To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: are our expectations of teenagers too low? What to watch instead?

Netflix recently released its teen romance film, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It quickly took its audience (read: young girls) by storm. A major reason for its success is definitely the male lead’s good looks; the movie has also received praise for charming characters and a lovable plot line. However, a question lingers, if a movie about two teenagers faking a relationship and then falling in love (big surprise) makes a good movie, how low are our expectations from films about teenagers?

The absolutely ridiculous plotlines

teenagers, to all the boys i've loved before

Our teenage pasts may always return to haunt us. But I bet that none of you were ever stupid enough to try any of the following methods:

1. Keep an archive of secret love letters with the one plan of keeping them unsent, but with the correct address and a stamped envelope for each of them.
2. Write one of those letters to your older sister’s (then) boyfriend.
3. Accidentally send a love letter to someone. Then try to convince them that you do not like them by avoiding them and faking a relationship with someone else.
4. Have a huge misunderstanding with your (fake) girlfriend because she doesn’t let you talk at all (for the sake of having a plot). One wonders how easily the situation could have been resolved by texted explanation.

Even if I ignore these absurdities, the entire plot can be predicted after the first 10 minutes by a 5th grader.  Depicting teenagers as vapid idiots for the sake of lazy storytelling seems like a strange choice considering the intended audience are teenagers.

The plastic complex characters

teenagers, to all the boys i've loved before

Movies exist in which the teenagers are treated as multidimensional human beings with a wider emotional range than a teaspoon. Take Me, Earl and the Dying Girl serves as examples of such storytelling. There are movies where teenagers act like species so dumb that no other generation can grasp them, like Mean Girls. And then there are movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which desperately try to build an emotionally complex teenager by forcing it upon them through ridiculous backgrounds.

In this movie, both leads are without a parent; this gives the girl severe abandonment issues causing her to avoid telling her fake dating guy that she likes him back for real. Embedding insincere complexities feel like an insult to teenagers because the writers, who created the edgy backstory overlooked how characters can rationally develop and change with context. This reflects a thought process which is the equivalent of telling your teenage daughter “I trust you, I just don’t trust the rest of the world!” The writer seems to underestimate teenagers’ intelligence, and your mom clearly doesn’t trust you.

Aren’t all teen movies like this?

teenagers, to all the boys i've loved before

The short answer to this would be, yes, most movies about teenagers make the same assumptions about the demographic. This also the reason most movies about teenagers are also bad movies. By no means am I asserting that all teenagers are infallible intellectuals. Rather, the mistakes one makes as a teenager are the kind that alters their perspective of the world. Usually, the mistakes are not objectively and obviously moronic choices. It is an age when they develop their own sense of the world. Therefore, any movie for this audience should reflect the shifts in maturity and personality that teens experience.

Movies that get it right

An example of this being done right is Juno. The lovable and quirky protagonist has sex, just like 48% of teens in American high schools. She learns to make hard decisions that reflect her personal growth over the course of the pregnancy. Another fantastic teen rom-com movie is the grossly under-the-radar Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Unlike Juno, this movie doesn’t grapple with the subject of maturing in your teens. It only focuses on an adorable love story, where both lead characters are intelligent and quirky. The movie is succesfully relatable and, more importantly, a good story.

Movies such as Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The Breakfast Club, Submarine, Call Me By Your Name, and Perks of Being a Wallflower, are additional evidence that it is possible to write, produce, and direct stories about teenagers in a non-disdainful manner.  I am sure the list is long of teen movies that misunderstand young people and feel written by condescending adults.

My main objection with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, is not just the subpar story. My main objection is if we think this is acceptable and a ‘good’ movie, we encourage flawed storylines and set the bar too low.

Product review – Oppo F7 smartphone

There was a time when Oppo used to make amazing flagships with innovative designs. Through their impressive work with cameras in their phones, Oppo rose through its competition in China and has expanded globally ever since. They marketed what they did best – class-leading cameras. Back in 2014, the Oppo Find 7 and it’s successor, the Oppo N1. Times have changed however, and so their leadership in the market has waned. They’re still one of the biggest smartphone makers in the world, particularly in Asia. Their focus has shifted from offering top-tier performance and functionality to focused marketing on excellent performance both for the front and rear cameras. But since then, Oppo been struggling in putting out a device that satisfies the average Joe-shim looking for a phone. The Oppo F7 is somewhat of a departure from their philosophy, and it’s for the better.

Sure, the phone isn’t the best example of bang-for-buck, but the F7 isn’t quite a terrible phone compared to the products Oppo has put out in the past few years. Its current competitor in the market is the Vivo V9, and it does almost everything better while costing a bit less than the V9.

