Age of Consent

Published March 12, 2014

“Our teachers and our parents didn’t understand us, so we created our own world.” So recalls the memoir of Melita Maschmann, one of the many voices of youth represented in director Matt Wolf’s documentary on adolescence, Teenage. Based on the book by punk anthropologist Jon Savage, and narrated by actors Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hammer, and Jessie Usher, the film mixes archival footage, dramatic reenactments, and dialogue sourced from firsthand accounts from kids of different countries, races, and classes to create an immersive prehistory of youth culture from the early 1900s through 1945, when the term teenager was popularized, and when society’s contemporary concept of adolescence was invented. What emerges is a historical document of a transitional moment that transcends time or place—a tribute to the cacophony of voices past, and to those that will come to define the future. “Young people are trying to create their own world on their own terms,” Wolf says. “That’s a universal tension that drives a certain kind of change.”