Teen Idols of the 90s

Teen Idols of the 90s
Right here, right now
by Beth Rowen
Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet. Source: Archive Photos

Leo and his ilk are riding high now, but will they be able to fend off the remorseless advance of obscurity? Anthony Michael Hall couldn't.

Teensploitation films present high-school students as sophisticated, eloquent, stylish, and mature beyond their years. But the level of sexual experience and experimentation the characters display is enough to make parents lock their teenagers in their rooms until age 25.

Every generation has teen idols. And like most fads, they are as fleeting as Furby dolls. While their fame may last more than 15 minutes, few young stars enjoy prolonged celebrity.

Some escape Hollywood for college, anonymity, or plain old R&R. Others don't necessarily fall off the radar screen voluntarily. Witness, for example, the fate of Molly Ringwald, Macauley Culkin, and Anthony Michael Hall none of whom is exactly burning up the big screen these days.

Nevertheless, Hollywood and beyond have fallen in love with young stars. Hollywood loves them because they come cheap, and nothing is more important in that bottom-line-driven town. Kids look to young actors and actresses for tips on fashion, music, and attitude.

In the past several years, the number of teensploitation films and television shows has exploded. A few teen stars, such as Brandy and Jennifer Love Hewitt, have become hyphenates, finding success in film, music, and television. While few stars have the stamina or talent to excel across the board, a trend has emerged that has television stars crossing over into film; movie studios rely on these familiar faces to draw large audiences (since, in most cases, they clearly aren't relying on plot or character development to do it).

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