Growing up watching “High School Musical” on repeat, I always imagined that when I got to high school, everyone would look so old, have crazy amounts of drama, and maybe even spontaneously burst into song and dance. Now that I finally can say I have survived two years of high school, the reality of the picture drastically differs from big-screen high school productions.

As an elementary or middle schooler, it was easy to imagine that maybe, in the future, some of the outlandish occurrences I saw in movies and on TV might just happen to me as a high schooler. But now, when watching high school TV shows and movies while being a high schooler myself, the differences are obvious. For starters, take the show “Riverdale”.

“Riverdale” first aired in 2017, as a TV version of the popular “Archie Comics”. To be fair, the series does label themselves as a drama, but at a certain point, the parallels to real high school come to an end. Starting in season one, the town of Riverdale faces the plight of numerous murders, gangs, family feuds, and mobsters. A group of high schoolers takes it upon themselves to solve the murder. In season two, they introduce a serial killer and singing. Most recently, they experiment with magic in the ongoing season three.

Some of the show’s most unrealistic points are the fact that all the actors are all in their twenties, not their teens, and that the kids in the show never get pictured doing their homework. It would be a plausible argument that the characters do, in fact, have homework and the writers just chose not to show them doing it for entertainment purposes. However, if the characters did have homework, and they just were not shown doing it, then they would not be able to go out with their friends every school-night as they do.

One show that does show a limited amount of homework and schoolwork would be “Gilmore Girls”. At the beginning of the show, Rory Gilmore, one of the main characters, is in high school, and later she attends Yale University. Because of the stress on her education in the show, they do show her going through more academic parts of high school and college. Still, it seems as if she has an unrealistically large amount of free time.

As for the song and dance aspect of high school, this was truly something I thought might be a common occurrence at high school due to childhood favorites such as “High School Musical”. However, the thing that comes closest to spontaneous singing in real high school would probably be the “Singing Valentines” in February, or the mariachi band that performed at lunch this fall.

“High School Musical”, as the name suggests, focuses on the lives of students from different social standings breaking the status quo by participating in the school musical together. Just like any other musical, I suppose, the spontaneous song and dance of “High School Musical” is quite unrealistic. To their credit though, “High School Musical” does acknowledge the common social groupings of high schoolers. This movie fairly accurately recognizes these social divisions of high school, but the drama associated with someone deviating from their informal social group is unrealistic.

Luckily, another unrealistic part of the depiction of high schools would be the hallway confrontations and drama. Although people do stop to acknowledge their friends in passing, the amount of hallway theatrics seems to be generally kept to a minimum. Usually, the crowded stairs and the stress of being late to class with only five minutes to travel across the building keeps the hallways civil.

Although these over dramatized high school TV shows and movies are wildly entertaining, they build up unrealistic expectations for rising high schoolers by implementing absurd amounts of drama into their storylines. They lead kids into thinking that high school has to be all about unending drama, and they gloss over the fact that high school really should be primarily for learning.

Of course, these shows all profit from the fact that they need to keep their viewers riveted enough to watch another episode of their show depicting high school life, and excessive drama keeps viewers entertained.

Unfortunately for us students though, the truth of the fairly mundane high school experience is that most of your weeknights will be spent doing homework, studying for tests, and going to theater, band, or sports practice. Unlike “Gossip Girl” may lead one to believe, the biggest thing to worry about in high school will not be cliques critiquing your every move. The true struggles come from schoolwork and tangible real-world problems.


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