Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is the most 2008 film ever. Nothing can catapult me back to being 13 years old like Georgia Nicolson. The soundtrack includes ‘Scouting for Girls’, the girls sing ‘Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box’, and teen heartthrob Robbie has the most Bieber-esque cool teen hairstyle ever. Looking back on it now, there are a lot of things wrong with this film – it’s incredibly dated, melodramatic, and kind of sexist. A quick glance down Amazon review lists show that it’s not exactly a highly regarded film; most agree that it’s girly and immature. A fun watch maybe, but not a “quality” film by any means. And yet it is one of my favourites. Probably because of all of those things. It is silly, melodramatic, and girly. This film captures something distinct about being a teenager in 2008, from the costuming to the soundtrack to the dialogue. The film feels like a diary, presenting fuzzy recollections of being a teen. Director Gurinder Chadha respected what it felt like to be a teenager, without judgement or shame, and also celebrated it.
But despite my personal love for this film I can’t ignore the weird sexism that runs throughout. Georgia’s main antagonist is clichéd mean girl ‘Slaggy Lindsay’, who is a blonde bitch with big (fake) boobs. This does lead to one of my favourite (and weirdest) moments of the film, when best friend Jaz pulls out Lindsay’s fake tits from her bra, declaring “Robbie likes his girls un-fake”. But I cannot ignore the weird slut-shaming and demonisation of super feminine, sexual women. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’s gender politics have become dated, like much of the film, but unlike the soundtrack or clothes, it is much less charming. Additionally, Georgia’s motivation is tied to gaining approval from boys, and it’s only when sex-god Robbie accepts her that she can get her happy ending. While Georgia chooses to become a happier, healthier person, this is only validated once Robbie decides to date her. I can’t ignore how Georgia’s character arc is tied to getting a boyfriend. I can see why this film can appear off-putting and regressive to a first time viewer.
So why do I still love this film? It’s not just the cracking dialogue (“Honestly Jas! Sometimes I think you’re half girl, half turnip!”) and the iconic outfits (the olive costume!), but because, despite all of the film’s flaws, it is still meaningful to me. I find media aimed at young girls is often subject to a lot of moralising and critique that isn’t really thrown at media aimed at boys of a similar age. Critics are very quick to shred anything made to be relatable to teenage girls.
A function of teen films – especially those aimed at girls – is wish fulfilment. Young girls want to have their dreams realised on the big screen, and enjoy seeing someone like them achieve that, even if those dreams are deemed problematic. Sometimes wish fulfilment can be problematic or damaging, but can’t we give 15-year-old kids who want to date non-threatening boys a break? We all need space to work out what we want in life, and media is a safe way for teens to explore their weird and awkward fantasies.
I think that while critics have a lot of valid points against this film, they also underestimate how important it is to see a character like Georgia on screen. Seeing this at multiple sleepovers during my teenage years stuck with me, because on screen was a 14 year-old girl who looked 14 and also acted like a 14 year-old. She is overdramatic, stroppy, and selfish. In other words she is a teenage girl, warts and all. This film is an awkward, messy depiction of teenage girlhood – unflattering and at times regressive – but a film like this is rare and kind of beautiful.
Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging isn’t a film that will appeal to everyone – or even a lot of people. It’s a very specific film for a very specific age group from a very specific time and that’s completely fine. I think the reason it works is because the film is unashamedly on Georgia’s side. She can be the butt of jokes, and she has low moments, but the film wants us to root for her so much. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging stands up for Georgia, and all teenage girls, in all their embarrassing, ungainly glory. In a world that hates teenage girls and the silly things they like and enjoy, it is refreshing to have a film that not only respects them, but also celebrates them. Long live the teenage girl, and long live Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.
[Jo Reid – she/her – @_jomreid]