Turns Out High School Isn’t Like in the Movies

by Ella Casey ’21

Most high schoolers can agree that the popular coming-of-age movies and shows are amazing, entertaining stories, but how well do they really portray high school life? A lot of the time these classics are just about as far from reality as they can get. Obviously some stories need a larger willinginess for suspension of disbelief. No class ever breaks out into perfectly harmonic and choreographed singing and dance routines throughout the high school, but “High School Musical” is unbelievably far-fetched in several other ways–like how Troy can just show up on his crush’s balcony one night and serenade her without having the cops called on him for stalking or that Troy and all his friends can end up in the same summer job together. 

Going into high school, I thought it would be much different because of the high school based movies I had watched before. It seemed as though there would be a big shift between middle school and high school, but it really was not all that different. 

Several movies depict high school as a war zone, with a bunch of different, distinct cliques that each person fits into. Although there are certain groups of people in actual high school, these groups are not a clear-cut and divisive as television would have one think. Most people have several friend groups; while they may be closer to some more than others, they can still float between them without causing such uproar. 

Additionally, movies tend to over-romanticize everything, with people falling in love only moments after meeting (not just in Disney movies) and certain acts seem more romantic in movies that would otherwise be just creepy or embarrassing–while some people may find professing love to another in front of the whole school romantic, the whole student body would be staring at them and most of them wouldn’t even know/be friends with the couple. School budgets on television also seem to skyrocket compared to real life. High schools would have way over-the-top themed proms with excessive decorations throughout giant rooms, or school events would be extra extravagant events way outside a normal school budget, like the carnival from “Grease.” 

Next, high school in the movies always seemed like the students were way more mature, but most people are still, on some level, in that awkward phase of being a teenager and finding out who they are, and it doesn’t help that most high schoolers in movies are really played by adults who are past that time of their lives. 

More satirical movies, like “Mean Girls” or “Heathers,” exaggerate these common misconceptions about high school life so as to tell a story, but this emphasis on unrealistic aspects of the films indirectly addresses the stereotypes so common in high school movies. They are aware of the clichés and draw on them to create a humorous piece. No one in high school dresses like their outfit was picked by a designer everyday; students actually have homework–a lot–most nights; and virtually no one has as much free time as television characters. 

There are a few films that are much more accurate and thus resonate with the audience in a more relatable way. For example, the prestigious indie films “Lady Bird” and “Perks of Being a Wallflower” both are quite accurate in representing high school life, including the internal struggles of teenagers.