by Emily Shepherd | December 6, 2020
Cringy parents, embarrassing crush encounters and crazy best friends – the perfect recipe for an iconic romcom. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008) is the Bridget Jones (2001) of teen romcoms. Through it’s realistic and oftentimes awkward protagonist, Angus presents authentic characters, reminiscent to that of Bridget. Whilst this could come off as ‘cheesy’ to some, the realism portrayed is more effective than the new, obviously exaggerated Netflix romcoms, such as To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which leave viewers thinking: surely that wouldn’t happen in real life?
Based on Louise Rennison’s young adult novels Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (1998) and It’s OK, I’m Wearing Really Big Knickers (2000), this film has greatly influenced UK audiences and has become one of the most significant teen romcoms of the 21st century. The plot follows the relatively ordinary life of Georgia Nicholson (Georgia Groome) and her experiences of being a teenager, as she tries to make the hottest new guy at school, Robbie (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), her boyfriend and to throw the best birthday party ever.
British humour is what really gives this film the edge; you wouldn’t hear Cher Horowitz from Clueless or Cady Heron from Mean Girls talking to their friends about snogging a boy from “saliva city.” But since its release in 2008, Angus maintains relevance in today’s society by using comedy to give a raw exploration of adolescence and going through puberty.
The film explores how teenagers constantly struggle with body confidence. There are many incidents in the film where Georgia tries to conform to the pretty girl stereotype, like that of the villain character, Slaggy Lindsay (Kimberley Nixon). She accidentally shaves off half of her eyebrow when attempting to make them look neater, and, later in the film, she tries to impress Robbie by fake-tanning her legs – albeit poorly as Robbie remarks they look like “giant cheesy puffs.” At a sleepover, Georgia and her best friends (the self-proclaimed ‘Ace Gang’) play a game called “The Physical Attractiveness Test,” where the girls rate their friends’ different body parts out of ten. The ‘test’ is anonymous, but each girl knows it’s from one of their friends. When Georgia gets a low score of four for her nose, naturally she becomes offended as her friends are supposed to be supportive of her flaws.
The struggles with body confidence is an attribute still relevant with a lot of teenage girls today – most noticeable through social media and the constant pressures to post the perfect selfie. Similar to “The Physical Attractiveness Test,” the “greater usage of social media heightens body dissatisfaction due to an increase in appearance-related comments from friends”and this heightened sense of vulnerability in teenage bodies depicts the reality of the importance of physical appearance in teenage girls’ lives. When exposing their insecurities to their friends, it can be daunting as they want to be perceived as “pretty” and to “fit in” with the crowd.
As with many teen romcoms, Angus explores the teenage fantasy of being in a perfect relationship whilst friendships struggle as a result. For example, Jas’ (Eleanor Tomlinson) obsession with always being with her new boyfriend, Tom (Sean Bourke), and leaving her friends for the “popular” girls culminates in a series of petty fallouts between best friends throughout the film. This highlights the necessity for a strong balance between teen friendships and relationships. Yet, as expected in this genre, the two girls make up at the end when Jas helps organise Georgia’s party and shames Lindsay by ripping her breast pads out of her dress.
Similarly, the film highlights the complexities around teenage crushes and relationships – as shown through Georgia as she feels deeply apologetic after testing her “elastic band theory” on schoolmate Dave the Laugh (Tommy Bastow), leading him on, to get closer to Robbie. Following the narrative trope of complicated teenage crushes in romcoms, Georgia feels heartbroken when she discovers Robbie is dating Slaggy Lindsay, and subsequently becomes confused when he later kisses Georgia and doesn’t call her after saying he would.
Today, there is still a stigma around being a “bad kisser,” teen media filled with tips on what a good kiss is, emphasising how teenage girls should conform to a certain standard in their romantic lives. In Angus, Georgia visits Peter Dyer for lessons on how to snog and, following a cringy five-minute scene of them snogging in his bedroom, she declares herself a “snogging sensation.” This scene intensifies Georgia’s fears on being judged, of being the subject of a bad rumour and the importance of reputation among teenagers.
Whilst successfully exploring these traditional romcom themes, Angus alsolooks into the relationship between teenagers and their parents on a more sophisticated level than other teen romcoms where teenagers simply complain about their parents.
In Angus, Bob (Georgia’s dad) temporarily moves to New Zealand for a work promotion and Connie (Georgia’s mum) swoons over the new decorator she hired. Georgia is left worried about the state of her parents’ relationship, fearing that they may get a divorce. It’s particularly heart-breaking to watch when she visits her dad’s firm to ask if he can return from New Zealand in fear of splitting up the family. With more parents separating in recent years, and up to 2.4 million separated families in the UK alone, Groome’s raw and emotional performance in this scene perfectly reflects the feelings and fears of many other teenagers going through similar experiences.
Overall, the themes in Angus are still relevant to teenagers today and can be reminiscent for people in their early twenties, like me, to reflect on their formative years. The film successfully allures its target market through its comedic stance on topical issues; it’s difficult to forget iconic quotes and phrases such as “nunga-nungas,” and the importance of the stuffed olive costume, which makes an appearance on every university fancy dress social. It’s important that Angus doesn’t become lost in a whirlwind of teen romcoms as its strong message of learning the importance of self-acceptance needs to continue to be reinforced in teenage girls’ lives particularly nowadays.
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