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Film / Suburbia

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Suburbia is a 1984 film, written and directed by Penelope Spheeris about teenagers living in a punk house in Los Angeles.

Evan and his kid brother Ethan flee their alcoholic mother and join a gang of punks called T.R. (The Rejected). A familial bond forms among them, but some of the local suburbanites are set on getting rid of them, one way or another.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Evan's mother hits him and yells at him and refers to Ethan as a "pain in the ass"; Sheila's father molested and beat her.
  • The Alleged Car: Jack's car, which features stencils, rust, and a mismatched door. His father (who gave him the car) later refers to it as a "trash boat".
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: In the first scene at TR House, Razzle shoots a roach off of the ceiling with a slingshot, and then turns to Evan and asks if he wants "to be next"...for a haircut.
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  • Big Brother Worship: Ethan to Evan.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with a small child dying in a horrible accident.
  • Brick Joke: Jack mentions Razzle capturing two feral dogs in the hopes of taming them (which Jack and the others doubt he's capable of doing) shortly after picking up Evan and Joe. Later on in the film, he successfully manages to command them to sit, to which he proudly announces his success.
  • Covered with Scars: Sheila, for whom they are also Physical Scars, Psychological Scars.
  • Crapsack World: It's telling when the TR kids mention that living in a squalid, abandoned house is the best home many of them have ever known.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Many of the kids fear this is where they'll end up if they have to leave their punk house.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sheila.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Keef is seen either peddling drugs or being affected by them. When Sheila intentionally overdoses on his drugs, most of the TR kids call him out over this.
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  • Due to the Dead: After Sheila dies, they feel the need to do something respectful for her and end up returning her body to her parents.
  • False Flag Attack: Of sorts. Two random guys who picked a fight with Skinner stab a bouncer at a show, and proceed to pin the knife to the flyer with the letters "TR" written in blood.
  • Fan Disservice: Two of the three topless scenes in the movie are this. The first is when a girl is forcefully disrobed by Skinner and the TR kids at a concert; the second is when Sheila's shirt is torn off of her by Jim and Bob when they storm the house to send them a warning. The latter incident is what pushes Sheila over the edge and causes her to kill herself.
  • Fluffy Tamer: Razzle.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The protagonists rob garages, vandalize storefronts, and rip a girl's clothes off at a concert. The antagonists shoot dogs and visit strip clubs while talking about family values. The protagonists are only more sympathetic because of Sympathetic P.O.V. and their difficult lives.
  • I Am Not My Father: Jack the punk and his stepdad the cop.
  • Important Haircut: Sheila and Ethan.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Each kid who stays at TR House must be branded with a "TR" on their arm to show commitment and to prevent just anyone from crashing at the house.
  • Kick the Dog: Jim and Bob first appear shooting dogs, including a puppy. Thanks to Razzle, The Dog Bites Back later.
  • Kill the Cutie: Sheila and Ethan.
  • Lady Drunk: Ethan and Evan's mother.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Ethan and Evan's mother is arrested for injuring several shoppers on felony drunk driving charges; Sheila's father is beaten at her funeral (while trying to hold the moral high ground) hard enough to send him to the hospital.
  • Manchild: Mattie and Christina are teenagers, but they want Sheila to read fairy tales to them.
  • Only One Name: Keef, Skinner, Razzle...
  • Police Are Useless: Justified; the cops are put in the difficult position of needing to appease Citizens Against Crime while not wanting to arrest a bunch of kids who are largely the victims of circumstance.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Completely averted, since the cast are all amateurs who talk like real teenagers.
  • Scars Are Forever: Joe's objection to getting branded.
  • Shown Their Work: Spheeris previously directed a documentary about the Los Angeles punk scene, and the cast features actual punks from the local scene.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Solidly planted on the right end of the scale.
  • Special Guest: The bands shown playing at the club (TSOL, The Vandals, and DI) are all real.
  • Suburbia
  • Sudden Downer Ending
  • Teens Are Monsters: Citizens Against Crime thinks so, and the teens themselves don't do much to convince them otherwise.
  • Team Dad: Jack.
  • True Companions
  • Unusual Dysphemism: "He's going to shit Twinkies!"
  • "What Now?" Ending: The TR kids successfully fight off an invasion by Jim and Bob and are seen celebrating. Cue the duo coming back around for round two, followed by Ethan getting run over and killed and Jack's father arriving too late to stop any of the aforementioned events from happening. Roll credits.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer...: For Skinner, punching things is always the answer.


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