By: Amanda Guarragi
No matter the year, we can all agree that high school can be rough, especially senior year. There can be so much pressure put on an eighteen-year-old without their parents even realizing it. As someone who has struggled with attempting to be the perfect daughter, Acid Test really struck a chord with me. It’s set in 1992, against the backdrop of the presidential election between Bush Sr., Clinton, and Perot. We have a young Latina teen named Jenny (Juliana DeStefano) in her senior year trying her best to get into Harvard — this was never a choice; more like an obligation to get in because of her father. Writer-director Jenny Waldo adds so much depth to this story by exploring the mind of a young teenage girl becoming an adult.
At 18, we barely know what we want to do, let alone know who we want to be. The second we become legal there’s even more pressure to make the right decisions. But as we get older, what even are the right decisions? We normally are conditioned to follow the plan put in place by our parents, but we are lost in a system that inevitably works against freedom of expression. So when we stray far from the that path, in an act of rebellion, it’s seen as losing oneself, instead of discovering your true identity. In Acid Test, one night changes everything for Jenny, like a switch was flipped. On a night out with her best friend, she discovers ‘Riot Grrrl’, an aggressive feminist punk subgenre of music, and she impulsively drops acid.
Now, drugs are never the answer, but we all have our vices. Sometimes we need a break from reality because there is so much pressure. We see that Jenny is looking outside of herself in that moment and she feels at peace. So that peacefulness is now tied to the Riot Grrrl’s and the punk scene. Afterwards, when she comes down from her high, all she wants is to feel that again. So she attempts to reach that level of peace by fighting against the patriarchal system holding her back, including speaking out against her father. Jenny does many things that alarm her parents because she isn’t this perfect girl they made up in their heads. Once that glass shatters, parents don’t realize how much harm they’ve actually done.
Acid Test shows the complexity in exploring one’s identity in the early stages of adulthood. Jenny Waldo incorporated as many aspects as she could, to show how many components factor into making a life-changing decision. Even when deciding who you want to be. There are questions that we ask ourselves when we reach a certain milestone and it sends us spiralling out of control. It doesn’t matter the age, the question of, ‘Who am I?’ will always affect us. No one should ever stay the same; we evolve and grow as individuals within a year. Waldo’s film is a perfect example of exploring that pressure in identifying who you are, when you still have your whole life ahead of you.