Hollywood may be known for its absurdly unrealistic depictions, but sometimes there’s an ounce of truth to these stereotypes and where else do they fly strong than in the awkward years of high school?
Filmmakers are usually happy to populate their high school movies with the kind of character stereotypes that you’d only believe if you’d somehow miraculously skipped adolescence entirely, distilling personalities to a single, terrifying character trait that, in the real world, would have you incarcerated before the morning bell. With that said, there are some genuine character accuracies cropping up in high school movies. And, with school starting back real soon, here’s how you can prepare yourselves for them.
The Relentless Stoner
Notable example: Rory Cochrane as Ron Slater in Dazed and Confused
In Dazed and Confused, classic rites of passage are dutifully dramatized – not least with Ron’s ritualized hazing. Slater is the school stoner and the only one that remains high during every part of the film. He starts before school and keeps tokin’ until they drive off to Houston to get Aerosmith tickets. In real life, one of the few things more abundant than underage sex in high school is pot, and the high school stoner is someone who believes that (1) any problem can be fixed by smoking marijuana, and (2) any activity is more enjoyable while stoned. Though Ron may not seem stereotypical to the average non-highschooler, any student will tell you that the stereotype is dead-on, matching at least a dozen classmates who just want to chill out and smoke their doob.
The Actually-Quite-Sweet Superficial Girl
Notable example: Amanda Seyfried as Karen Smith in Mean Girls
Mean Girls is a veritable bible for living, with wise lessons to impart on the power of noughties fashion. But hidden in the sidelines of the movie is the daffy high school student – attractive and popular – with bad grades and a happy heart. Every high school has a Karen. The pretty, shallow girl who must be wearing make-up the entire time but has sincere reasons for everything she does. Easily the least well-read of her Plastics high school crew (which is saying a lot), Karen Smith nevertheless stands out for her positive outlook on life, passion for meteorology – she believes her breasts can forecast the weather – and deep, somewhat troubling, love for her male cousin. Played by Seyfried in her first major breakout role, Karen is a ray of sunshine in a clique whose motives are inherently evil. She’s just too clueless to realize it.
The Try-Too-Hard Teacher
Notable example: Jack Black as Dewey Finn in School of Rock
We’ve all been there. A teacher talking to you on “your level” about Nirvana, or pulling a guitar out of the cupboard when “all that learning got a bit boring,” cringing at the back of the class as he tries way too hard to connect to his class by using words like “chill,” and saying “just call me Derek, I abhor that whole ‘Mr.’ label.” Although we may have formed a bond with our cool teacher, just like Dewey Finn’s students did, in real life we’d have got better grades if we’d been taught by an emotionless economics robot. Somehow they never seem to understand that you can try, but you’ll never truly be their friend.
Notable example: Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen in Back to the Future
A bully in two time periods, Thomas F. Wilson’s character gets to torment not one, but two generations of the McFly family, emasculating George from high school into adulthood and picking on Marty when the hoverboard-driving teen travels back to the days of his parents’ adolescence. A cloud of depression hangs over from the first to later Back to the Future installments and that cloud goes by the name of Biff. He’s a shining light of trashy bullies everywhere – a podgy, rude, arrogant and violent boy who gets what he wants by intimidating others, mostly by overusing the word “butthead.” If you haven’t been the victim of a bully in your lifetime, chances are you either were one or you’ve never been to high school. One thing’s for sure with this wedgie-giving bunch – no one’s lunch snacks are safe.
The Sexually Confused Student
Notable example: Natasha Lyonne as Megan in But I’m a Cheerleader
Highschooler Megan is so strong-willed that her parents think that she may be a lesbian – she hugs her fellow pom-pom-brandishers inappropriately and hates making out with her jock boyfriend – so they send her to a “rehabilitation camp.” But the feisty youngster only finds that the more she is indoctrinated against homosexuality the more she comes to question her own sexuality. Not least because of the raging hormones, sexual confusion and discovery is something many high school kids go through, amid pressure from peers, parents and expectations of the “norm.” But I’m a Cheerleader is by no means a challenging movie, but it deals with sexual orientations and considers high school gender stereotypes as the characters search for heterosexual direction in themselves. Ring any bells?
