High School Movie and TV Show Expectations

Liz Gremer, Co-Art Director

Before most students entered high school, they were exposed to differing ideas of what high school was going to be like. Whether that was jocks constantly seen with letterman jacket or cliques ruling the cafeteria, the media has created a vision of what high school that isn’t close to reality. These five TV shows and movies are just a handful of examples that have falsely depicted the average high school experience.

1)”High School Musical”- This 2006 Disney channel original movie has been a phenomenon since it was released.  While it is remembered for its catchy songs and dancing, setting relationship goals for young viewers, and kickstarting careers for Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron, it is highly unrealistic. In the song song “Stick to the Status Quo,” characters break out into song and dance on lunch tables. This just simply doesn’t happen in schools.  Additionally, the movie set up young viewers with unrealistic expectations about stereotypes and how everyone belongs to a clique.

2)”Glee”- Similar to “High School Musical”, “Glee” created the facade that everything in school involves a large, heavily produced musical number. While this obviously isn’t the case, “Glee” also tackled some tougher issues. The most realistic parts of the show dealt with bullying, body image and sexuality, which are pretty common issues in school. Although the show is highly dramatized and unrealistic at times, the show featured storylines that high schoolers could relate to.

3)”Mean Girls”- One of the most well-known, critically acclaimed high school movies is “Mean Girls”. The plot follows transfer student Cady Heron as she befriends “the Plastics”. At its roots, the movie is about bullying, which is quite common in school settings. However, “Mean Girls” takes bullying to a new, dramatic level. The topics are exaggerated for comedic purposes, but many young viewers perceived the bullying portrayed as normal. The image of the stereotypical popular mean girl is depicted, and sets us young viewers to think that girls like this run the school and should be feared.

4)”Clueless”- Unlike the other movies on this list, “Clueless” isn’t unrealistic when it comes to its plot. The movie follows the daily life of clueless 16 year old Cher Horowitz (Alicia SIlverstone). In fact, it is pretty believable and realistic when it comes down to the story. However, it lacks reality when it comes to the actors and the general look of the movie. Yes: Cher is considered a style icon and ahead of her time. But, it simply isn’t realistic for a high school student to parade around the halls in stiletto heels and big hats.

5)”Degrassi: Next Class”- In 2016, Netflix rebooted the Canadian series “Degrassi: Next Generation”. The series features a wide variety of realistic high school scenarios, ranging from identity issues, school violence, teen pregnancy, mental illness and many more. However, the kicker about this series is that all the characters seem to experience these major issues one after the other. For example, it is extremely unrealistic to portray a student becoming pregnant right after being treated for cancer. While this is obviously a creative plot choice to gain viewership, it drills the idea that this is normal into the mind of a pre-teen.