Was a teenager’s bedroom always a sanctum sanctorum, all color-coordinated and walls plastered with posters, ironic road signs, and cut-out photos—or did some savvy Hollywood art director dream up that oh-so-camera-ready look? The chicken-and-egg conundrum is, of course, more complicated than that, involving the end of the age-old child/adult dichotomy, and the seismic social shifts after World War II (suburbia, car culture, rock ’n’ roll).
The Tumblr page Teenage Bedrooms on Screen goes some way toward showing the dual evolution of teenagers and their habitats. Neither completist nor polemical, Luke Goodsell’s collection of shots simply juxtaposes image after hyperdesigned image across the decades. As in the best Tumblrs, he has a discerning scavenger aesthetic and an unerring screenshot trigger-finger; telephones, mirrors, and warm colors are recurring elements of the mise en scène. The bedroom in Miss Annie Rooney (42) may look nothing like the one in Baby Doll (56) or Penny’s in Hairspray (88), but their stories take place less than a decade apart. The homey clutter suggests a space (and parental prosperity) of an in-between age, with their respective protagonists positioned just as ambiguously on their beds.
While the Eighties seem to be a golden era, from horror franchises to John Hughes to Heathers, there are a smattering of equally fascinating bedrooms beyond Hollywood, among them Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s House (77), Roy Boulting’s The Family Way (66), or Die Antwoord’s 2012 “Baby’s on Fire” music video. Not to mention that supreme teenager avant la lettre: the Queen of France in Marie Antoinette (06), curled up in a nightgown as if awaiting the arrival of her princess telephone.