Netflix’s angsty TV series Trinkets premiered last June to give us a glimpse of petty crime and teenage troubles like stealing. Trinkets tells the story of Elodie, Tabitha, and Moe, three teen girls who find themselves at the same Shoplifters Anonymous meeting. Shoplifting and stealing are common tropes in teen shows and films. Perhaps the reason we see it so often is that a streak of rebellion appeals to the younger crowd and stealing is a way to silently protest in a world that doesn’t give handouts.
There are also many more reasons why shoplifting is included in teen shows and films, often it’s a way to express the emotions or mindset of the characters. Here are a few examples of some specific scenes where the protagonists pocketed a few items.
Breaking and entering in The Bling Ring
The scene in The Bling Ring when Nicki, Chloe, Marc, Sam, and Rebecca break into Paris Hilton’s house is iconic. In the scene, the girls rummage through Paris’s closet, ecstatic by choice of trendy clothing and cute headwear. We see that the teenagers adore Paris and being among her possessions allows them to be near their idol and the fame they crave.
Shopping spree in Trinkets
In Trinkets episode 6, a particularly bad day motivates Elodie to go to the mall after school. Already struggling with the death of her mother, Elodie begins to frantically snatch clothing from the racks and takes it back to the dressing room so she can wear it out of the store. She fumbles with the magnet she’s using to remove the security tags, almost alerting the dressing room attendant to her theft. Here we see shoplifting used as a coping mechanism, a way to have control when life is difficult.
Snatching snacks in Little Birds
In the indie film Little Birds, best friends Lily and Alison stop at a convenience store while traveling to LA. Lily doesn’t have any money, so she opts to lift some snacks. Alison decides to put back the stolen goods. It ends poorly for Alison though, when the store owner accuses her of shoplifting. This scene is an example of how the assumptions people make about teenagers, painting them to be rebellious or troublesome when often they’re just trying to do the right thing.
Minty fresh breath in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
In Chapter Thirteen of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the Dark Lord begins working to make Sabrina his servant. He instructs her to steal a pack of gum from the store, something Sabrina almost does before Lilith catches her, preaching about being a good person. Sabrina then proves herself loyal to the Dark Lord by nearly burning down her school. Yet, at the end of the episode, Sabrina takes the gum anyway. Sabrina’s theft is an act of defiance, showing her darkness but also her unwillingness to be anyone’s servant.
Peer pressure in That’s So Raven
Stealing is a topic often touched on in the typical after school special. That’s So Raven tackled the subject in season 3 when Cory is pressured into shoplifting by his friends. Raven gets a vision that Cory is going to steal again and decides the best way to diffuse the situation is to dress up as a cantankerous security guard. After the usual hijinks, Raven makes Cory see that stealing isn’t going to make him one of the cool kids.