Author Topic: The High School Genre Cliche Thread  (Read 515 times)

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Re: The High School Genre Cliche Thread
« on: February 14, 2014, 03:53:43 pm »
(I didn't realize that this was one of the first threads we posted here).

More than a couple of high school movies have crossed my eyes in the last two weeks or so and I've made a couple observations...

The lack of homework
First, I don't know when you all went to school, but when I did we were just weighed down by books.  Think how big a school textbook is, then you have them for every class, then you have notebooks, then you have all this supplemental stuff, now some kids have their laptops... ti's back-breakingly heavy (so I CAN see the reason why the actors don't do this).  But every school movie I see, the students are casually carrying one textbook and one notebook.  It just hurts the reality of it all a little bit because it doesn't match up to experience.  Perhaps a way to get around this is that they have slightly too much to carry, or they need to shift it in their arms because it's a bit too much.  it doesn't have to be too big, but it should be slightly more than they can handle.

This also makes me realize how little I see people do homework in movies.  Now I grant you that movies cut out the boring parts, but on the rare occasion that you do, it's usually one book open and one notebook or something instead of what's more likely: a giant, disorganized mess.  School is so messy, and a lot of that mess comes from what's required of you.  And even if you slimmed all that down, even if it was all computerized, you'd still have a mess and more junk than you'd think.  And homework takes a LONG time.  Again, it's not something we want to see, but it's one of those things that, when you omit it, causes a big part of the "reality" to go missing.  It seems less true to experience.

Teachers are losers
Not really, I mean that... well, society treats teachers as losers, we certainly don't pay them enough or give them proper respect or even trust them with educating our kids (they really don't get input into curriculum and so on, that's all taken care of more and more by private companies).  They just have this burden on them that's really crushing, and we go through them like tissues in real life.  Being a teacher sucks.  Most of the times this little element is ignored, one thing I really liked about Mean Girls was that Tina Fey's teacher character just had bad luck, had a crummy job, she just... there was this sense of patheticness to her that just unfortunately rang true to life, *I* thought.  Now, of course I want our teachers treated better in the real world and we need serious education reform (and probably a new way of educating our children), but this isn't the real world we're talking about, it's movie world, where we gotta reflect reality.  So ideally all that unfair pressure and stress should come out in a teacher character in the way they do things.

It's not that I hate or am tired of cliques, or even see them as unrealistic, the thing about them is... that becomes an easy category to put all the characters into, and most importantly it takes away attention on something I think is almost always overlooked in HS movies: each class has their own personality.  Mine did.  My sisters' did, and she was just a year under me, and we had some of her classmates in my class, but still, there was something there that made us different from them, and not in a good way/bad way.  It just was.  It was an identity thing.  And I almost never see that in movies.  A class isn't just the groups that make it up, it's the gestalt personality from all of them combined.  And I can imagine it's real tricky to write, but if you can, it's an interesting thing to consider.

Something I loved about Say Anything is that not only did that class seem to have it's own personality, everyone in it was unique, and so they all stood out, but they also felt like people you might run into.

Adults as teenagers
I recently had a revelation about this, and now I'm totally cool with adults playing teens in certain situations: that's how teenagers see themselves.  Teenagers see themselves as older, as adults, they have this weird perception, so when we have adult actors as teens, it's like an unreliable narrator in a way, we're seeing how they see themselves.  Sort of like Quantum Leap where we see Scott Bakula but everyone else sees whoever he jumped into.  So I'm cool with that now.

And of course, there's the added benefit where having adults means you can work longer days and go into more delicate subject matter and get more nuanced performances (it helps to have HAD the HS experience before looking back at it), acting is experience, after all.  The other side of that is when you have teenagers playing teenagers, they seem younger, more inexperienced, and more real, and you can do things that you just couldn't do with adults.  The documentary Bully was heartbreaking because it was actual kids, and after all the adults-as-teens movies, they came off as babies so it was even more powerful.  Of course, if you wanted to fictionalize the events in that movie, you'd probably need young adults to do it.

Carrie really got me thinking this, b/c prom/homecoming are the two "big" parties that HS movies tend to center around.  I don't know how popular the trope was before the original Carrie but since then it's everywhere, I kept thinking She's All That when they were talking about the prom when really, if anyone's entitled to use the prom, it's Carrie, particularly because it gets her on that stage.  But the truth is that there are TONS of parties and social events that kids throw.  I quite like how that never came up in Charlie Bartlett, where the big party was just held at a venue for... I don't even remember the reason.  I know you need adults to book a hotel or proper venue, but kids are totally capable of having their own fun and throwing their own parties... and those can have their own identities and their own culture of anticipation around them that could be really fun to play with.


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