Misremembering High School

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?

About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
This entry was posted in Autobiography, Editorial and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Misremembering High School

  1. keatslover says:

    I agree with you here. I am just out of high school myself and I do not seem to remember cliques. The popular people eere the talented people. Nd geeks were well loved if they were nice people:-)

  2. Jessica LeAnne says:

    As much as I despised high school, I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t as bad as the media portrays it. However, I seem to recall a number of interesting times when certain movies or TV shows caused a few people in each “stereotyped” group to react oddly. Like this one time after Mean Girl came out, a kid who was gay and in newspaper/band wrote an article bashing the popular kids and comparing them to the Plastics (especially the cheerleaders for some reason). But it was weird because hardly any of the popular kids exemplified any of the characteristics in that movie. They weren’t super rich. They weren’t asses. Most of them were (and still are) active in church and missionary life (hardly Mean Girls material). But what I’m getting at is that, sometimes, certain people feel that high school SHOULD mimic Hollywood, and so they put up blinders in order to see the world in cliques and stereotypes.
    If I HAD to pick one movie that personified my high school, though, it would be Dazed and Confused. The jocks were best friends with the drug addicts, the apathetic group and the popular kids were on friendly terms with one another. There were a couple assholes, but nobody actually payed attention to them. Except freshmen guys weren’t terrified of getting paddled by seniors. And freshmen girls didn’t have to get hazed. That part doesn’t make sense.

  3. my high school was even further than the high school cliche. There were a couple of popular girls, because they were both beautiful and smart – not necessarily the top of the class but smart nevertheless. The bullies? Maybe one or two, but only the ones who have self-esteem issue gave a damn (which, if my memory serves me right, almost none). The geeks existed, but nowhere near the ‘geeky’ level. Pretty much all they did was studying, but they were quite sociable (especially to teachers) too. And the people in theater and music were very much appreciated and respected. Of course there were a few glitches, but not as dramatic as what all the tv series tell us…

  4. chindor says:

    The school constuctions are a little different here (in the Netherlands), we did not even have a football team, music band or choir.
    But I do remember some cliche’s, especially the cliques… If you had wealthy parents and was able to wear brand clothing it became easier to fit in (and therefore be polular). But in the end a little group of teenagers, who did’t fit in any group, remained and they formed a new group… I think it’s humans nature to want to fit in.
    So the cliche in my head would be the little girl with the glasses who sat on the stairs all alone eating her sandwiches and was waiting for the break to end, I don’t know why that image is still there after all these years, I felt so sorry for her.
    Bullies didn’t put your head in a toilet or something like that. However, the were capable to make some childs highschool a living hell. Harrasment (even if only verbally), day in and day out, is underestimated.
    Alltogether, with all the cliche’s that do fit the stereotype, our school was not very Grease-like or like S. Kings “Carrie”. I’m sure all the kids were strugling with their hormones, everybody was bragging about sex and only a few actually experienced it.
    The funniest thing is to meet some of the students after more than a decade and see what they have become. As mean as I might am, sometimes I came across one of the bullies, saw what they turned out to be and it made me giggle. Or I ran into one of the bullied children, such as the ugly girl who had to wear her big sisters clothes back then, who now has a great job, is happily married and turned out to be quite pretty, which makes me smile. (gotta love kharma).

  5. My school had some bullies, it definitely had the jocks, the popular kids, the band geeks… I was a smart, band geeky jock. I wasn’t part of the inner sanctum though – my parents weren’t rolling in dough and I didn’t wear brand-name clothes. I didn’t come from a long line of people who made their way through the school, so I didn’t have the “right last name”. Overall, High School was fine, but there were moments of extreme unfairness that stuck with me – that’s okay, it prepared me for the real world, which is full of unfairness. To this day, there is only one person I truly hated from HS… a bully. Later I learned that he said what he did because he found me pretty and it was his way of getting me to pay attention to him, as twisted as it was… Now I just pity them.

  6. What a well-written and interesting post! I must say, I definitely agree with you. My high school experience was far from normal, since my class had only 77 kids; there was no pretty, popular girl or jocks; everybody played a sport and the band members were all well-liked (and sporty). But, because I had such an odd high school experience, I actually yearn for the high schools you see in the movies, no matter how fake they are! 😛

  7. I think you are right, however movies (specifically non-documentary movies) are not meant to portray reality exactly as it is. Stereotypes are exaggerated features of real people, and movies almost have to use stereotypes because portraying people as they really are is generally pretty boring and just not exciting.

  8. I regarded myself and a slew of other students as NOT being in any particular group. I recognized those groups that did exist as you said… cliques. They were the obvious ones… the jocks, the cheerleaders, the artists, the potheads. Generally speaking, that was about as far as I got. In reality, I associated with many groups and non-groups… artists, theatre types, potheads (tho, I didn’t smoke), funny types, friendly jocks–but, okay, not so much the cheerleaders who always seemed to separate themselves into Godessness. As I recall, I sort of prided myself in not being part of any one particular group… not that pride is always a good thing, but I think in this case it was okay. 🙂

  9. Rick Bailey says:

    I graduated in 1974, and I’m here to say, times have changed. Also, every school is different. Mine was more stereotypical of the high school depicted in media. Years later, I can only remember a couple of people I liked. I look at only photos in a year book and I can’t remember most of the names. I had – and have – nothing in common with the majority of those people. The big thing though, is it just doesn’t matter after a few years.

  10. Pingback: Remembering your teen years and trying to grow up | to the neon god they made

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