By: Annika Getz
There are countless movies revolving around high-schoolers, and middle-schoolers, and their many adventures and misadventures. These movies appear to be harmless on the surface, but when one thinks about the material in said movies, and the results they have on real teenagers, it’s evident that they are more harmful than they seem.
For starters, there’s a significant lack of diversity in most of these movies. The majority of the time, the main characters are white, cisgender, able bodied, and straight. It is this exclusion of races, sexual orientations, and gender identities, which results in straight, cis, and white, being seen as a sort of default.
However, it’s not just the lack of diversity which makes these movies detrimental to teenagers. Another big issue is that they’re often very dramatized. The situation which the characters are placed in are more often than not, extremely unrealistic. This sets an impractical expectation for kids going into high school and middle school. School, in real life, often seems boring in comparison to the films that teens have watched leading up to it.
Many movies also include a “quirky girl” trope. This trope creates a girl who is supposed to break stereotypes, but usually it is not carried out well, and ends up only perpetuating said stereotypes. The “quirky girl” is often portrayed to be unlike other girls, however this implies that most girls are stereotypical “girly girls.” It also degrades those who are like that.
These movies also dramatize cliques, many times even giving names to each specific one. When this is done, it only enforces the idea that everyone has to fit into a specific group in order to enjoy their experiences in middle school and high school.
And while there are groups of friends, it normally isn’t as dramatic as it is in many of these movies (this is of course only my experience, and I’m sure there are some people who have undergone different experiences).
I believe another large issue with these movies is that they are not typically made with teenager’s best interest in mind. Oftentimes, they’re just capitalistic money grabs, fueled by corporate greed. This means that they aren’t made with the viewers wellbeing in mind. And sometimes, regardless of the creators intentions, these movies still have some sort of negative influence on the teens watching.
I’m not saying that high school movies are inherently bad. There certainly are some good ones, but sometimes, it feels like for every good one, there are ten bad ones.
Given everything I’ve just listed, I think it’s incredibly important that directors and writers make sure to keep the wellbeing, of their teenagers watching, in mind when making these movies, because when they don’t, they more often than not, end up harming their target demographic.