Is it just me, or does all of media misremember high school?
The high school drama movie / television series is so overdone it has become a cliche of a cliche. Hell, it was already cliche by the 1980’s, but for some reason, the studios still feel the need to poop out high school drama after high school drama. Sure, the characters get quirkier (the modus operandi for our zeitgeist) and the themes are slightly different (this high school drama is about the geeky girl getting the popular guy instead of the other way around like last year’s high school drama! …and this one is about the loser music students! …this one drops the pretenses – the guys just wanna get laid, like we all did back then!), but all the characters are just two-dimensional stereotypes – rehashings of old, worn out relics representing Baby Boomer values. And really, little has changed in the last thirty years aside from hairdos and music.
Oh yes – the characters are quite familiar: there’s the jock (you know because he’s wearing a letterman jacket), the geek (you know because he’s socially inept, but excels at making references to science whenever possible), the bully (the ugly one), the popular girl (empty and vapid, but attractive), the good teacher (young), the boring teacher (old)…
…but wait a minute. Did these writers actually experience high school? Maybe things were different in the 80’s, or maybe I had an oddly unique high school experience, but all of these characters didn’t exist in my high school experience as TV seems to think they should have.
We didn’t have bullies. No one stole lunch money or picked fights in hallways. Sure, we had assholes, but assholes are everywhere: in the office, on the street, in congress… why elevate them to the status of the famed Bully Archetype? My everyday High School Asshole made snide remarks, interrupted class with silly antics, and largely left people alone otherwise. Maybe a yo mamma joke too.
The popular kids? They were popular because, more often than not, they were funny and engaging. People at my school earned their popularity through being decent, personable, energetic people. Sure, a lot of them were attractive, and maybe that helped their confidence, but a lot of them weren’t. Our class presidents were generally smart and hardworking. They also weren’t necessarily the “popular kids,” not that that would have mattered, because looking back, while I might have had a certain amount of disdain for the “popular kids,” I was probably just mad I wasn’t as funny as they were.
The jocks? Sure, we had them. Who cares? Our football team sucked. They didn’t strut around campus like pompous celebrities. You probably wouldn’t have been able to pick them out of a crowd, probably because they were regular people and not some Warner Bros fantasy regurgitated by ten staff writers to a director who experienced high school during the Cuban Missile Crisis. No, the jocks were just people who were athletic, and who probably enjoyed sports more than class. That’s fine. I enjoyed a lot of things more than class.
And the geeks? People didn’t pick on them because they weren’t actually a class of people. They didn’t wear plaid button-downs tucked into khakis and talk about science all day and chess club all night. The geeks in my school talked about things everyone else talked about: booty. Also relationships, parents, politics, class, and how much better GameCube is compared to Nintendo 64. The geeks weren’t the only ones who played video games in high school, by the way.
The music kids weren’t losers. The quarterback was in choir.
The theater kids were generally well-liked because they were interesting.
Gays didn’t act like effeminate, flamboyant stereotypes leading a pride parade (I’m looking at you, Glee).
Intelligence was valued. Good looks were admired. Being a dick was universally frowned upon.
Most of the drama I remember was probably invented in my own hormonal head.
What about cliques?
There were cliques, sure, but we just called them groups of friends. You know, people who like each other and have similar interests? Why vilify our tendency to group together with kindred souls? Sure, every so often there was a group of douchebags, but for the most part, people were largely cordial to each other, and no one really gave a rat’s ass about the hierarchy of social standing.
Reader? Was I clueless? Was my high school a bizarrely idyllic exception to the rule? What about yours?