would seem too savvy to reveal their true selves in front of a camera, let alone serve as the subject matter for a refreshingly honest portrait of how high-schoolers really live — which is exactly what American Teen provides.

Opening July 25, the latest film from director Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture) spends a year following five Indiana high-school seniors who fit obvious archetypes: a queen bee, a pair of jocks, an alternative girl, and a taxidermy-loving geek. Though their story arcs follow familiar trajectories — a romance between the alternative girl and a jock is doomed from the start — it’s fascinating and heartbreaking to watch these kids struggle to transcend the stereotypes of their respective cliques. American Teen reminds you that in each high-schooler is a fragile and complicated person, and that high school still pretty much sucks.

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. Meet the last teenagers who haven’t been ruined by reality TV