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BAD RONALD And the Teensploitation of the 70s Made-For-TV Movie

By Elizabeth Weitz

The 70s were a bad time for teenagers, at least in the Made-for-TV movie category, films like: Sarah T. – Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic, Are You in the House Alone (terrorized teen), Born Innocent (girl detention center rape and abuse), Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (and its male equivalent, Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn) and, of course Cage Without A Key (teen girl accepts ride from stranger, ends up as an accomplice to a murder and robbery) all pointed to the belief that teens were nothing but a bunch of doomed and violent assholes.

But none of these TV Movie teens could hold a candle to Bad Ronald (Scott Jacoby), a geeky teen weirdo who would have benefited greatly from the internet had it been available in 1984.

You see Ronald is an artistic dweeb who loves fantasy (and we’re not talking about an Anne McCaffrey-appreciator here) so much so that he prefers to live in a world he created inside his head, which, as we all know, is a big hit with your fellow high school students.

Naturally Prince Ronald (or whatever) is in need of a Princess so, logically, he asks out one of his classmates in front of her friends, and who shoots him down in your typical, straight to the gut way.

This leads to him committing accidental murder on her baby sister (Lesson: ladies, you might want to say yes to a date if you value your younger siblings):

After telling his mother (Kim Hunter) that he killed someone, she decides the best course of action is to HAVE HIM LIVE INSIDE THE WALLS OF THE HOUSE because that’s what good mothers do…they wall up their murderous children to protect them until the whole nasty business of KILLING SOMEONE, blows over.

Of course, she then promptly dies during Gall Bladder surgery (which, in TV Land, is what happens to people who PUT THEIR OFFSPRING INSIDE THE WALLS OF THEIR HOUSE):

Now, I don’t know about you, but once MommyDearest doesn’t come home and, oh, I don’t know, ALL YOUR SHIT GETS MOVED OUT OF YOUR HOUSE, I think the most logical conclusion would be to LEAVE, but this is Ronald and he’s not playing with a full deck of cards so, he stays…and then the Wood family moves in…complete with three bitchin’ teenage daughters and a father played by Dabney Coleman (yes, Dabney Coleman).

Look you know and I know that there’s going to be peeping going on as well as food raids and hopefully a shower (not), but one thing that no one could have predicted (even if you are a connoisseur of bad Made-for-TV Movies) is that Ronald apparently has the ability TO KILL WITH HIS EYES:

Okay sure…whatever, man.

Look, at this point everything gets seriously creepy…to the point where it becomes less a TV movie and more like something you would see in Grindhouse cinema…seriously ABC? This is what you thought we wanted to see?

And it just gets worse from there.

There’s more violence, more weirdness, more BAD TEENAGER DOING BAD STUFF to the point where, if you were a teen in the 70s, you would simply stand up, walk in front of the only TV in the house and announce to your entire family, ” WE ARE ALL NOT THIS FUCKING CREEPY PEOPLE!”

But too bad teenagers, cause according to the Big Three channels (ABC, CBS, NBC) you so fucking are…and at the end of Bad Ronald, Ronnie-boy fulfills his destiny by crashing through the wall like a psychotic/metaphorical Kool-Aid Man after his eyeball is seen by one of the sisters:

And, he screams for his mom

(End Movie)

Bad Ronald may be the craziest of the Made-for-TV anti-teen flicks that came out during the 70s, but almost all of them took HUGE liberties with what teens were actually experiencing and dealing with.

Call it a response to all the horrors of Vietnam, The Summer of Love or just the plain psychosis experienced by adults during the Me Decade, but for whatever reason the over-30 crowd kinda went bat-shit insane and transmogrified teens into two simple categories: Victims or Perpetrators, making sure to fill their heads with TV images of of good girls falling into the wrong crowds (Survival of Dana), trying to convince non-adults that pot was a gateway drug to death (Go Ask Alice), why hitchhiking will lead to violently losing one’s virginity (Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker) or, my personal favorite, how some teenagers are crawling with VD and have absolutely no problem screwing people’s husbands and thus possibly infecting a wife’s embryo with the Clap (Someone I Touched).

Is it any wonder why my generation is so completely and utterly nihilistic?

So thanks TV, thanks so much for teaching all of us that the moment we turned 13, we might as well fulfill the prophesy of becoming teen hookers or dweebs with a drywall fetish…because that’s all that we thought we could become.

Well, that or a long-distance runner with a bed-wetting issue (The Loneliest Runner)…jesus christ people.

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