5 Absurd Characters You See in Every High School Movie
Maybe I just went to a weird high school, but in my experience actual school and Hollywood school are about as similar as actual people and Kanye West. Sure there were different groups of people -- there were jocks, there were nerds, there was a table of ESL kids who ate hot dogs with carrots on them -- but there wasn't a serious pathological issue with most of the school that made them seriously noteworthy in a deranged and/or comedic sort of way. Basically, what I'm saying is that real-life school is awfully different from TV and movie school, where everyone's personality is distilled to a single, terrifying character trait that, in the real world, would likely have you ostracized if not incarcerated in no time. Let's take a look at what I mean.
Morally Dubious Hornball
You were probably just a quivering mass of sexual stupidity in high school, but so was everyone else. For this reason, and for all the jokes anyone has ever made about hormones on family sitcoms, all films and shows about high school feature a character who, under other circumstances, would probably be a registered sex offender.
From the mostly tame advances of Xander on Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the obnoxious hepatitis dispensary that was Steve Stifler in American Pie, no high school story is complete if a decent percentage of it doesn't revolve around someone wanting to bone or someone always boning. Those are basically the two kinds of kids in high school in movies -- the sluts and the people who want to do them. Seth in Superbad actually mimes ass-licking while making a tiramisu; that kid has some preoccupation issues.
There's nothing wrong with having a sexually zealous character in a story about high school, of course. It's just that most films and TV shows push that limit beyond reasonable to "do I need to wear gloves when I touch you?" Judge Reinhold is so eager to wank in Fast Times at Ridgemont High he rubs one out on the toilet while he's dressed like a pirate. If I was having that vivid a fantasy about naked Phoebe Cates I'd probably do it on a fishing boat with my family present, but still, doesn't make it less indecent.
No movie really exemplifies the sexual misanthropy of high school better than American Pie, a film that features a teenage boy drinking semen-laced beer, another teenager fucking a pie, and a kid who has to find a secret book buried in a public library to teach him how to properly stimulate Tara Reid.
Unfathomable Bitch/Total Cockhole
This is the absolute cornerstone of every single high school story ever. One character, one being, who is so unimaginably despicable that you wonder if their parents hatched them in a vat of blood warmed over a fiery pentagram in the root cellar. Why is this person such an asshole? How is it even possible that this person is such an asshole?
Mean Girls centers itself around the idea that someone at school is such a magnificent twat you're kind of in awe of her and would possibly get sucked into her douche aura and become like her as her shittiness spreads like a plague to those around her. Buffy has Cordelia, Harry Potter has Malfoy, Teen Wolf has Mick, Spider-Man has Flash, Edward Scissorhands even has Jim, who is played by former typecast nerd Anthony Michael Hall.
Movies seem to mostly be written by people who had a rough time in high school. They missed out on parties, and sometime between high school and careers in screenwriting they came to the conclusion that the reason they never went to parties was because the popular kids were two chromosomes removed from being Satan himself, and anyone who wasn't nice to them was not just kind of mean, they were awful in every way. The most popular guy in the neighborhood when Daniel LaRusso moves in is quite possibly psychotic. The Karate Kid has to learn martial arts just to not be murdered by an entire gang of Aryan thugs.
Consider your own life for a moment. Either right now, or when you were in school. Who were the most influential people you knew? Who were the cool kids in your mind? Were any of the actual popular kids at your school, or even now at a workplace, just raving, unapologetic, dick-faced shitheads? I will place some cash on that not being the case.
No doubt some popular people are assholes. There was a dude on the football team at my high school who was clearly mentally unstable and would make fun of and beat up people all the time. People were legitimately afraid of him since he was built like the Hulk and thought everything he said and did was funny. He was invited to parties because people were afraid not to invite him. But that didn't make him popular; it just made him omnipresent and terrifying. The really popular people were funny and smart and likable. They had friends who were jocks and nerds and band geeks and every other stereotype that exists in high school. Hollywood has no time for this. One dimension or bust.
Just as every movie features a complete toolbox of a dick, the flip-side of the coin is the criminally uncool nerd character who is still somehow likable despite being presented as a loser of such epicness you may wonder if they were created in a lab as part of a social experiment in depression.
