Being a teenager is mostly about finding your identity

Being a teenager is mostly about finding your identity: who you are, what you value and what you want your life to be. Chasing Mavericks directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted and Catch Me If You Can by Steven Spielberg both suggest that a teenager’s role models significantly shape their identity.

Frosty’s relationship with Jay in Chasing Mavericks challenged me to consider the idea that teenagers always seek a role model to look up to. At the beginning of the film, Jay is lonely and lost. We see him wandering around his neighbourhood alone and hoping that his father will one day return. To cope with his loneliness, Jay begins surfing and actively seeks out his next door neighbour Fosty to teach him how to surf mavericks. As Frosty and Jay’s relationship develops, Frosty begins to shape Jay’s identity. For example, Frosty teaches Jay about his philosophy of the “four pillars of strength being physical, mental, emotional and physical”. We can see how much Jay’s identity has been shaped by Frosty when Frosty’s wife dies. Frosty is distraught and paddles out into the ocean. Jay paddles out to console Frosty and reminds him that he can cope with the death of his wife by using the “pillars of strength”. Jay believes so strongly that his identity is based on the four pillars of strength, that he uses it to help Frosty cope with the loss of his wife. Later, we can see how much of an influence Frosty has had on Jay when Frosty, just before Jay is about to ride the maverick says, “This is about finding the one thing that sets you free.” The high key lighting and the low angle shot of Jay as he hears Frosty’s words shows that he wholeheartedly believes what Frosty has said. In learning to surf, Jay clearly believes that he has found the “one thing that sets him free”. For me, they way Jay finds his identity through Frosty shows me just how important role models are and why teengers seek role models. I believe that the positive impact they can have in our formative teenage years determine the course of our lives.

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Like Jay in Chasing Mavericks, Frank in Catch Me If You Can also has an important role model in his life, his father. While Jay taught me about how our lives are influenced by the presence of a role model and how they can help you find your identity, Frank taught me how challenging it can be to grow up with a role model who is absent from your life. At the beginning of the film, the experience of his parent’s divorce causes Frank to run away and break off contact from his parents. Before he ran away, Frank’s father was the most important role model in Frank’s life. We can see this through the many flashbacks of Frank’s father teaching Frank how to steal, manipulate people and forge documents. As a result of running away and living without his role model father, Frank lives the only way he knows how which is to copy his father’s criminal ways. However, Carl can see that Frank is conflicted in his chosen lifestyle. Carl can see that Frank doesn’t really want to live a life of crime like his father. Frank says to Carl, “I don’t understand”, Carl responds “sure you do. Sometimes, it’s easier living the lie”. These words showed me just how much Frank is not living his true identity. As the film progresses, Carl shows Frank that he no longer needs to run away from his problems. In doing so, Carl teaches Frank to be an upstanding citizen who uses his talents for good and doesn’t run away from his problems. This encouraged me to question whether I, like Frank, am living a life that I truly desire to lead as I’m yet to be positively influenced by someone such as Carl of Frosty.

Carl and Jay have challenged me to consider the nature of what makes a good role model. Both Carl and Frosty taught me that a good role model is someone who has a strong moral compass, who really knows who they are and who is willing to share their approach to life and identity with others. Carl and Frosty are very different in terms of personality and what they believe in yet they are both admirable and can be considered good role models. Both texts show that role models shouldn’t necessarily be limited to our parents or teachers and should include people with different values, personalities and backgrounds. Through the way Frank and Jay change and grow as individuals, we can see how when we find our passion in life (with help from role models), we are transformed into the person we truly desire to be. I can also see that having multiple role models instead of just one is desirable for teenagers because of the way we can learn different things from different role models and the significant role they play in the development of our identity.

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