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Popularity in American highschools?
#1

I'm French. I have watched many movies and TV series taking place in highschools, Buffy, the John Hughes movies, Daria, Freaks and geeks, Heathers... Some are reasonably serious, some are comedies, but all of them refer to this weird concept: 'popularity'.

I understand that you will always have leaders, followers and outcasts, especially when you're a teenager. But in France we have nothing as hierarchical. Jocks? Cheerleaders? Nerds? Cliques? I saw these archetypes, but it wasn't like it was 'official'. And what with the extreme bullying?

So here is my question: how much of what we see in American fiction is true, or at least believable? Heathers is an obvious satire, but this satire has to come from somewhere. Do you really have such a rigid social structure where you're 16?

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#2

About bullying:

One thing that isn't very realistic is that in American movies is that bullies will rampantly assault and terrorize nerds, even on public school campuses.  Law enforcement and school administrators have strict procedures for dealing with assaults and vandalism - the worst troublemakers are routinely expelled from schools, especially in the upper-middle class neighborhoods that most teen movies are set in.  The movie "House Party" is a good example of a realistic bullies - the bullies won't assault the protagonist during school hours because they fear school administrators (see also, Biff Tanner), but promise to beat up Kid on the weekend.  If the protagonist doesn't go out on the weekend, the bullies will likely give him a pass on Monday.  The protagonist goes out anyways because he's trying to get laid and he runs into the bullies who then attack him.  Welcome to America!

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#3

That really never had much to do with my highschool environment. I live in an affluent area, and everyone was generally pretty friendly. The school was divided into roughly two groups, most popular and less popular. Everyone from both groups was friendly with each other, but the most popular group tended to be those from affluent backgrounds who worked hard in school, and for the most part socialization between the two less often took place outside of school

Emo was just starting to be a thing when I was leaving school, and the emo kids belonged to the secondary social network, but were still perfectly popular within that network. Additionally, no one was ever really bullied with violence at any time, although a few select people were singled out as weaker and teased for various failings. This could include coming up with clever nick names that are not outright insulting but the person clearly doesn't like, and then going out of your way to see that the nickname became the standard way to address that person for everyone else too. I did that from time to time, and I feel bad about it in retrospect

In fact, the biggest bias in the entire school had to do with the staff and teachers and how they treated one group versus the other. An extremely popular girl who did well in school got away with being caught with vodka on school property, and she was just allowed to take it home. The same situation would have resulted in the cops being called for most of the student body. Always made me mad, that

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#4

Never had anything like this at all at my school. There were cliques but they weren't "themed" (goth, jock, nerd, prep, whatever) and people tended to float freely between 2 or 3 of these groups. And were mostly civil to everyone else. Breakfast Club is a bunch of shit.

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#5

Exactly, I floated as well, it's just that floating didn't occur on a mass scale for the most part, individuals may have had friends on both sides of the divide, but social activities usually as a rule were more likely to be organized around like people than as some kind of school wide event

And yet they made us watch BREAKFAST CLUB as some kind of social lesson no less than three times in six years. Easier than actually teaching, I guess. Go figure.

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#6

In my school, so called "popular" people are usually very bland and are surrounded by an unhealthy amount of people telling them how great they are. On the flip side, I love how movies portray nerds and geeks to be misunderstood and generally little angels and all that, when the reality is...well... http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Ffq86VxtrTA/TR...523294.jpg

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#7

It's dumb stereotype people have about Americans.  When I'm abroad, talking about growing up over a few beers, someone always asks that inevitable question: was your high school like the one in Beverly Hills 90210?  No, people don't fit into such neat categories, while there are cliques it's way more informal and less hierarchical than what you see in TV.  Also, the average age of the student body is not 30.

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#8

There was a regrettably short-lived TV documentary series called American High that showed high school for what it really is: the way people act in the real world, just in a smaller space. That's it.

Ratings were shit. It ran for one season.

Moral of the story: 85% of high school is boring as shit. Movies exaggerate.

