I discovered I have a certain affinity for films made in certain years and eras, particularly those set in New York.

I have entitled this post “The Many New Yorks (part 1)” in anticipation of continuing some sort of series. There are many New York films that I could elaborate on, but for the purposes of saving space, I will speak to just one for now.

Recently, I watched Kids (circa 1995) and found myself seeing a completely different New York than the one I currently inhabit. This was a grittier, darker city where even the Upper East Side looked a little shabby. (Cue scene where the main character is standing outside of the 77th Street subway station.) In brief, the plot of this equally dark tale revolves around a seventeen year old kid, Tally, who is hell-bent on deflowering every virgin girl he meets. He’s disgusting, unapologetic (but not in a good way), misogynistic, and worst of all, ignorant. Tally believes he is immune to any consequence, including disease. But that illusion is quickly shattered for the viewer when one of his girls turns up HIV positive – and the kicker – Tally was the only boy she had ever slept with.

Needless to say, there is no happy ending.

But while film itself disturbed me for days, I do credit it with getting me to consider the cast of characters who exist in 2008 New York. Or 1978 New York or 1898 for that matter.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

I can still spot shades of Kids in certain corners and avenues. I believe that while the architecture or the landscape of the city has changed, the Tallys and the Jennys are probably still out there, experiencing the dramas of the day.

To further support this in conjunction with this particular film, I have observed that STD/HIV rates are on the rise again in certain populations, including adolescents. To think that the tragedies of 1995 still occur today is entirely possible, and sadly, realistic.

While we believe that we are better educating our youth, microcosms do form. When Kids was initially released, it was marketed as a documentary. Even after it was declared a narrative film, people were still deeply disturbed that teenagers would behave as depicted in Larry Clarke’s film. But as the filmmaker and others associated with Kids pointed out, the reason it hooked people into thinking it was a documentary was because those situations do in fact exist.

And while I love New York for all that it is – even in the face of all that is cruel and terrible – I think the bubbles it has a tendency to form actually enable behavior like Tally’s. New York is a place where many people come to fulfill their biggest, sometimes craziest dreams. It has an air of invincibility. I suppose that those born and bred here may feel an even stronger pull toward that invincibility.

They are the kings and queens of their own insanely drawn circles — and they can continue to spin at whatever speed and whatever cost they choose until the world outside of New York catches up to them.

In my next segment, I’d like to consider New York in two lights: the place/character that allows all your dreams come true and the place/character that seems to make everything fall apart.

(Stay tuned…I’ll probably go on about something else first.)