the other day i showed the movie the outsiders to two classes of eighth grade students. let me stop here just to say that as a teacher, i will never write about any specific experience i have had in the classroom nor any particular student.
before i stated the movie each time, i prefaced the showing with a little tidbit of personal information. and yes, in these cases, the kids more often than not couldn’t care less. kind of like you, dear readers. but not the point.
that tidbit was that i read the outsiders when i was in junior high school and as a reward when we were done, our teachers took us to see the movie. in the theater. that’s how long ago i was in junior high school.
back then, the stars of this movie were total hearthrobs. and yes, we did use that word back then. these boys (c. thomas howell, ralph macchio, rob lowe, emilio estevez, matt dillion, patrick swayze, and tom cruise, and at that time, i didn’t realize leif garrett and tom waits (tom waits!) ) were on the cover and pages of all the tiger beat and teen beat magazes, that is until i cut them out and put them all over what i called “my outsider door.” yes, i admit it. the back of my bedroom door was covered with any photo of these hearthrobs that i could find. give me a break, i was in love.
my two favorites were ponyboy and johnny, played by c. thomas howell and ralph macchio respectively. i think even back at age 12 i had that fatal girl trait where i wanted to fix the sad, mopey bad boys. a trait that followed me well into my 30s and never did me well.
before the movie began, i told the students that these boys were the “justin biebers” of my day. now stop cringing and think about it for a minute. and let me tell you that over the last couple of weeks, i have been in quite a few conversations with seventh and eighth grade girls who have told me that justin bieber is “just sooo cute” and have tried to explain why he is so great. and from their eyes, i can see it. mine, not so much, but not the point. also off point, but kind of on the same subject, i also stood in for an adult education class in which i witnessed a fist fight almost erupt based on the question of whether or not justin bieber is the new michael jackson. that question, dear readers, i will let you contemplate on your own.
i wasn’t sure if these boys, so many years later, would appeal to the young girls watching them. but you know what? they did. i mean really did. i mean so much that i had to stop the inappropriate conversation about just how hot ponyboy and johnny were. for me on the other hand, not so much. maybe my need to save (and kiss) the broken bad boy has finally been replaced with my need for a confident and strong man like my husband, but for most of the first hour of the movie, i just wanted to slap the dirty, whiny pony and johnny silly.
now of course, as an adult, part of me does still feel sorry for the characters and and understands why johnny winced every time someone looked at him sideways. thank god he redeemed himself in his later years when he kicked some karate butt as the karate kid.
now, a young shirtless matt dillon, or rob lowe stepping out of a shower with barely a towell wrapped around him? let’s just say i wasn’t just talking to the girls in the class when i told them to stop drooling (at least so loudly). that said, i remember when i first saw the movie, i wasn’t a huge fan of either character, including the tom cruise or patrick swayze ones. at the time, they were too old for me.
so i’ve told you a lot of things that i have specifically said are not the point of this post. so what is the point? well, i thought i had one, but the more i write, i realize that i guess there isn’t one after all. maybe it’s how things change. maybe it’s how things stay the same. maybe it is just a literary post about the timelessness of the book the outsiders. maybe it’s the sadness i felt when in order to get kids to pay attention to emilio estevez’s character, i had to introduce the actor as charlie sheen’s brother (to which someone yelled, “winning!). or maybe it’s just that i wanted to talk about a shirtless matt dillon.