The Performance

The Oppo is no slouch in this department. It uses Mediatek’s latest P60 SoC, which performs on par with the Snapdragon 660 and 636. The user interface is snappy and responsive, but Oppo’s ColorOS based on Android 8.1 Oreo tries hard to deliver an iPhone experience with no app drawers. If one feels bothered about this, Nova Launcher or Google Launcher is ready to be installed from the Google Play Store, offering a more familiar experience on the F7. With 4 GB of ram, the phone easily gets day-to-day tasks done, even handling intensive tasks. But if you feel gimped with 4 gigs of ram, there is a 6GB option available as well. Gaming performance is great but not the best when compared to something such as a Xiaomi Mi6 or Mi Note 3 within the range, because the Mali GPU in the phone doesn’t do much good against the Adreno from Snapdragon chipsets.

Design and display

The F7 isn’t the most premium phone on earth, but it’s a phone that feels well built, which is fine as it is a mid-ranger. The weight is perfect, as it isn’t too heavy nor does it feel as flimsy as a plastic phone. One terrible decision Oppo decided to take was to choose plastic with a glossy rear to illuminate its back. It’s a solution to imitate flagship devices with glass backs, but ultimately the phone becomes a fingerprint magnet. Dread from it, run from it, smudges always follow.

The phone still uses the Micro USB port which you always get wrong on the first try while trying to plug in your phone in the dark. The snappy, functional fingerprint scanner is around the back. Take a look at the bottom and, behold, a 2018 smartphone with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The 19:9 display with 1080p is a great experience, as it feels amazing for media consumption and gaming. If you want even more screen real estate, then feel free to hide the software navigation buttons and use gestures for navigation; a desperate attempt by Oppo trying to imitate iPhones again. Old habits die hard.

Software and functionality

ColorOS is quite a bit bulky when compared to stock android. It takes a while to get used to and there aren’t really any difference under the hood when you change the theme from the theme store. Oppo’s way of dealing with convenience doesn’t make sense however. They use a keyboard called “Oppo Secure Keyboard” layered on top of the Gboard and claims to protect keystrokes from being tracked. Let me rephrase that sentence, they use a terribly heavy feature (that nobody asked for in the first place) in place of a function that can easily be used from a lighter alternative. And that sentence describes the software side of the phone entirely.

However, the Helios P60 helps in the software department. Face Unlock is a gimmicky feature to some android users, but it works quite fast. A dedicated AI chip in the SoC helps with delays previously faced from fingerprint scanning and face unlock; along with real time HDR in taking photos.

Endurance

With a respectable 3400mAh battery, the Oppo offers a full day of heavy and moderate usage, with little charge left at the end of the day. The efficient chip-set helps in this regard, putting it a class above competitors from Huawei (P20 Lite) and Vivo (Vivo V9). What the F7 lacks however, is fast charging tech. It takes around two hours to top up the battery from 5%.

Camera

As usual, the camera is the only thing the Oppo excels in. Boasting a 25 megapixel camera with f/2.5 aperture in the front and a 16 megapixel camera with f/1.8 aperture in the back, the device takes great pictures. Oppo’s main point of marketing is the AI Beauty feature. In most cases, the beautification is probably for the better but the beautification doesn’t go away entirely when you turn the mode off. The bokeh feature has been around for a while, and it finally feels that mobile phone manufacturers pulled it off, thanks to AI being at work. There are some AR features that were fun, but the available ones were pretty conventional and uninspiring.

The rear camera is brilliant as well. In an era of dual camera focusing on taking cool macro shots with blurred backgrounds, the Oppo takes a different route. Surely enough, the phone doesn’t offer amazing shots like Samsung Galaxy S9 or iPhone X, but the colors seem natural in well lit conditions. The sensor tends to overexpose a bit under low light conditions however. For macro shots, the camera feels brilliant, detecting edges and objects properly.

The best part about the camera app is the Expert mode. In this, you can adjust shutter speed, ISO, exposure etc. Disappointingly, the phone doesn’t offer 4K recording, a commonplace feature in this price range.

Conclusion and brief comparisons

The F7 isn’t a terrible phone by any means, but there are better options in the price range. Its mainstream competitors however, aren’t doing much good.

The Vivo V9 with a smaller battery and inferior camera is probably the worst in this price range, but the V9’s edge is in offering a lighter user interface experience and fast charge tech. Buying the V9 with 30,000BDT and getting a Snapdragon 626 is a disappointment to say the least.

Huawei recently entered this segment with the Huawei P20 Lite. Sure, the phone looks stunning and arguably prettier than the F7, but the Kirin 659 is dated. The GPU is worse as well. Storage system on the Oppo is UFS 2.1 whereas the P20 lite uses eMMc for storage. However, the build quality is a bit better, and dual cameras are better in some aspects. The P20 Lite also has fast charging tech with a USB C port.

The F7 is a good phone, but do pick it up when the price is a bit more tolerable. It nails almost everything down, and should be a pretty capable driver for any average user.