Yesterday I watched Pretty in Pink for the first time. I felt like I had to make a post about it — specifically, how I don’t get Hollywood depictions of high school. Or maybe I just don’t get anyone’s portrayal of high school because, deep down, I am an old person.
In Pretty in Pink, as with so many movies, there seem to be two categories everyone falls into: the popular, rich kids/jocks and everyone else. While the popular kids thrive in high school, the other groups — whether they be the nerds, the outcasts, the goths, the stoners, or the spastic creepy stalker guys (I’m looking at you, Jon Cryer) — lament high school and view it’s end as the beginning of their real lives. In fact, the de facto law in these movies is that the more a character likes high school the less you should care about them, and the more you should assume they will become unsuccessful, unfulfilled, and alcoholic after.
Because that’s how real life works, you know!
Whether it be in Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Easy A, or any other teenage movie, everyone is amazingly polarized in high school; they either despise it or despise the fact that one day it will end. But, and maybe I am the only person in the world who felt this way, I was incredibly apathetic about high school.
In fact, my high school experience is most accurately described as boring as hell.
I didn’t really have any love interests in high school, to start. No guy or girl holding a boombox outside my window — which is probably okay, because that might’ve made me roll my eyes so hard they got stuck. While love was indeed on my mind in high school, I had a perpetual haze of awkwardness that prevented anyone from actually realizing I was indeed capable of romantic feelings.
Secondly, I didn’t really belong to a clique: I was far from popular, but I was also not entirely unpopular. There were many people that didn’t like me, but they never harangued me for it, probably because they could sense that I would only have flatly stared at them for saying anything of that nature. As far as being noticed goes, I actually had a lot of people know my name and approach me after high school, which is generally pretty awkward because the conversation goes a little something like:
Some Person: Oh! Greg, it’s you!!
Me: (flailing about, looking for Some Person) Huh? Yes?
Some Person: (making to shake my hand or hug me) It’s so great to see you! You look so good, you’ve lost weight!
Me: Oh, yes, hi… You!
And then I pretend I know who they are.
Really, it just comes down to the fact that my high school was not nearly as interesting as the high schools in this movie. Unlike in Ferris Bueller, we didn’t have a Dean of Students who obsessively tracked kids he suspected of playing hooky. There were no students being picked up and put in dumpsters or being taped to walls. And am I alone in that, unlike multiple times in Pretty in Pink, no student was able to just start smoking a cigarette in the middle of school without any teacher noticing or caring?
My experience with students was just as different as my experience in general. In movies, the popular kids all fit into two categories: rich or jocks. If they’re rich they’re morally reprehensible, and if they’re jocks they’re morally reprehensible AND they have no brains. In my high school there were people with money or who played sports and they happened to have morals AND brains, sometimes. Gasp! Shock! My high school was so iconoclastic! That, or high school movies are bullshit.
And on the subject of the people who aren’t popular — well, first off, my school never had a popular clique. Not really. We just had cliques of all sorts, and people were fine with interacting with each other regardless, though of course there was still some teenage drama — but on the subject of the “unpopular” kids, I think I need to point out that unpopular kids sometimes were jerks. In fact, often they were. And the ones that weren’t jerks weren’t always amazingly smart or kind, they were just kind of unpopular because, like me, they didn’t really care about stuff at that point. Most importantly when discussing these kids, I have to say; no one is really as witty as the witty, unpopular kids in these movies. Or that inventive. Even genius teenagers don’t have the emotional and mental maturity of, say, Ferris Bueller, because being a teenager is kind of like being insane, what with the hormonal bombardment your body is undergoing.
Watching movies like Pretty in Pink are always a confusing ordeal for me because the biggest message that comes across in them is that you should either love or hate high school (with, of course, some moments of the opposite feeling mixed in there regardless). If you love high school, you’re supposed to be worried — at least, in the minds of the writers — that after high school you’ll have already lived the best days of your life, and if you hated it you should be happy because the moment you go to college or get a real job, your life will dramatically improve and you will finally be able to figure out who you are as a person. Not only does that not sound at all like my experience, as someone who thought high school was generally “meh”, but it begs the question; isn’t that really depressing? Either way, high school is depicted as this defining period, where you either succeed but begin your downfall, or you struggle but can look forward to things vastly improving the moment it ends.
Am I the only one who didn’t really care about high school one way or another?