ThePerks of Being a Wallflower: The Coming to Birth of Charlie: AnIntrospective Study in Adolescent Developmental Psychology
Thefilm ThePerks of Being a Wallflowerstandson the podium with such Hollywood classics as Junoin terms of representing both the ideal and praxis of coming tobirth, from a literal and metaphorical sense. The awakening of thesoul to its higher self, the elevation of the mind and heart towardsan epiphany that resolves the conflicts of the characters and/orhelps them streamline into the consciousness of being, all within theintricacies of adolescence. The creative works are exquisitemasterpieces that provide a scintillating study into the pedantry ofadolescent developmental psychology and how the vicissitudes of lifein their context affect how they would grow up into adulthood. Forthe mature adult who watches the movie, they are immediatelyteleported to the past through the mind’s eye to their ownexperiences of that crucial time in a person’s growth perhaps evenassisting towards coming to terms with such experiences well intoadulthood. It is the mystic of such films that even when they are nottrying to be didactic, but rather to portray the existentialprogression of things without posing judgment, a task meant for theaudience. Somehow, after watching the movie, we all walk out of thetheatre halls with a sudden feeling ‘having gone through what thecharacter has experienced’ this is the whole reason for the nearcelebrity cultism.The adolescent period is the period in which thereare evolving sentiments about the nature of existence takes place,the finding of the changing ‘existential construct’ that definesthe life an adolescent well into adulthood.
Ourmovie fades in, where we see the titles over black. The sound of anage-burdened is heard, someone reaches out to us, the bell dingsannouncing the end of a line, the title begins a hush falls over thetheatre, picture fades up and we are in the city. It’s DowntownPittsburgh. Gazing out of the back window like a child at theback-seat of a station wagon, we behold the city lights that create asense of wonderment. Moving into the tunnel, the music carries us ina trance like a twirling dervish, over a highway. The night sky comesbefore us float at the back of the trees and through the window of abedroom. Its Charlie’s room, our main protagonist, a 15 year old,hopeful, awkward, innocent, and quite likable to everyone, but not tohis classmates, where he seats penning a letter while taping thetitle song through the radio on his cassette boom box. Charlie feelsinvisible, like a wallflower, it’s always there, but nobody evernotices the ‘real’ him. Especially evidenced when he walksthrough the hallway of his suburban split level house into the livingroom where his father focuses on the football game on TV while hismother pores over a page turner sipping on some white wine, no onenotices him. He waits for them to notice him, it is a long wait.
ItsCharlie’s first time in high school. While he scribes the letter,he lets us in to the fact that he has a plan to turn the year around,enter his high school with a bang. The anxiety of trying to reconcileinternal pressures and peer ones subtly is revealed in this reverie.Enter Mill Grove High school and we see the usual ritual of thesenior bully making the freshmen hop down the hall. It’s quite thedisturbing ritual, probably what Charlie had not envisioned. Asseniors move to grab more victims, Charlie moves to the wall and wehear his voice over detailing the amount of days left in his highschool days-1,385 days, he notes. The varsity team passes furiouslywearing their letter jackets, Charlie looks at the trophy cabinet tohide away, to make himself as an unnoticeable as he can, no problemconsidering he has been ‘invisible’ all his life. As he stares atthe jocks, the question of the identity he’ll have to forge runsinto his mind, a myriad of thoughts evidenced by his face. Leadingthe pack is Brad Hays, the alpha wolf, who is the paragon of socialgrace, the emblem to which every freshman frog must aspire to.
Overat lunch time, Charlie walks over the cafeteria with Candace, hissister, but he does not get to seat with her and the other Earth-clubcohorts on account of them being seniors. He tries to seat withSusan, thinking that their friendship in middle school would becarried over to high school, much to his disappointment she keepsavoiding him the psychological pressures of social stratificationthat is so rampant in high school. Charlie is confronted with thisnew conundrum he’ll have to develop a new psychology, one thatmoves from his junior high days into this treacherous field ofoperation-HIGH SCHOOL. Between the artificial goatie drawn on hisface by senior prompting poignant guffaws from his fellow freshmenand Patrick, the class clown, Charlie shows a beginning evolution inhis internal world and shows signs of emotional intelligence when heunderstands that Patrick’s comic caricature of Mr. Cahallan as anattempt to make his fellow freshman feel better. All in all, the taleis an endearing and introspective about a naïve outlier who is takenunder the wings of two seniors a moving story of love, loss, fearand hope – and the unforgettable friends that help us through thewinding avenues of life.
Inspite of the negative portrayals that sometimes seem so prevalent ndthe non-positive attitudes about adolescents that they support—thepicture of adolescents today is largely a very auspicious one. Mostadolescents in actual fact succeed in school, are attached to theirfamilies and their communities, and emerge from their teen yearswithout experiencing serious problems such as substance abuse orinvolvement with violence. With all of the attention given tonegative images of adolescents, however, the positive aspects ofadolescents can be brushed aside. Professionals can play an importantrole in shifting perceptions of adolescents to the positive. Thetruth is that adolescents, despite occasional or numerous protests,need adults and want them to be part of their lives, recognizing thatthey can nurture, teach, guide, and protect them on the journey toadulthood. Directing the courage and creativity of normal adolescentsinto healthy pursuits is part of what successfully counseling,teaching, and mentoring entails.
Ofcourse, no adolescent can truly be understood in distinctparts—adolescents come in a packaged deal.Alteration in aparticular area of development typically leads to, or occurs inconjunction with, changes in other areas. Furthermore, no adolescentcan be fully understood outside the context of his or her family,neighborhood, school, workplace, or community or without consideringsuch factors as gender, race, sexual orientation, disability orchronic illness, and religious beliefs. Based on Erik Erikson, theappropriate social development in adolescence requires solving themajor challenge of ego‐identityvs. role diffusion. Resolution of this life crisis leads toadolescents developing an ego‐identity,a strong sense of “who I am and what I stand for,” or they mayend up suffering from role diffusion, that is, running from activityto activity, with the increased probability of succumbing pressurefrom the peerage.
Thoughquite a few significant differences have been discovered in thecognitive development of adolescent boys and girls, it seems thatadolescent boys and girls do differ in their confidence in certaincognitive abilities and skills. As a matter of fact, adolescentgirls tend to feel more confident about their reading and socialskills than boys, and adolescent boys tend to feel more confidentabout their athletic and math skills. This is true even though theirabilities in these areas, as a group, are roughly equal. However, itis important that we understand that there are many individualdifferences within these groups. Conforming to gender stereotypes,rather than differences in ability per se appearsto be what givescredence for these differences in confidence levels. Adults canassist in dispelling these myths, which can lead adolescents to limittheir choices or opportunities as mentoring—options that they mightnot otherwise consider, for instance a girl being encouraged to takeup technical subjects. Although they may possess a rapidly developingcapacity for higher-levelthinking, most adolescents still needguidance and direction from adults to fully sublimate into theirpotential for rational decision making.
Professionaldevelopmental psychologists do acknowledge that the impacts ofdetrimental health habits and extreme behaviors during adolescencebring about adverse effects on a person`s life in entirety, but theyalso do understand that via research and education, they can helpteens and their families avoid the most severe consequences.
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