Rendering: This is 40 - Sadie
This is 40, a film written and directed by Judd Apatow, details the life of a husband and wife as they approach age 40. In this rendering, we’re going to zero-in on the depiction of their adolescent daughter as moody, spastic, unpredictable and sassy.
Sadie is 13, in grade nine and navigating all that comes with starting high school. In this short clip, Sadie is seen having a full-blown tantrum about... her clothes.
Nothing about her general situation seems especially notable, and yet she’s illustrated as melodramatic and full of angst. We soon find out the reason for her outbursts—or at least the reason given by her parents—is that she has started having her period.
In Denaturalizing Adolescence: The politics of contemporary representations, Nancy Lesko critiques the assumptions about adolescence and negative connotations given to it. She challenges the accepted “facts” about adolescents—that they are “hormonally driven, peer-oriented and identity seeking” (p 140), and asserts that the rigid definitions were created to define and control this age group.
Lesko speaks about the belief that adolescent hormonal changes in women create behavioural changes and “unpredictable furies”. (p 151). This is one reason young people are thought to be unable to make good decisions. It also shows the reason women are labeled “crazy” and “uncontrollable” during certain times in their cycle.
These incorrect and dangerous assumptions can be seen in the depiction of Sadie, in a scene that begins with an outburst, complete with swearing and hysterics. Debbie, Sadie’s mom, asks if she’s still upset about them not being able to finish watching the last season ‘Lost’ before her privileges were taken away. Sadie responds with, “Of course I'm upset about Lost! You guys took away my shit before I could watch the last two episodes! I don't know what the fuck happens!” Her younger sister, Charlotte, then says “I hope I never get my period if this is what happens.”
Of course, Sadie’s character is redeemed in other ways. She’s more than just tantrums and cursing at her parents. But it’s such a large part of the identity given to her in the film, which is a contemporary fulfilment of the stereotypes described in Lesko’s article. Defining these cycles as the cause for bad behaviour perpetuates the stereotype of adolescent women, and women in general, as uncontrollable and ridiculous.
Lesko, N. (1996) "Denaturalizing Adolescence". Youth and Society 28(2): 139-161