The real dirt happens in private/Catholic schools.

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#9

The most twisted people I know come out of Catholic schooling.

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#10

My Catholic school was the opposite. Private school means that there's no real class disparity (except for the few grant students, but it wasn't widely known who those were) and the uniforms mean that you can't even pick on someone for the way they dress. Plus everyone smoked weed, so it was pretty mellow. But we weren't a "run by nuns with corporal punishment" Catholic school, so maybe those are different, if they even still exist.
The only real problem was that because of the (vaguely) religious atmosphere were no out gay kids, no gay/straight alliance or anything like that.  But according to my younger sister, even that has changed, with several out students, both male and female.
Oh, and there were maybe two black people, 5 latino people, 7 Asians, 10 Middle Eastern, in the entire school. And no minority teachers or faculty. That was definitely the worst part. The crushing whiteness.
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#11


Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Ripoll View Post

Never had anything like this at all at my school. There were cliques but they weren't "themed" (goth, jock, nerd, prep, whatever) and people tended to float freely between 2 or 3 of these groups. And were mostly civil to everyone else. Breakfast Club is a bunch of shit.


For its time at least, The Breakfast Club was on the money. I grew up in the 80's and yes, public schools had those same stereotypes/cliques: the rich kids, the jocks, the rebels, the nerds, the loners, etc etc...and birds of a feather tended to flock together, for the most part. Yes, people could "float" from group to group, but there was no denying that major cliques were there and there was a class system for the "haves" and the "have not"s.

Catholic school may be a different animal in that regard, but The Breakfast Club had it right in the public school sense, for its time. That's why it struck such a chord upon its release: We could relate to those "kids" up on the screen. We lived through that hell during the school year ourselves! 

It's one of those things where you just had to have lived at that time to fully understand/appreciate it. It may seem dated to kids now, but we are decades removed from that culture too. Times have changed, man have they ever. " rel="http://files.chud.com/images/smilies/smile.gif"> 

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#12

Maybe. But on top of that, it's also a horribly written movie.

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#13

Even though it's set nearly two decades before I actually went to high school, I's say Freaks and Geeks is probably the closest of the shows/movies listed to what I actually experienced.

What I've always wondered is why so much fiction seems to dismiss junior high/middle school as simply an extension of grade school, instead of the hell that it actually is.  Forget high school; people have mellowed out by then.  It's ages 11-13 that kids are particularly vicious.

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#14


Quote:
Originally Posted by Grace View Post

What I've always wondered is why so much fiction seems to dismiss junior high/middle school as simply an extension of grade school, instead of the hell that it actually is.  Forget high school; people have mellowed out by then.  It's ages 11-13 that kids are particularly vicious.

This is why Welcome to the Dollhouse is Todd Solondz' best film. It's the only setting where his insane hatred of humanity feels right.

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#15


Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Ripoll View Post

Maybe. But on top of that, it's also a horribly written movie.


...but but Patrick, Brians light wouldn't go on. He got an F on it. He'd never got an F before. You pull the fuckin' trunk on it and the light's s'posed to go on...and it didn't go on...

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#16


Quote:
Originally Posted by Grace View Post

Even though it's set nearly two decades before I actually went to high school, I's say Freaks and Geeks is probably the closest of the shows/movies listed to what I actually experienced.

What I've always wondered is why so much fiction seems to dismiss junior high/middle school as simply an extension of grade school, instead of the hell that it actually is.  Forget high school; people have mellowed out by then.  It's ages 11-13 that kids are particularly vicious.


Amen. There are days I'm amazed I surved 6th through 8th grade. 6th in particular, when I attended a middle school right in the heart of La Jolla, San Diego's wealthiest area. You either had to be rich or brilliant to thrive there and I was neither and in a wheelchair. That year was hell on earth. I transferred to another school for the next two years. It still upper middle class, but not as affluent, there was way less pressure, but there were still vicious kids there.

Put it this way, 9th grade and High School was fucking paradise compared to Middle School. By 10th grade, I was perfectly fine.

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