Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spilling Ink: Day 9 (Or, The Monster Known as High School

I just read a hilarious blog by the Intern, in which she talks about the cliches of high school in YA. An excerpt:

"Cherryville High is ruled by a ruthless posse of popular and pretty (but mean and anorexic!) cheerleaders named the Blossom Squad whose leader (more like a sultan! or a supreme court judge!) is a frigid ice queen named Stacey (who gets what's coming to her sometime in the third act when it is revealed that she has Issues!).

The Blossom Squad dates the Football Team (known as the Cherryville Stems!), which is composed of sweaty, muscular teenage boys who like to throw Raging House Parties when their parents are out of town (house parties at which their unfortunate tendencies towards date rape and alcoholism tend to come out) and who occasionally succumb (briefly!) to the romantic charms of a non-Blossom Squad female, dump her by leaving a nasty surprise in her Locker (how did he get into her locker???), then take her back at the last minute (usually in the final moments of Prom).

If you're not in the Blossom Squad or the Stems, you are by default a Pit (i.e. a cherry pit, but also a Misfit! with Misfit Issuuuuuuues!) You have a best friend (who is gay! or of the opposite sex! or nerdy about biochem to the point that she practically qualifies for a guide dog to help her navigate the world outside the science lab! but who ultimately fails to understand you in at least one Key Respect!) If you are a Pit, you might try to lay low, but there will eventually be something (ummmm....supernatural power? illicit romance w/Stem?) that will put you directly in Stacey's (like, the frigging SULTAN of the Blossom Squad's) crosshairs.

Whatever happens, it all gets wrapped up at Prom, which is more important than ANYTHING and at which there is generally some kind of massive showdown between Blossoms, Stems, Pits, and assorted bit characters like Hummer limo drivers and parents."

Wow. Reminds me of so many books I've read, but though I've been to high school, I don't remember it going like this.

The Intern's post inspired me to dismantle the cliches of Highschool in YA fiction (and those ridiculous movies, to be honest). This is all according to my high school experience, which may or may not fit with yours. Just a warning.

Here we go, with a little youtube help along the way:

1) The Queen Bee complex (Also known as the Regina George concept). Does it exist?

Yes and no.

I'm gonna go ahead and safely say that my school did NOT have a Regina George. There was no queen bee, no one who mattered quite that much. But we did have a trio of girls who thought they were queen bees, and in a small school (500 9-12 grade students total), it was hard to avoid them. They were a thorn in many people's sides, and yes, one of them was the head cheerleader.

In short? Regina George is a huge exaggeration of the very real, very annoying girl who shall remain unnamed.

2) Cliques? Do they exist? Is there pressure to stick to the status quo?

This might change with different high schools, but I don't remember any crazy need to JUST be a jock, or a brainiac, or a goth, or a skater. There were jocks in my math class, a goth football player, and people in the choir joined drama club.

There is a little bit of pressure to be "cool," I think. I noticed in the 7th and 8th graders I taught last year that it wasn't cool to like books TOO much. I think this is a growing problem that has to be addressed, and as much as I hate to say it, I think High School Musical helped that ridiculous notion of cliques and being "cool."

3) So Regina George is an myth. What about the misfit?

I may or may not have looked up to Julia Stiles as a role model in high school, but I don't know if anyone can truly be that pissed off all the time. Again, exaggeration.

4) Crazy House Parties!

Sidenote: Wasn't he so CUUUUUTTEEE back then? Shame little Carter grew up.

No really, he's ugly. Go google him.

I'm not exactly the leading expert on house parties, and I'll be the first to say that house parties in high school can be dangerous (and really, there are so many other ways to have fun), but I'm pretty sure they're nothing like the above video, and even less like the ones from Never Been Kissed, Ten Things I Hate About You, and Drive Me Crazy. I'm picturing awkward people trying to get drunk and do stupid things under the guise of alcohol.


Really, SHE'S ALL THAT? Really?

I had to laugh out loud watching this, because not only is their prom venue a bazillion times cooler than anything my high school could even dream up, they also have a choreographed dance that even the best cheerleaders would have issues learning.

Notice how the main characters steer clear of that dance scene...

Prom is hyped up a lot, with expectations that range from normal (let's have fun and stay up late and dance until our feet hurt!) to crazed (this is the most important night of my life. Ever.) But it's usually nothing like the movies. Drama happens, sure, but not Usher style drama. The most exciting thing that happened at my prom was that the DJ knew the Napoleon dance.


Er, moving on...

That's actually all I've got, and the moral of this myth busting challenge seems to be that yeah, YA novels and movies exaggerate. A lot. But there are grains of truth sprinkled throughout the insanity. Popular girls that suck self-esteem like vampires suck blood, cliques that can make people ashamed of their passions in life, misfits that insist on rebelling so much that they sometimes become callous, and the holy grail: The Prom. It can be amazing, it can get ugly, and, I guess it can have life long effects (if you make some really bad choices). But for the most part, it's just a really fun dance.

I understand why High School is made into such cliches sometimes, though. Isn't that what movies and books do? They take the ordinary and make it something fantastical? As long as teenagers don't freak out too much that there's no spontaneous choreographed dancing to make life more musical, I think everyone will be just fine with these hyped up, over-exaggerated situations.

For those of you who didn't go to a good ol' American High School, of for those of you who went a REALLY long time ago, I hope this post de-mystified a lot of what the media is claiming these days. And I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed looking up the youtube videos for it.

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