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bookish1's avatar

What is the best portrayal of high school you have seen in movies or TV?

Asked by bookish1 (13040 points ) January 8th, 2013

Here’s a question I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while.

There are some immediate challenges to attempting to portray the high school experience. One is that few of the actors playing high school students are actually adolescent. Also, of course, we’ve all gone to different kinds of schools, were in different social circles, etc. But in your opinion, which on-screen portrayal best captures the literal or social reality of being a teenager in high school, and why?

Bonus points if you link to a particularly representative clip from the show or movie.

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32 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

The one depicted in The Middle is about as accurate as they come. Boring, uninvolved, self conscious teens warehoused for four years.

diavolobella's avatar

You might be surprised by this response, but “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” did a fine job of portraying the pressure I felt as a high school student to experiment with sexuality at a time when I was really not ready to do so. Jennifer Jason Leigh did a fine job in that film of showing how influential peer pressure (from her friend, played by Phoebe Cates) can be, as well as how the embarrassment and fear of being a social failure can influence a young person to make a decision they really aren’t okay with or ready for, as well as the all too real repercussions. Also that longing for love and acceptance and the assurance that you are attractive and desirable for the first time in your life. That particular role was actually quite realistic and poignant. I know many women who recognized a little (or a lot) of themselves in her portrayal.

jonsblond's avatar

My pick would be Dazed and Confused. I wish I had time to search for a clip.

@diavolobella I agree with you. I felt the same pressure in high school and unfortunately gave in to it. I think Jennifer did a fine job as well.

diavolobella's avatar

@jonsblond We were all in such a rush to grow up, weren’t we? I’m glad my daughter listened to me when I told her that she had the rest of her life for that and that once she went down that road, life would never be so uncomplicated again. I wish someone had told me that. If only we got do-overs.

ragingloli's avatar

Azumanga Daioh

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@diavolobella Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character made me sad. Clearly, that young girl wasn’t ready to be sexually active, yet she felt overwhelming pressure to join her peers (who, of course, all exaggerated their exploits). I cringed when she let some 30-ish loser commit statutory rape on the dugout bench at a softball field.

I’m very glad that I’m just a bit older than the “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” era. When I was in high school, there was no pressure to have sex. “Bad girls” had unfortunate reputations, and no guy ever tried to get beyond 2nd base with me.

diavolobella's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin I completely agree. Her character was very sad, but very true to life and she performed it so realistically. It’s the story of countless teenage girls in that era (and other eras).

Pachy's avatar

I’ve yet to see a fictional movie or TV depiction that came close to capturing the high school of my memory. My biggest complaint is that high school kids of fiction always seem too old and wise and knowledgeable. Surely, though, every generation recalls high school differently, and admittedly my generation is from the stone age.

rojo's avatar

The Breakfast Club (or was that just my experience?)

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@rojo “The Breakfast Club” suggested that the kids had broken through the bonds of teenage cliques and stereotypes, and that they’d all be very different going forward. In the real world, they might have shared a breakthrough and learned something, but they’d all return to their safe places the next day. The bad boy and rich girl wouldn’t date each other; neither would the athlete and the Goth girl. The smart guy would go back to his “nerd” friends and probably never talk to any of those other kids again.

downtide's avatar

Grange Hill. It started the same year that I started comprehensive school.

ucme's avatar

Grange Hill? The only school in Britain where no kid ever swore…“chuffing hell Tucker!”

livelaughlove21's avatar

None of them. Real high school isn’t interesting enough for TV.

SABOTEUR's avatar

To Sir With Love

Only because it’s based on a true story.

(And it happens to be a long time favorite)

bookish1's avatar

@livelaughlove21 : Or maybe TV is too boring to show what high school is really like…? :-p

livelaughlove21's avatar

@bookish1 Meh. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to live through those four years of hell again…or watch it on TV.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Room 222

“Back in the day” classic.

rojo's avatar

Welcome back Kotter???

SABOTEUR's avatar

“Up your nose with a rubber hose.”

-Vinnie Barbarino
(John Travalta)

filmfann's avatar

Ordinary People really struck home for me, and high school.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

None of them really portray high school as it really is/was. However, I think there are elements of different interpretations that ring true, or we wouldn’t be coming up with the examples that we are.

I cast my vote for “My Bodyguard”. Some very realistic scenes of why many people do not revisit their high school years.

However, therein lies the problem. Most films about high school are written by people looking back through rose-colored glasses, or trying to write a hit, and thus focusing on a fantasy version of what high school was about, or what it means, or what it should mean. Very, very few shows/movies try to really explore what it was all about. Besides, some people peak in high school; for others, they can’t get out of there fast enough. So it probably would be difficult to write something that everyone could look at and say, “Yeah, that’s how it was.”

bookish1's avatar

@filmfann: Woof, what a movie! It’s one of my favorites. Hard to believe that was Timothy Hutton’s film debut!!

@AngryWhiteMale: Very good analysis :)

SABOTEUR's avatar

@AngryWhiteMale I forgot about “My Bodyguard”. Excellent choice.

jonsblond's avatar

@AngryWhiteMale I also forgot about that movie. I watched it many times when I was young. It is a very good movie. I just may have to watch it again.

ucme's avatar

Carrie…okay, maybe not!

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@ucme “Carrie…okay, maybe not!”

I recently read an interview with Stephen King. He said that the “Carrie” novel had been inspired by a real girl from his high school. This girl came from a strange, isolated family, and she wore the same frumpy (possibly home-sewn) blouse and skirt everyday. All of her classmates picked on her and ostracized her. One day, she came to school in a pretty, stylish outfit. Instead of letting her enjoy her new clothes, or maybe even complimenting her for looking so nice, her fellow students made fun of her even more.

When Stephen King wrote “Carrie,” back in the 70’s, he gave her telekenetic powers and sent her on a rampage. Today’s novel would be much more terrifying; Carrie would come to school with a semi-automatic weapon, kill classmates and teachers, and then commit suicide.

ucme's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin I feel a remake in the air, i’d be up for it for sure.
Yeah, even in jest there’s a ring of truth in the story, bullying/teen angst & buckets of pig blood on the prom queen, a microcosm of high school life right there.

diavolobella's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin There is a lot of truth in that Stephen King story. Sometimes I think once the other kids are out for you in school, you can’t win no matter what you do, even if you “fix” the thing they singled you out for in the first place. It just makes it worse because you’ve acknowledged something might have been wrong with you and they smell blood/weakness. He got that part of high school right.

ragingloli's avatar

@ucme
There is a carrie remake to be released this year: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1939659/

ucme's avatar

@ragingloli I must have psychic powers then…or maybe not!
Never knew that, has a lot to live up to.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@diavolobella You’re exactly right, and you expressed the matter so clearly and eloquently.

Most certainly, Stephen King chose pig blood for its symbolism. Carrie’s classmates had “smelled the blood” of her fears and helplessness, and they were also “out for blood” in their vicious attack. And, of course, blood serves as the bookends for Carrie’s story. Both the novel and movie begin with Carrie being so bullied and tormented about blood in the school shower, and they both end with her covered in pig blood.

ucme's avatar

Ultimately her batshit crazy mother makes her blood boil, the theme continues.

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