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PT March Movie Madness: THE GRAND FINAL ROUND!

What. A month. From the Netflix smackdown to a battle between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter that no one saw comin’, it’s been an intense month of trying to track down the ULTIMATE teen movie.

But you guys have narrowed it down, and now it’s time for the final vote. Get ready, everyone! It’s time for HARRY POTTER vs. TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE vs. THE PRINCESS DIARIES!


Let’s hear from Marissa first and HARRY POTTER!

Lights dimmed, popcorn firmly in hand, were there any among us who did not feel shivers of delight as John William’s ethereal score danced through our ears, while our eyes feasted on the spires and turrets and glory that is Hogwarts? Did any heart not soar with Harry’s broom in his first Quidditch match, while we clenched our fists with worry, mistakenly thinking Snape was trying to bring Harry to his doom? (Oh, Snape, such a deliciously complicated character. R.I.P. Alan Rickman.)

We met Harry, Hermione and Ron as tweens, and then we got to grow up with them. While we struggled in our own lives, trying to figure out who we are and how we fit in, Harry Potter gave us a whole new world of possibility. The magic of the Harry Potter films infused our art, our music – even our Halloween costumes. Harry’s world and our world mixed and mingled, and we are better for it.

Part of becoming a teen is struggling with separation from our parents and finding our own identity and a new family of peers and friends. We got to watch Harry get saddled with a new identity that felt about as comfortable as the first onslaught of puberty. He suffered deep childhood trauma, but was blessed with the gift of loyal friends, wise teachers, a purpose and magic.

For me there are a small handful of films that offer the full-cinematic catharsis-meal-deal; walk out of the theater feeling like you have been through the emotional ringer (in the best way) and come out the other side full of hope and inspiration.

Example: When Harry finds out Dumbledore expected Harry to sacrifice himself (long, low whistle). Who among us hasn’t had the wind knocked out of us when people we love and trusted disappointed us? That moment when we are forced to grow up and our mentors and heroes slide from their pedestals. When life becomes complicated and black and white reasoning just doesn’t cut it anymore. (i.e. Snape.)

But it is so much more fun to experience these life lessons with wizardry and wands and music that makes your soul dance all gold and sparkly inside! Because life is like that. It can drop you so hard, but it can lift you up in ways you never expected.

Harry Potter is the best teen movie because it brings out the best in us. All of us. Not just the smartest or the brightest, the richest or the prettiest. It takes the Nevilles and the Harrys, the Hermiones and Hagrids and gives us a place and a journey.

Since this is the final, I’m gonna bring the heavy: Harry Potter has reached so many people, that a certain theme park made a simulated world inspired from the films’ visuals (AND THE BOOKS). People flock to this world, buy wands and Butterbeer and imagine for a few hours that they too can be a part of Harry Potter’s world.



To All The Teen Films I’ve Loved Before:

To The Breakfast Club, I love how you tackle teen friendships. Just like how Lara Jean has to face her ex-BFF Gen. Deal with a wild, but loyal BFF in Chris. And, of course, her angst-filled friendship with her crush, Josh.

To Love, Simon, I love how you tackle the concept of first love and how hard it is to admit your feelings. Just like it’s hard for Lara Jean to admit her love, so she writes secret letters. Just like how Lara Jean can’t admit that her fake relationship with Peter isn’t so fake. Also, hot tub scene = ferris wheel scene if ferris wheels were steamier and stationary.

To Dumplin’, I love how you tackle family relationships. Just like Willowdean has a complicated relationship with her mother, Lara Jean has a complicated relationship with her sisters. She loves them but she must also deal with their strong opinions about her life!

To Perks of Being a Wallflower, I love how you deal with being an outcast and wanting to blend into the curtains so bad that you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just like how Lara Jean is a self-appointed home-body with her baking. It takes the right friend/fake boyfriend to bring her out of her shell!

When you look up the definition of “teen film” you get, “based upon the special interests of teenagers and young adults, such as coming of age, attempting to fit in, bullying, peer pressure, first love, teen rebellion, conflict with parents, teen angst or alienation.”

