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Where the High School Movies Got It Wrong

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From High School Musical to Mean Girls, as teenagers, we have grown up with predetermined ideals of what high school would be like. Sure, Freaks and Geeks hit teenage awkwardness pretty close to how it is. But some movies and television shows gave me false hope and also false fears. Was it wrong for me as an elementary-schooler to assume that in high school I would be a twenty-something looking girl who wore high heels and broke out into song all the time, fearing not having a date to the dance and food fights? Yes. Do I have proper justification for this prediction? Well, in the wise words of Cher from Clueless, "As if!" I'm just kidding. I totally do.

The first problem with my elementary school image of high school is that I thought all high-schoolers look like they are in their twenties. But how is that my fault if in almost every popular high school movie, many of the actors look like they should have graduated five years ago? In Mean Girls, Rachel McAdams was 25 and playing high school it-girl Regina George. Not to mention Jason Earles was a whopping 29 years-old when he played Jackson Stewart, high-schooler and brother to Miley Cyrus on Hannah Montana. I am a sophomore, but in comparison to Regina George or Jackson Stewart I look like an ultrasound.

Next, I would like to point out the whole "breaking out into song" thing. This was probably the biggest let down of all. High School Musical taught me that if you didn't have the courage to say something, you could sing it. (I may have overlooked the magic background music, auto-tune and everybody knowing the same dance moves, but my point still rings true.) It turns out our equivalent feelings-sharing method is tweeting. But instead of using 140 characters like us high-schoolers, High School Musical's Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay and Ryan used 140 actual characters (other definition) to express that they were all in this together. From when Troy sang that angry song on the golf course, to when Sharpay and Ryan sang that huge number that cost more than my house about "wanting it all," the High School Musical franchise takes the cake for planting the idea in my head that it is socially acceptable to randomly sing and dance and jazz squares are a crowd pleaser.

Lastly, and probably least importantly, I just thought I should point out that never once have I ever been in a food fight. I was really looking forward to that. It didn't have to be as big as the one in Animal House. But as a kid, I just always wanted to be the one who shouted "FOOD FIGHT!" and threw pizza at the mean popular girl, thus single-handedly destroying the high school hierarchy and starting an epic food fight that angered but not infuriated my old, straight-laced but loveable principal. Maybe I watched a little too much television.

Inaccurate casting, jazz squares and food fights aside, there is one thing true about both high school movies and high school itself. Though a 40-minute episode of Glee may make you think differently, it eventually does end. The movie ends in about two hours, and the latter in about four years. But the thing is, you are the screenwriter of your own high school experience and you get to decide how it ends. Though your life doesn't have the budget for you to be played by Rachel McAdams or an elaborate dance number, you can choose for it to be one that you remember.