We all remember the iconic exposition scene in Mean Girls where outcast Janice Ian breaks down the high school food chain to Lindsay Lohan’s naive newcomer character Cady Heron. The jocks, the nerds, the artsy freaks, and the plastics were just a few of the classic stereotypes that were engraved in our minds by every coming-of-age film we could think of. Movies that we hold near and dear to our hearts like The Breakfast Club pioneered the idea that high school was a caste system where you were branded the moment you registered.
At the age of 14, you become and your inmates are sentenced to four years of judgment, stress, confusion, fearlessness, and utter denial of responsibility and adulthood. That’s definitely what I believed at age 14 when I embarked on my dreaded journey as a low rank freshman. I saw high school as a terrifying prison where I’d stumble upon a plethora of Regina Georges. But alas, to my surprise, I couldn’t see the generic characters I was so used to. There wasn’t a tyrannical blonde storming through the halls calling all the shots in a tiny cheerleading outfit. There wasn’t a helpless brainiac being thrown into the dumpster by an alpha male jock. The same poor brainiac also didn’t rise to the role of underdog hero who defeats the bad guys in some type of epic duel in the movie’s climax. Instead, the lines between these characters blurred and everyone maintained admiral individuality. I met jocks who spent their weekends tutoring others for the SAT. I interviewed a few cheerleaders for the school newspaper and discovered them to be some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. That’s when I realized that everything movies had taught me about high school seemed to be one big production of overused stereotypes..
Movies might also influence you into spending the four years searching for you’re Ryan Gosling or Channing Tatum to fill the shoes of your Nicholas Sparks’ inspired romantic counterpart. Maybe you’ll find that person, but you might not. A big part of high school is realizing that it’s okay. You don’t and you never will need another person to make yourself whole. Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried were badass enough even without their leading men.
We love high school movies for their comedy and relatable conflicts, but we often get too wrapped up in the same aesthetics portrayed in every plot. We expect to only be filling the shoes of either the jock or the nerd. But in reality, we are born to play our own role, not Lindsay Lohan’s. Everyone will experience a different path in high school, and we can’t expect to all fall into the same script. On some days it really will feel like prison and nothing like the picture perfect adventures you see on the big screen. Throughout the duration you’ll be dying to quit, but you’ll eventually stick it out. Along the way you’ll make some friendships that could last a lifetime. You’ll cry, laugh, scream, and want to give up all together. But you won’t. You’ll suck it up and finish out your sentence. And when you finally get parole (graduate), everything will seem pretty damn worth it.