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Paige Edwards

How are teenage antagonists represented in Kidulthood (2006)

and Paper Towns (2015)?
In this essay, I will be analysing using micro-elements, the
ways in which teenage protagonists Margo and Sam are
represented in my two case studies of films, Kidulthood and
Paper Towns.
Kidulthood (2006), BBFC certificate 15, is a British teen
drama, directed by Menhaj Huda and written by Noel Clarke for
a mass audience. The films main stars are Aml Ameen Trife,
Red Madrell Alisa, and Noel Clarke Sam. This film is a day
in the life of a group of troubled 15 year olds growing up in
West London, in a deprived neighbourhood. Striving for a
better life, surrounded by violence and crime.
This film supports Levi Strauss theory of binary oppositions,
old VS young and good VS bad. This is supported in the
narrative when Trife and his companions, are represented as
helpless as they come across Sam and his gang. Sam physically
hurts, steals from, and intimidates the teenagers younger than
him, this is evidence to suggest, that Sam is represented as
dominant and superior. However, this changes when the audience
are able to identify the revenge scene, where the tables are
turned and Trife and his companions take back whats theirs
and giving Sam a taste of his own medicine. This can be argued
that Trife and his companions are sinking down to Sams level.
In the opening sequence of Kidulthood, the audience are
introduced to Sam, the antagonist within a wide shot, along
with his gang. This shows the audience the importance of Sam
and his gang as they are the first to be introduced and given
diegetic dialogue as a group. The camera pans to show the
audience the rest of the playground along with less important
pupils. We know this because, none of them are given any
dialogue and we only get to see them briefly in the
background. This represents them as inferior to Sam and his
group within the scene. Especially the young girl who Sam
picks on, Katie; as she is represented as the weaker link and
an easy target for gangs. This fits her into the stereotype of
being a young white weak female. This can also be considered
as a countertype, as someone of her race isnt usually seen as
inferior against a character of another race, e.g black,

Paige Edwards

The setting of an urban neighbourhood in this opening scene,

and a state school, along with the students costume and the
behaviour they prevail upon, reflects that the characters are
in a low/working class society. This is shown to the audience
through the mise-en-scene; firstly due to the costume the
director chooses to make them wear. Ties, loose and half way
down their neck, un-tucked shirts along with their hooded
jumpers, short skirts and excessive jewellery, shows the
audience that this is how young teenagers are stereotyped to
be in todays society, scruffy, careless and unkept. Sams use
of violent language towards Katie, again represents him as
being aggressive, along with other young teenage boys in
todays society. Their informal use of language (slang) within
their dialogue is also what presents them to be this way. For
example, the dialogue used when Sam says blud, is also an
indication of how young teenagers are stereotyped to speak in
society today.
In the beginning scene, Sam is instantly shown to the audience
as being the main antagonist in the film. This is shown
through the mise-en-scene such as costume, his positioning in
the scene and the way that Sam speaks to people. For example,
the way he aggressively screws his face as he looks for his
girlfriend Claire, creating a negative atmosphere for anyone
he approaches. Also, a
wide shot is used to show
Sams character
positioning in this scene.
He is placed in the centre
of the frame, which shows
the audience his role of
being the leader, as well
as emphasising his
dominance. There is a nondiegetic use of score music when Sam is introduced, it becomes
deeper and sounding more dangerous. This is used to indicate
that Sam is a fearless character with bad traits. The nondiegetic score music is played along with the diegetic
dialogue to build up the tension and wonder what his next move
will be.
The non-diegetic soundtrack of urban music creates a tense,
mysterious atmosphere which adds to the drama of the scene. It
is not too loud so it does not affect the action in the shots.
The urban music represents the film as gritty and the people