Everything is subject to interpretation and evolution as the years go by, but these themes are pretty classic and universal when discussing the teen experience. This is why John Hughes films have stood the test of time. This is why young adult books tackle concepts of coming into your own identity. And this is why To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is the ultimate modern teen film.

Yes, you could make parallels to Harry learning he’s a wizard to coming of age. However, just because a film touches on teen concepts doesn’t mean it is a teen film. Using HP analogies, you could have the traits of both a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff, but you can only be sorted into one house. And HP is more a fantasy adventure than a teen film.

Becoming a princess is a wonderful trope. And is fodder for a delightful film. But becoming a princess isn’t a universal experience. And while it can be included in a teen film-a-thon, the crown Mia wears should only be as princess of Genovia and not as queen of teen films.

TATBILB tackles almost everything listed as the markers of a teen film in a universally relatable, unapologetically diverse story of a girl who loves too much but is too scared to say it out loud. Lara Jean is every teen girl living through the angst-filled high school life. Even if you don’t share her exact interest of baking and romance novels, you have a similar love of something comforting and bright. Even if you don’t share her exact fears of commitment and driving, something every day might frighten you in a way that seems silly to your friends. For all these reasons, TATBILB is the new universal teen film for a modern age! Also, pocket spin!


Now for Rachel and THE PRINCESS DIARIES!

Oh wow, my friends, we’re here, we did it! THE FINALS! I’m so excited to learn y’all love The Princess Diaries as much as I do, so let’s BRING THIS THING HOME, shall we?

We’ve talked about a lot when it comes to this movie- how fun and feminist it is, how great the characters are, #FatLouie4Lyfe, MAKEOVER MONTAGES, etc., but now that we’re here at the end, let’s talk about one of the most important parts of alllllll of this (no, not Chris Pine, he wasn’t in this one, he was in the sequel, but I mean, if you want to THINK about Chris Pine in the sequel and then vote for The Princess Diaries, do not let me stop you from following your bliss.)

We’re going to talk about BOOKS! After all, that’s why we’re all here, right? Because we love books so much! And as GREAT AND PHENOMENAL AND VERY DESERVING OF WINNING as The Princess Diaries movie is, without the books, we wouldn’t have anything.

One of the coolest things about The Princess Diaries series is that we really get such a full look at Mia’s entire adolescence into adulthood. I mean, she gets MARRIED in the last book! Plus Meg Cabot also gave us a Middle Grade series about Mia’s long-lost sister. AND there’s a romance novel “written” by Mia called Ransom My Heart. Like. Your faves could never. It’s so satisfying to get an entire world like that, especially in books that aren’t sci-fi/fantasy, and we honestly deserve a vast Genovia ‘Verse EMPIRE on Netflix or something.


  • The Princess Diaries! Funny and glittery and escapist, but also real and truthful and heart-warming.
  • Mia Thermopolis: Modern Princess, understanding that with great power comes great responsibility, Spiderman-styles, and willing to use her position to help others/the world in general.
  • A swoony and perfect romance utilizing the whole Best Friend’s Brother trope which we all love because it’s a Rule of Science™ that when you’re a teenager, at least ONE of your friends will have a Crushable Brother.
  • Based on a DELIGHTFUL book series that A) proved Pink Books Sell, take THAT, patriarchy, B) gave us a fully-developed and realized world, and C) let us see our heroine from Awkward Teen to Appropriately-Aged Bride. AMAZING!
  • Absolutely passes the, “Even Though I Own This Movie, If It Is On Freeform One Saturday Afternoon, I Will Sit On The Couch And Watch All Of It, Commercials And All,” test which, I think we can all agree, is a VITAL component when determining how good a movie REALLY is.

I hope I have done Mia proud these past few weeks, valiantly jousting for her/her movie’s honor in a very tough competition! In fact, I’m going to go ahead and declare myself an Honorary Knight of Genovia, and if you vote for The Princess Diaries, you can be one, too. (We have cake at the meetings, js, js.)




Penguin Teen