Photographer Larry Clark’s fascination with adolescence is well — and disturbingly — documented, in two books (his portrait of drug-crazed teens Tulsa and the aptly named Teenage Lust) and now in his first film, Kids. Clark, who discovered a new nihilistic subculture after he took up skateboarding with New York teens, delivers a film so scorching it begs the question: Do the hell-bent early bloomers of Kids say more about today’s jaded teens, or the morbid preoccupations of one excitable adult? To find out, we took a group of 15- and 16-year-olds to see Kids.
Sex is a major preoccupation in Kids, especially for Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), the self-described ”virgin surgeon.” Is this typical?
Antoinette Barnett, 15, New York City: ”I’m not like that and my friends aren’t like that. The sex was nasty.”
William Schipilliti, 16, Harrington Park, N.J.: ”No. Guys are ruled more by fighting than sex.”
Adam Watkins, 16, Norwood, N.J.: ”No, that was totally fake, especially that guy Telly. Two virgins in one day? That’s impossible.”
Telly shuns condoms and laughs off the notion of AIDS. Are other kids so blasé?
Martha King, 16, New York City: ”Of course not. Most girls are smart enough not to let some jerk like Telly talk them into sex without protection.”
Antoinette: ”AIDS is so scary you’d have to be crazy to say it doesn’t exist.”
Joints are as common as Marlboros, and a girl swallows a pill she’s offered, no questions asked. Are drugs really so rampant?
Lisa Tower, 16, New York City: ”The drugs were pretty accurate.”
Gerald Allarde, 16, Northvale, N.J.: ”There’s no way you could do drugs on the corner in New Jersey. That might be true for New York City skateboarders, but that’s about it.”
None of the kids seem to have curfews. Are your parents that easy on you?
Adam: ”As long as your parents know where you are, there’s no problem staying out all night.”
Antoinette: ”If I went to some all-night party without calling home, my parents would have the cops out looking for me.”
How did you relate to Kids, if you did at all?
Tamar Krasnow, 16, New York City: ”It was so exaggerated, it was funny.”
Gerald: ”A lot of kids shoplift, jump turnstiles, curse — but not nearly as much as they do in the movie.”
Lisa: ”It was good to watch kids talking the way we talk. It really shows what goes on in the city.”
Adam: ”The movie tried to squeeze in everything that parents worry about, but instead of waking people up, it’s just going to make kids feel like they’re cool for doing that stuff.”