Dear Vice - How Do I Make My Nieve Cool?
My niece is 13, which I remember as a pretty pivotal year in the transition from lame weiner-kid into person who enjoys cool shit. (They even made that shitty movie about it.) Right now she's still really into High School Musical and Miley Cyrus and the like--I've been trying to push her onto the good stuff, I'm just worried that I may be going about it the wrong way.
Like, for her birthday I just sent her a big set of all the John Hughes movies because they were totally huge to me when I was her age and I figured they would prime her for "darker fare" like Heathers and Pump Up the Volume and so on, but then I realized "Shit, these movies are all 30 years old." Do you think they hold up, or is this like my mom handing me Beach Blanket Bingo and Georgy Girl and going "Prepare to have your fuckin' mind blown"? I haven't even begun to think about tackling the music side. My "cooling up" period was accompanied by a brash cassette soundtrack of Metallica and Pink Floyd, which I know for a fact is the nowties' equivalent of like "La Bamba." What are kids into now, like chiptune or something? "Lo fi"?
The thing is, I feel like she's got all the pre-reqs for a nice smoldering angsty phase: She's like 6 inches taller than the rest of her grade, doesn't really get along with folks at her school, has a cool aunt, etc. And yet still she persists in plastering her facebook with Rainbow crap and inspirational quotes and shit from Glee. Give me a hand here. How do I get her from point a to point "cool punk girl"?
AUNT IT COOL
Vice sez - The trouble with putting together "starter packs" is for most guys it's pretty universal. You just go "Here, you like David Lynch and Minor Threat," and hope he sorts out the drinking and women issues for himself. With girls you have to account for contemporary fashion and tailor it to their interests and make sure they don't go over the edge (get pregnant) right away. It's a chore. But if you're willing to put forth the effort, your reward will be manifold in its delights. Maybe.
Basically, there are two schools of thought on this. The first is more or less what you're doing right now, start her out on the basics and let her graduate into the heavier stuff. This is the most natural approach but could stall out without your continued input, or take weird detours into bad areas like anime and techno. Most of the John Hughes stuff hasn't crossed the old-line yet (though have you watched Pump Up the Volume lately? It's like running a cringe marathon), but you should probably throw in some Wes Anderson and Donnie Darko to keep things recent and maybe a little lighter Solondz while you're at it. Freaks & Geeks ought to be a gimme. Don't forget the book end of things too, like Weetzie Bat and Adrian Mole for starters then lead her up to Tom Perrotta and Mary Gaitskill and onward.
The other option, aka the "Go for broke" method, is to quietly leave the most heinous thing you think she's capable of handling somewhere you know she'll find it (like under her pillow or in the tampon box) and hope it sets off a mental bomb of frantic cultural reevaluation/wikipediaing. For this approach we'd recommend Whitehouse's Psychopathia Sexualis, Dennis Cooper's George Miles cycle, or the films of Lars von Trier, depending on how easily she barfs.
There's a third school of thought which says "Quit trying to force-feed her your idea of what she should be into and let her figure things out for herself, you fucking spaz" but that's for hippie guidance counselors and parents who let their kids wear basketball shorts to Unitarian church/temple. You may not be able to make her drink, but that sure as shit doesn't mean you can't lead her to water and shove her face right down into it yelling "Drink it! Drink it right now!"
Just whatever you do, do NOT let her read that shitty, horrible book The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I know there are some folks here who've pushed that queasy milquetoast crap in the past, but they are in the same boat as you are vis a vis "out of touchness with the reality of youth." Please heed our words on this, no matter how cute you think it'd be to dish about Morrissey together. Please. The damage may be irreparable.