"Is it just me, or does the whole world suck?" -- Lindsay Weir, Freaks and Geeks
It's the level of hell Dante missed. It's so bad. So, so bad. And yet stories about high school remain totally fascinating. Hollywood really likes to tell stories about high school. So what is it about high school that makes it such a compelling setting for TV shows and movies? I'm brainstorming for a longer post about this, and I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas. So far mine are pretty half-baked -- and sometimes contradictory -- but here's what I've come up with so far:
- High school is flawed. Puberty, the fascist caste systems and intricate social hierarchies, and the limits on one's freedom and time combined with increased freedoms is a big toxic cupcake. And the social pressures more than make up the difference for those immune to ones of an academic nature. High school does little to make any of this better. The buildings are ugly and smelly, the teachers are often unhappy and underpaid, and the students either do their homework or don't. Yuck.
- High School is full of teenagers. Somehow, even before we are teens and after we are teens, we find it easy to identify with teens. Something about the psychological struggle of figuring out one's identity -- the psychic locus of high school -- remains familiar to us.
- High school is ironic. Parents believe it to be good and safe and educational, but it's often little more than a sesspool of weird sexual harassment, drugs, and boredom.
- High school is often a critique of society at large. The problems within the halls of high school mirror those of the culture beyond it.
- In high school, the future is indeterminate. Who knows where these people will end up? Something about the openness of the high school student's future is appealing.