Films Twist Reality
With their spontaneous dance numbers, acne-free cast members, whirlwind romances, and essentially no homework, movies that feature school life are not set up to mirror what the real high school experience is like.
Movies, especially, distort a person’s perception of the daily life experiences of teens. “At one point or another students have seen movies such as, ‘The Breakfast Club,’ ‘Mean Girls,’ ‘High School Musical,’ and “Hairspray,” sophomore Joshua Conte said, and while they’re fictional, they vividly illustrate many life events students will experience. “The movies give incoming freshmen a false representation of how they should act in high school and who they should aim to be.”
Many times, students’ exposure to media can influence how they act in real life. “Students also experience something called the chameleon effect from these movies, which cause them to mimic the actions of movie characters nonconsciously,” Tricia Montgomery-Peng, AP Psychology teacher, said.
Of course, differences exist between the reality of school versus film. “Students’ social lives in the movies are more emphasized and important than other things such as academics and involvement in the school,” senior Ryan Dela Cruz said.
Many agree that high school is very different from the movies, but by subtly altering students expectations, they create a sense of disappointment or disillusionment among those who must confront the reality of high school life. “I expected high school to be the where everyone finds their place. In real life though, there are points where it is and points when it’s not what I expected it to be because there are very obvious groups of friends, but you can also talk to 50 other people,” senior McKenna Brannan said.
Not everybody, however, has such high expectations. “I just expected it to be like regular school, but there was just more attention on everybody. There’s just more pressure on everybody to always be perfect because that’s what the movies portray,” junior Bianca Mando said. “It is totally like that in real life because one wrong move and everybody judges you.”
Admittedly, movies can, and do, alter our opinions of what high school is versus what it should theoretically be. For example, “there’s this study on violent video games, and do violent video games make us aggressive? Basically, the study says, yes, violent video games make us aggressive, which I think very easily translates into how unrealistic movies attribute to habits that shape students’ high school careers,” Montgomery-Peng said.
Films tend to use their characters symbolically rather than literally, having a single character represent the behavior of many teens. “I’m really glad there’s not one common bully that picks on everyone in the school,” Dela Cruz said.
In the real world, “there isn’t that one girl, or that one guy who’s the bully to the entire school; there isn’t that one popular kid,” Brannan agreed.
Many students agree that things would be more exciting if they were as easy or fun as the movies. “In movies, high school seems so easy with almost no homework, but that’s definitely not the case,” freshman Klara Sorensen said.
Yet, students may even go so far as to say that West is better than fiction. “Maine West is pretty cool; I wish the movies were more like Maine West in their assemblies,” Mando said.