Notable example: Seann William Scott as Steve Stifler in American Pie
Much like the grinningly offensive but good-natured Stifler, bros are obnoxious, loud-mouthed males who live for partying. Every high school has at least one. When they aren’t making an ass of themselves by hammering on their own chests and bellowing “Whoooooo!!! YEAAHHHHH!” like a constipated ape, they usually just stand around holding a red plastic cup waiting for something exciting to happen so they can scream something that demonstrates how much they really enjoy partying. Usually, well concealed under that rugby shirt, baseball cap and spiked hair with frosted tips, there’s a heart of real gold.
The Smart Teen Stuck in the Popular Clique
Notable example: Winona Ryder as Veronica in Heathers
In Heathers, Veronica is part of the most popular clique, but disapproves of the other girls’ cruel behaviour. When she and her new boyfriend “accidentally” poison the clique leader, things get real dark. At real high school (at least hopefully), murder is never quite so casually on the cards, but it’s not so uncommon to feel stuck in the middle of a friendship group clash. Sometimes that just involves “drama” over where to sit in the cafeteria and who to vote for in competing prom queens. Other times, it involves standing there watching, as someone smears feces onto the high school nerd’s locker, sniggering and watching while “THIS IS SO MESSED UP” goes through your mind and you feel like you’ve temporarily lost your own morality. If you’re ever been in this situation then do a Veronica and make things right, preferably before any death occurs.
The Nice, Stable Nerd
Notable example: Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer in Rushmore
Just as every movie features a complete toolbox of a bro, the flip-side of the coin is the criminally uncool nerd character who is still somehow likable despite being presented as a loser of such epicness you may wonder if they were created in a lab as part of a social experiment in depression. Max is the worst student at Rushmore Academy, but it’s not for a lack of interest. He is obsessed with joining and starting school clubs: beekeeping, stamp and coin collecting, French, model United Nations, wrestling, etc. Like Max, the likeable nerd also often has trouble in love. But that’s just part of the reason we like them so much – unthreatening, intelligent, solid, and helpful friends.
The Horny Virgin
Notable example: Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fogell in Superbad
No high school movie is complete without a virgin who assuredly loses that status by the end of the film. Usually, like Fogell, it’s a character who is usually reasonably smart, but has a massive testosterone-induced black hole when it comes to sexual sense. Mintz-Plasse’s portrayal of this gangly, bespectacled 17-year-old, spouting fake hip-hop diction and misplaced sexual bravado in a barely broken voice may be exaggerated, but it’s nothing compared to the real life ins and outs of high school sex lives. No self-respecting teen movie is without a square, bad-at-sports, badly dressed, awkward-with-girls young man at its center – of course McLovin’s going to be rewarded for his comedy interpretation with great, first-time sex. In real high school? It just isn’t that easy.
Notable example: Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson as Enid and Rebecca in Ghost World
Stamping on their high school graduation outfits in Dr. Martens (when they weren’t cool) and turning to flick the Vs at their school building (and their peers), Enid and Rebecca are outcasts from the outset. With their blank stares and totally “over it” attitudes, they’re truly identifiable to any high school student that never quite fits in. Ghost World is an engaging account of the raw pain of adolescence: the fear of being trapped in a grown-up future and choosing the wrong identity, and of course the pain of love, which we all learn to anesthetize eventually. There’s a lesson to learn in there for outcasts, though: high school is never easy, but if you find a good pal to stick by your side throughout, and keep the friendship alive in the cold outside world, then you’ll at least make it to graduation.
Written by Sarah Gibson for Highsnobiety.com