Learning may not be the most exciting thing in the world. But everything else high-school related is, spawning the high school TV shows that flood pop culture.
Although many students recognize the “ideal” high school atmosphere portrayed in shows, many watch shows that incorporate these picture-perfect themes. According to health teacher Vickie Christensen, these themes are played on the screen by older actors, supposedly the same age.
“I find that troubling because then we think of all teenagers as being at the same developmental stage as that actor,” Christensen said.
Underclassmen are still in the process of grasping concepts of the high school experience such as dating and romance.
This desire to grow up, fueled by the idea that the viewer is behind his or her developmental stage, translates into an addiction to high school shows. Producers use this tactic to attract viewers.
Like every high school, these shows incorporate the element of teenage romance which, while a significant part of many students’ lives, can take relationships too far. Dating and relationships are hot topics on high school campuses, so many shows include them into their storylines.
“I watched a soap opera called ‘Rebelde,’” junior Andreina Serrano said. “The guy likes you, and you like him back, and you look at him, and he looks at you for hours and hours. …The school is not like that.”
Sophomore Gina Costa watches “Gossip Girl,” a series based on teenagers attending a privileged private school in New York City. Gina thinks that the high school she observes in the show—heavy with relationship drama—relates to the environment at school except for themes of promiscuity.
“In ‘Gossip Girl’ there’s a lot of sleeping around and stuff like that,” Gina said. “I don’t think you see that in Los Altos.”
The shopping and flirting of powerful young women such as the ones in “Gossip Girl” appeal to girls at school since they have similar experiences with their own friends.
Since many shows are from a girl’s perspective, they are not as relatable to teenage guys. However, there are exceptions.
Sophomore Daniel Eaton, a member of the football and basketball teams, understands the inspiration for jocks in shows such as the famous “High School Musical.”
“It makes people want to be like that, especially if they do already play that sport,” Daniel said. “They might think, ‘Wow, that person gets a lot of attention.’ [People envy them] if they were getting girls or being well known around school by a lot of people.”
As guys are targeted with a “get your head in the game” mentality, girls are intrigued by flirting relationships, gossip and recurring themes of teenage pregnancy, a scandalous high school experience.
“The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and “Juno” have taken high school relationships a step further by displaying pregnancies on the big screen in a very open, less condemning way, contrary to how it is dealt with in real life.
“The thing with teenage pregnancy is that … [shows] glamorize it and they don’t really look at the reality of it,” Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) Counselor Lisa Hills said.
After dealing with the impact of a teenage pregnancy on family and friends, delivering a child is portrayed as heroic. The “reality” of teenage motherhood post-birth is practically ignored, as the media does not focus on the grind of post-birth teenage life.
“They don’t realize the sleepless nights,” Hills said. “Usually when you get pregnant at a young age before marriage the relationship doesn’t last. You’re stuck alone, raising a child. You can get kicked out of your house if your parents disagree with you.”
Although shows involving high school may be fun to watch, they should not be a guide for how to live a high school life. High school themes are designed to attract attention and entertain, not to serve as a model.