Tuesday, September 18, 2018
High School Movies, Then and Now
On some level I find high school movies interesting precisely because most of them seem like stories about alien worlds to me. What is this thing called popularity? What's with the wild parties? Did my peers actually do stuff like that and I was just oblivious? (Spoiler: They did, and I was.) The new Netflix high school movies have a sweetness about them that I also find appealing; there's less sex and a lot more focus on girls' complex emotional lives and their relationships with other girls. We didn't see a lot of that in the 80s, and it's encouraging to see it now, even in the darker Netflix TV show, Stranger Things, where Nancy's whole vengeance and truth-finding arc is driven by her love for and guilt about Barb. Speaking of Barb, Shannon Purser's brief but compelling performance on Stranger Things made me delighted to see her as the protagonist in Sierra Burgess is a Loser, and even if the film gets into trouble with its Cyrano de Bergerac revision it's still worth watching because Shannon Purser is so good and so authentic as the kind of girl we didn't see in high school movies before. I'd like more movies with Shannon Purser, please.
There's a 99% chance that your high school experience was really different from mine (but more likely that it was also catastrophically miserable in its own special way). What do you make of high school movies now that you look back at the ones you saw when you were a teen? What do you see in the new ones being made today? Feel free to share in the comments!
PS - I can't end this post without a special shout out to Sky High (2005), a live action Disney film that has long been a favorite high school movie in my house of dedicated comic book nerds. It's goofy and even absurd but pitches the high school experience in a way that my husband, kid, and I all find immensely appealing. It offers diverse characters, lots of self-aware humor, and some very entertaining action scenes that take school fights to a whole new level. Plus, it has Bruce Campbell, Kurt Russell, Lynda Carter, and Cloris Leachman in it!