PORTLAND – Michael Whittaker works in the teen section of the Portland Public Library and has heard all the laments.

“My parents don’t understand me.”

“They don’t get my music.”

“Life is so unfair.”

Whittaker listens and sympathizes. But only to a degree.

“I tell them, ‘The same thing used to happen to me and the same thing used to happen to your parents. You are part of a continuum.’

“Teens are always thinking they are under the gun, that they are the only ones who have ever had problems with their parents,” he continued. “I tell them, ‘Teen oppression is not just directed at you. It’s a time-honored tradition.’“

To illustrate his point, Whittaker and the Portland Public Library have partnered with Videoport to present a six-month film series called “Teens Through Time.”

Beginning Jan. 5, the library will show teen-themed movies at 4:30 p.m. each Wednesday in the Rines Auditorium, on the library’s basement level. The movies will be shown on DVD with theater-quality sound. Admission will be free.

The series will feature movies from the 1950s through today. For each month, Whittaker and Videoport’s Bill Duggan have arranged to represent the top teen movies of a decade, starting with the 1950s.

The series will open with “Blackboard Jungle,” the 1955 classic that signaled the start of the rock ‘n’ roll revolution. Other movies on the list are “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955); “To Sir With Love” (1967); “Billy Jack” (1971); “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982); “Never Been Kissed” (1999); and “Bring It On” (2000).

Whittaker has two hopes for the series. The first is simply to show kids today that what they are going through is nothing new, and certainly not unique. It is such a universal issue that filmmakers, writers and musicians have pontificated about it for decades.

“Great minds have put those ideas down in books and movies for us to draw lessons from. Let’s stand on the shoulders of giants,” Whittaker said.

The other hope is simply that kids will watch the movies together with adults.

“I’m really concerned about the lack of communal activities,” he said. “We used to all go see a movie at the same time, and then walk away and discuss. In this age of video and on-demand, we watch it individually. I like the communal experience of showing it on the big screen with great sound.”

The series is part of an ongoing effort by the library to create more programming for teenagers. The library also hosts a monthly program called Teen After Hours. One night a month at 7 p.m., the library kicks out adults and everyone younger than 13, and turns the library over to teenagers.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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