Not Like the Movies

This has been absolutely nothing like "High School Musical".


photo by Maggie Laughrey

Classic teen movies contribute to the glorification of high school.

Alyssa Bruce, Staff Writer

Mind-blowing weekend parties. Gorgeous upperclassmen who could pass for thirty-year-olds. Unlimited free time to socialize before school, after school, and even during school.

With Hollywood as our guide, that’s how we grew up expecting high school to be. And then the reality arrived.

No doubt the romanticization of high school in movies is entertaining, but let’s not fool ourselves.  Most of the high school movies we cherish are rife with misconceptions.

Mean Girls


As much as I love this movie, I cannot deny the inaccuracy of the film’s portrayal of teen life. For starters, the lives that “the Plastics,” and even Cady live, consist only of shopping, parties, and girl drama. Homework, SAT prep, and other unglamorous aspects of high school are simply not depicted. Furthermore, the movie paints teenage social circles to consist strictly of one leader and an entourage of followers. I have faith that my peers would not turn to cutting gaping holes in their shirts merely because the “Regina George,” or the popular girl, does. Teenagers are more focused on getting by than on imitating the “it girl.” The amount of free time that Cady and the Plastics and Cady have is wildly unrealistic. Regina has enough time to stand in the hallways criticizing others and hanging up pictures from the Burn Book, while most of us find it difficult enough to make a stop at our lockers in between periods.

High School Musical

A classic. However, this would most likely be the main movie that had gotten my expectations for high school so high. Each scene was practically bursting with school spirit and romantics. While athletics is certainly a large part of student life here at North Allegheny, the students wouldn’t collectively hate the girl who convinced the basketball player to join theater instead. It’s high school basketball, not the Olympics. Also, the teachers were incredibly relaxed. If Chad had tried brining a basketball to every one of his periods, there definitely would have been detentions handed out. Finally, to state the obvious, if a student started to burst out in song during a test, they would be met with concerned looks and glares, not with smiles while others join in. Most of us cry our troubles out, not sing them.


One of the most entertaining aspects of this 1995 movie is also what is the most inaccurate: the glam. Everything Cher and Dionne partake in involves over-the-top outfits, cars, and dances. Here on Earth, however, most high school students, no matter the era or location of the school, do not show up to school dressed as fashion models. On days with swimming or final exams, the preferred outfit is hoodies and sweats.


This 1988 movie is darker than its counterparts on this list, as it depicts teenagers who lust for popularity, acceptance, and, in JD’s case, for control. Besides the violent aspects of the film, the social tendencies shown are, for the most part, strange. For example, the most powerful clique in school plays croquet in their free time. Croquet? Really? The extreme social pecking order is also unrealistic. The three Heathers and Veronica have their own signature color that they wear every day. In reality, if a group rolled up to class wearing the same color every day, they would most likely be ridiculed, not idolized. Not only are these girls adored, but they also have immense power in the school. Anything they say goes. But high school is hardly a monarchy. Students pay more attention to themselves than to what others are doing. In order to back up the movie’s events, the characters are shown as clueless, shallow human beings. Multiple students commit suicide, yet all anyone is concerned about is who will take their places in the social hierarchy. While most actual high schoolers do somewhat care about how others view them, they are not cruel enough to disregard serious matters simply because it may benefit their social status.

The Breakfast Club

Even one of the most beloved movies of all time has its flaws. In the case of The Breakfast Club, the rigid cliques and stereotypes present are the culprit. Of course, social cliques are present in high school, but in actuality most students lie in the middle. Many jocks are nerds, and many nerds can also be burnouts. It is not a strictly one option only situation. Even between the cliques that are still present, they do not dictate one’s social life. Plenty of “rebels” are friends with the “princesses”. I came into high school with a mindset that once I am labeled as a certain clique, I will be restricted socially to only those labelled similarly to me. Instead, many students are open to becoming friends with people based on their personalities, not on what clique they seemingly belong to.

Overall, the high school experience that is so often depicted in movies is largely inaccurate. While the glorifying is part of what makes high school movies so captivating, it can certainly lead to unrealistic expectations for soon-to-be-teens.