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Media’s Misrepresentation of High School

Photo+Credit%3A+Renny+Hyde
Photo Credit: Renny Hyde

Photo Credit: Renny Hyde

Photo Credit: Renny Hyde

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Hollywood has a long history of creating films and TV shows focusing on a teenage protagonist navigating their way through a high school envir

onment, with movies such as High School Musical, To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and Clueless being among some of the most notable. 

Bring it On had a domestic box office gross of over 68 million dollars. Mean Girls, another film of the same genre, had a box office gross of more than 86 million dollars according to IMBd. With these profits and an ever-growing audience, it’s no wonder that studios continue to produce movies about high school.

However, it should be noted that Hollywood has a notorious reputation of dramatizing average or plain environments in order to keep their audience focused and engaged, according to The New York Times. For some people, this is the only exposure of a high school environment they receive until attending high school themselves. With these movies ever growing in popularity it raises the question, what effect, if any, do these movies have on those starting their first year of high school?

Sophia Walker is a current 9th grade student at Decatur. She discussed that, prior to the start of the school year, her biggest fears were “being with people who are four years older than you and being singled out because [she’s] a freshman.”

Just like many of her peers, Walker had little knowledge of what the next four years of her education would be. In order to make up for this lack of information, she began to make assumptions based upon what she had been exposed to – movies and television.

“I’ve never heard from any real life people experiencing that sort of thing, but in the movies and stuff you see it all the time,” Walker said.

Not everyone had the same feelings about the start of high school as Walker. Will Pruett, a current Junior, recalled that when he first started high school he felt a bit differently, “I knew I was gonna be alright,” Pruett said. “I wasnt that cliche freshman who was scared of everything.”

Movies that are focused on a high school environments target a teenage audience, primarily because teenagers can relate to the movie characters. It is only natural that younger viewers will also watch these films. Catrina Johns is a current 8th grader at Renfroe Middle School commented on ways that these films have had an impact on her outlook of the years ahead, “It’s [movies] this little bubble that shows how High School is supposed to be and it has definitely influenced my interpretation of what it’s going to be like.”

Johns discussed how she is not alone in feeling these movies influence. “I have friends who have talked about how they’re going to get bullied in high school, and I’m just like ‘I wonder where you got that idea from.”

Every high school is different and, despite the negative impact of these films on Johns mentality, Johns has also come to realize that there is a difference between what is shown through a screen and what actually occurs within the walls of Decatur.

“In the movies there’s always this little clique of, like, the mean girls that hang out with the cheerleaders and the football players which I think is definitely not true. From what I know about Decatur everything is just kind of there. There isn’t really a popular clique or a mean clique.”

With the school year already well on it’s way, Walker has quickly realized that the Hollywood portrayal of a High School environment is far from accurate.

“The movies make everything seem like such a big deal but so far what I can see is that no one really cares about what you’re doing and everyone is just kind of focused on graduating.”

In most movies, cliques are portrayed as the antagonists whose goal is to be at the top of the social ladder, regardless of who they hurt in the process. Walker, on the other hand, has come to view these cliques in a much more positive light.

“The freedom of High School gives you more time to find more people and to find your niche and I guess your place, not in a hierarchy as much but with the people that you surround yourself with,” Walker said.

Pruett has had a similar revolation as Walker in that not everything is exactly as it’s portrayed on screen . Pruett commented on how throughout his years of High School he was comparing his school life with that portrayed on a TV screen. “Subconsciously when I watch these movies, a part of me wants to have
the life that’s portrayed.”

Movies and television have been apart of our society for a hundred years and don’t seem to be going anywhere. However, it’s important to be able to distinguish the differences between fiction and reality. As Pruett said “if you try to fit into a certain idea of what you want your High School to be then it might just end up being a really negative experience.”

 

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