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as thuggish and underclass which is how most characters are

represented in this type of film genre. There is also the
ambient diegetic sound of the children, in the playground such
as laughing and screaming in the background. This gets the
viewer ready for the start of the scene.
Sam as a teenage antagonist, is represented as aggressive and
demanding as he approaches two girls, as if he was about to
cause them harm. This, in the opening scene is shown in a wide
shot, so the audience can see what Sam and his gang are doing,
as well as the two girls they are with. It allows the audience
to identify all of their actions, such as when Sam spits on
Katie as well as their reactions in this scene. The
representation of Sam is therefore stereotyped to be a typical
teen; young black boy, wearing a hooded jumper, harassing and
threatening two young women. These representations relate to
young boys that may have had a bad upbringing and feel as if
they have to be aggressive or cause pain or distress to others
around them to maintain a type of reputation within the
neighbourhood they live in, or school they attend. This almost
makes the audience sympathise the antagonist as we realise he
is only a young boy, but is living around violation and abuse.
The appearance and attitude of Sam within this film, shows the
audience that this antagonist is certainly not friendly nor
innocent, as the audience see a wide shot of Sam and his gang,
surrounded by a gang of young teenage girls, as the use of
diegetic dialogue represents Sam as pressurising and dominant
and the white female as scared and inferior, as she
uncertainly agrees to his demand of hurting Katie. Yeah,
watch Im gonna mash her
up. This is shown in a
shot-reverse-shot, between
the Sam and the girl from
the gang, and Katie and her
friend. This also
represents the fear and
intimidation the antagonist
Sams presence can bring to
the other characters,
showing the audience the
panic and frustration in
the faces of Katie and the girl he pressurised to cause her
harm. This reminds the audience that his role as the main
antagonist is an important part in the film.

Paige Edwards

This scene of aggression and conflict, again links to Levi

Strauss theory of binary oppositions. Man VS woman and black
VS white. This represents Sam as being dominant and masculine,
which conforms to the stereotype of men. A medium close up
shot is used, just after he forcefully approaches Trife, with
his gang, where the conflict between both sides occurs,
showing his importance as he was the first out of the two for
his emotions to be noticed up close. A medium close up is
again used showing Trifes screwed face, looking angry and
defeated to present his emotions as the victim. Sam is shown
in a high angled shot after him and his gang beat Trife to the
ground, indicating his power and superiority. This again,
conforms to the stereotype of young teenage boys who are
represented as violent and angry. This can be seen as
pressurising towards young boys in todays society to also be
this way.
The teenagers within the film wear costumes that consist of
hooded jumpers, worn by the young boys in order to not be seen
by people or be caught by anyone they may have conflict or be
in any trouble with. Also the bandana across the brother of
Katies face is worn in the ending scene where he comes to
find Sam, as he is the one who rotationally caused his sisters
death. This suggests that the characters are often in trouble,
and know what to do to prevent being seen, hiding themselves
and their identity.
In this scene, the audience can see a clear change in Katies
brother as he is firstly represented as emotional and angry,
then as considerate, as he calmed down and came to his senses.
This is due to injured Trifes diegetic dialogue, telling him
that hes not worth it. Pulling his bandana down for the
first time in a close up shot, allows him to reveal his
identity to the audience. The camera pulls focus so that the
characters are unnoticed in the background, so we can
concentrate on Katies brother, showing his power over Sam as
he lays on the ground. This also shows the audience that he is
leading the main subject, as Sams inferiority is emphasised.
The second film, Paper Towns, was released in (2015), with a
BBFC certification of PG. It is an American teen drama. This
film was directed by Jake Schreier and was written by John
Green and Scott Neustadter. It mainly stars Nat Wolff
Quentin, Cara Delevinge Margo and Austin Abrams Ben.

