I watched Step Up last week, in the middle of writing my final papers, and it was a beautiful break from thinking things. It’s so much fun, and nonsensical, and weirdly serious in parts as it tries to be all movies to all people, and also the dancing is great, and Channing is a babe even if he is basically a child here. It was a total blast, and my partner and I have real exciting plans to watch all of the sequels. I couldn’t understand how I had avoided this beautiful piece of millennial pop-culture trash.
And then I remembered when it came out, and what my life was like then. It came out in August 2006. I would have been almost fourteen, about to start eight grade, and I could not have enjoyed this movie, because this was what the people who were mean to me liked. They took it from me.
I realize this is a very childish coping mechanism, but in my defense, I was an actual child, and a weird one at that. Middle school was basically hell, and seventh grade was the worst year of my life. I responded to this misery by getting really into punk rock, and more into sf/fantasy books, and not liking anything that “popular” kids liked. This age is when you’re creating an identity, and mine was about not being like the kids who teased me. Also, because punk rock is great, and I’ve always been a big reader, and I like to think I would have found these things I love no matter what, but who knows.
There was a meme going around twitter last week, asking why people were bullied as kids, and like, I have no fucking idea. Because I was a weird kid. I read a lot, and wasn’t athletic, and went to a k-8 for middle school with all these kids who already knew each other, and my parents are recovering alcoholics, and I had a kind of sheltered childhood, and grew up watching classic movie musicals. Who the fuck knows. Really, it didn’t have anything to do with what I was, or what I did.
I got bullied because kids are horrible, and don’t know how to navigate difference. Lord knows, I was pretty bad too. I felt ostracized, rightly or wrongly, and responded by feeling superior and cutting myself of trying to connect with people I didn’t already trust. And like, that’s not a mature coping mechanism, but again, I was a child! We were all children, and we were terrible to each other, and that’s why I couldn’t enjoy Step Up when it came out! It’s a godforsaken tragedy!
My life would been better if it was like Step Up, which is about how you can still dance with someone even if they’re different from you. That’s a good lesson to learn. And maybe my whole life would have been better if I had watched Step Up in 2006 instead of… I don’t know what that year was? Getting Buffy the Vampire slayer dvds in the mail from netflix, or checking out cult movies from Cinema Revolutions (RIP). It was eleven years ago! Eleven and a half, almost.
I don’t regret doing those things, because they made me into the person I am today, someone who’s deeply nerdy about vampires and film culture. I might have created my identity as a middle schooler out of some protective need to be different, and that’s isn’t not sad, but I still like who I am. I’m just really glad that I’ve grown up enough that I can be someone who likes all of those things AND Step Up. It’s a real fun movie. You should give it a chance. Maybe the “popular” kids were on to something.