I've seen so many things on TV, movies, and books about high school and teenagers that I'm starting to get concerned about what is a 'normal' high school experience. 

I see these 30-something actors trying to act out an edgy screenplay.  There's either so much bullying, these kids look like a hive mind mafia, or there's a large group of BFFs who are so close, they'd use the same bathroom stall and then reminisce in their diaries for an hour.

High school must be horrible for someone somewhere. I'm not even sure, because I've only been to pretty rural schools. No gangs, not much racial diversity, not so much with the rampant bullying.  Do we have problems?  Sure. My school still has drug users, fights, drop outs, and girls who get knocked up in the 8th grade.

Why are the problems so amplified in movies?  There always seems to be a gang of uber-popular girls plotting to basically break some other person's kneecaps.  I realize that a story needs a conflict, and some of these stories are based off of real experience.  Sad for the person who had to go through that.  But can we get a little more of a rounded view of it?  If I based my thoughts of high school off of books and movies, I'd start to think I was going into a warzone, or that there's a 150% chance I'll come out pregnant and addicted to heroin or cutting myself.

First of all, yeah, I've known some people who did cut themselves.  Let's dispell some stereotypes.  They didn't walk around with gothic clothing believing that they are so much emotionally deeper than everyone else.  They were mostly girls, but these were just the ones I knew about.  They wore long sleeves and hoodies even in the summer.  They were not friendless, they were not depressed 24/7 or suicidal.  One girl I knew told me that she cut absolutely anywhere she could get away with.  Not her arms, her entire body.

These people still have friends, though.  Friends, boyfriends, interests, pets, things they love.  At least in my experience, these people were not socially rejected, or completely alone.  It's something else altogether.  Something I don't think I could begin to dwell on, and won't attempt to do so.

Bullying? I won't pretend it's not a problem. Our school seemed to think there was a problem, judging by the poorly drawn anti-bullying posters on the walls. There was one boy that I'll call Greg for the sake of this post. When I first met him, he was picked on by other kids. I felt bad for him... for all of five minutes. Then I realized why he was picked on -- he made ridiculous claims, like that deer had opposable thumbs, or that he'd killed a wolf with his bare hands when he was 8. Moreover, instead of being able to laugh and let it roll off of his back, everything that people said struck him like a fatal arrow.

This is the age group that calls names, cuts other people's
hair off, and could get away with destroying property.
If your high school resembles this... just wtf?

Even when people were nice to him, he took it as the worst insult. He had a girlfriend for years, and in junior year he assaulted her and raped her. Everyone knew about it except for the right people. They stayed a couple.
 The most recent bullying I saw in a movie was a girl with leg braces being called a retard by another girl and having a drink dumped all over her right in the middle of a (conveniently empty) hallway. High school, really? Because I've had drinks thrown at me... in middle grade. I've seen girls blow up about friendships and boyfriends over the slightest thing... in junior high. Why are these the things that get portrayed in high school? We kind of grew out of that, thank god.

But again, I've only been to one high school.  Other ones sincerely do have problems with gangs, hard core drugs, weapons, etc.  I was lucky, I suppose.  I'm not trying to dismiss those other experiences. Just remember that my experience is valid, too.  Not all high schools are full of horrible people.  (But they still feel like prisons and incite anxiety and depression in plenty of people anyway.)   I was not a jock, not a popular person, but I didn't have to live inside a clique.  I was able to be what I wanted, and do what I wanted to.  Popular kids would even talk to me or pay me a compliment now and then.  Imagine that! What a relief.

My tip to anyone still in school: learn to let things roll off your back.  Laugh it off.  Things don't have to be so serious and grave all the time.  Worry more about that 7 page report you have to write for the teacher you hate. But not too much.  Just get it done and bond with some of your peers by complaining about it. ;)
2 Responses
  1. Thanks for the interesting post. I've thought about this, too. And my conclusion is that high schools are portrayed in that endlessly intense (or sometimes glamorous) way in movies and TV because nobody would pay to see what real high schools are like. The average high school is kids struggling a bit but mostly getting by, over-packed classrooms, laid-off teacher's aids, and cut arts funding. That would translate into lousy box office, I bet.

  2. Dae Dreams Says:

    That would translate into lousy box office, I bet.

    It surely would! I just need a breather sometimes to remind myself that, no, high school isn't always like a movie. Football players don't always date the cheerleaders, and athletics vs. academics are not mutually exclusive. Even though I've been to high school and know the truth, these stereotypes still make me wonder sometimes.