Paige Edwards

This film follows the theory of Todorov as the narrative

follows the idea about a young girl named Margo, and a young
boy named Ben, who both grew up in the same neighbourhood,
side by side, loving each others company as kids. As they
then grew apart and the older they got, this all changed, as
Margo had a boyfriend and hadnt made any contact with Ben,
this being their disruption of their equilibrium, Ben had
learnt to forget her. However, following the discovery of
Margo once again climbing through Bens window asking for a
favour, they both took a road trip together, beginning an
adventurous and mysterious journey together as this is named
being their new equilibrium.
Paper Towns, Margo is considered the antagonist within the
film. This is due to being in the centre of the conflict and
situations. She is represented as mysterious and adventurous
otherwise known as Paper Girl, strongly contrasting from the
character of Sam. The audience can identify in this in the
opening scene where she and Quentin share a moment as he looks
into her eyes
hoping for some
attention. The use
of non-diegetic
music referring to
a genre
of hip hop, of
teenagers are
stereotyped to
to in todays society, introduces Margo. This shows her
importance, as she is the first character to be introduced
with a close up along with the background music. The voiceover
Quentin uses as he notices Margo and the moment I saw her, I
was hopelessly, madly, in love shows that Margo is the
antagonist also, due to the way she looks away after realising
his passionate looks in her direction. Also, the use of a low
angle shot, allows the audience to focus on Quentins facial
expressions, and his inferiority as he sees Margo for the
first time.
Quentin shows his concern for Margo as they come across a dead
body and she seemed massively fascinated, this is shown
through diegetic dialogue when Margo arrives at Quentins
window, telling him that she wants to investigate further.
Lets Go, which represents Margo as eager; to proceed on
another adventure. However, Quentin refuses as he is worried

Paige Edwards

about getting into trouble. This represents Margo as being

superior in this scene, as she is the one calling the shots;
however, Quentin is represented as weak in this scene, as well
as being afraid, allowing the audience to recognise his
The idea of gender representation in the film Paper Towns is a
countertype against a womans stereotype to be less able to
handle or protect themselves. The audience can identify this
throughMargos character; she seems to know what she is doing
and how to do it. However, the stereotype of men, to be strong
and superior, is contrasted in this film as Quentins
character is often afraid of a lot of consequences and backs
down. Margo on the other hand seems to not care and takes
control of the situation her adventure. A wide shot is used
as we see Margo climb down from Quentins window, with Quentin
watching as she sets off to continue her investigation. This
emphasises the theory of Strausss binary oppositions, as
Margo, being the woman is represented as adventurous, strong
and unafraid. Then Quentin, being the complete opposite is
represented as weak,
inspirited and most
definitely afraid. The
audience can also see
Quentins shocked
facial expressions in a
close up shot, as well
as an over the shoulder
shot, to show their
conversation as well as showing how she has made him felt
before she went, almost as if she purposely left behind guilt,
again showing her power and superiority, as Quentin allows her
to make him feel this way.
The low-key lighting in this scene has been deliberately
edited with darker tones, to fit the night scene; black, navy
and grey like tones are used to set and compliment the mood
and to reflect on the mindset of Margo in this scene. As she
tries to influence Quentin to do something that would get them
both in trouble. It also reflects on Quentins fear, again
representing Margo as the antagonist, as she can deliberately
make Quentin feel this way.
In the final scene, Jake Schreier directs Margo, so that she
is represented as being the clear antagonist, he makes it

Paige Edwards

evident that this is what she is meant to be seen as. This is

to emphasise her importance within the film as well as linking
to how young teenagers are stereotyped to be in todays
society isolated and angry, just like Margo is as she runs
away, carrying her anger and frustration from a previous
situation involving her boyfriend with her. When Quentin finds
Margo, she is furious and demands that the clues she has left
where far from deliberate. From this, the audience can analyse
that she is in a bad state, as she has been living in a small
condition that whole time. In this scene, she is represented
as aggressive, similarly to how Sam was represented straight
away in the beginning scene of Kidulthood.
In both films, there are representations of teenage
antagonists being aggressive, powerful and emotionally
damaged. Both films reflect on the teenagers growth. They
either learn or regret, wishing things may have been different
and having to learn the hard way.
Through my analysis, I believe that both of the antagonists
end up being represented as powerful and aggressive, as well
as being emotionally damaged. This is shown through the
elements of mise-en-scene, cinematography, sound and editing,
which highlights them from the other characters in most of the
frames, making them the subject. Both directors find ways to
emphasise the antagonists superiority, by using things such
as semiotics and dialogue as well as reflecting their form of
power, by constantly taking control of situations until the
very end, when they stand-alone. But at the same time, the
directors also finds ways to make the audience sympathise
them, to make the audience question whether they are masking
their true emotions, and whether teens in modern society are
represented as being too generalised and misunderstood.