In the first season of Buffy, Willow seems to wear homemade sweaters and knee socks, as though her brain is somehow crippled with a desire to be ostracized. Anthony Michael Hall plays basically the same awful dingus in no fewer than three films by John Hughes: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science. Do you know what his character's name is in Sixteen Candles? It's Geek. He doesn't even have a name.
One of my favorite movies to this very day is Weird Science, because I will never fully disbelieve that the computer I do my work on every single day is capable of making a magical lady if I just somehow hook it up to a dot matrix printer and run some photos of Kelly LeBrock and Albert Einstein through my scanner.
FYI, this is your mom's coat.
The characters in Weird Science are clearly nerds of the '80s variety, and they use their magical lady to learn that they don't need a magical lady to be popular and interesting, and in the end they have the potential to get laid, which is the ultimate goal of 90 percent of all high school and/or Hughes films. But at the beginning these guys are social outcasts.
I'm not about to defend the social status of Hall's character, but I will say any kid shrewd enough to create life with a computer that has 286 kb of processing power must have a lot of admirable qualities.
I could also make a pretty convincing case for why Napoleon Dynamite is obviously unpopular in his movie, but at the same time I will counter with this -- that dude has a llama. Have you ever known anyone with a llama? A llama that apparently eats casserole? I would be friends with a social deformity like Napoleon Dynamite all day long if I got to hang out with a llama. Priorities, people.
Related: Henry Cavill Is An Apex Nerd
Hate-Filled Staff Member
Why do so many teachers hate students? Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club seems to exemplify this character better than anyone, but he is far from alone. Even Harry Potter has to put up with Professor Snape, who for the better part of seven films seems to have taken up teaching solely to make one kid's life miserable and look vaguely like Cher.
The movie Teaching Mrs. Tingle is about a teacher who's such a monumental twat that her students conspire to murder her. The principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off has a mental breakdown and commits a handful of crimes in his attempt to catch a student playing hooky, despite the fact that Ferris is apparently the most popular human being in the entire city of Chicago. Then there's Mr. Strickland from Back to the Future, Mr. Woodcock, Cameron Diaz's craptastic Bad Teacher character, the jackass principal from Teen Wolf, and a science teacher on Buffy who turns into a bug and tries to eat a student. That's messed up.
I piss in your lunchboxes.
I remember a handful of teachers in my own life who maybe should have chosen a career in a different field, like herding sheep or fucking themselves, but there wasn't such an abundance of them that it made me wonder if there is some kind of cult around that exists solely to make the lives of children miserable. I'd go so far as to say, if you have a pathological dislike of children, then teaching is easily one of the top three professions you should avoid. Maybe instead look into cornholing, basket-weaving, or dildo-molding.
You'll notice very often that asshole faculty end up getting their comeuppance in movies. This is in direct contrast to real life, where if you had a real jackass for a teacher literally nothing bad ever happened for decades to them, and they probably retired comfortably. The whole school likely knew they were an awful person, and tons of people complained, and everyone's parents knew, and nothing happened because no school anywhere at any time has ever held a staff member accountable for being an asshole. Only if their asshole behavior became criminal would anyone ever actually do something about it, which generally entails paid leave. Teachers unions and school boards are like the mafia and/or the Catholic Church in that way.
Skeet Ulrich was 26 when the movie Scream was made, so was Judd Nelson during The Breakfast Club. Luke Perry was 27 when he was in the Buffy movie, while Charisma Carpenter was 26 for the first season of the TV series. Jason Earles, who played Miley Cyrus' dorkish brother on Hannah Montana was born in 1977. His presence on the set and at any public events should have been enough to get him on a government watchlist. This goes to show a pattern of behavior in Hollywood whereby directors and producers seem to be unable to tell that a 10-year age gap between actor and character is actually incredibly noticeable. Nowhere is this more obvious than on Beverly Hills, 90210 and the character Andrea, played by an actress born in 1961, the only person who makes Perry look young on the entire show.
Why is it necessary to cast someone far too old as a high school student, and why does it continue to happen even today? Lea Michele is going to be the only girl in the glee club dealing with menopause if that show goes much longer. The answer, of course, is easily demonstrated by turning on your television and tuning in to either Nickelodeon or Disney. Go on, watch those shows. Watch the shows about 12-year-olds that star actual 12-year-olds. Watch one right now.
Did you watch one? That smell you're smelling, a touch coppery and vaguely acrid, is your thickening blood as it rises to a boil. That feeling in your stomach is your guts literally knotting themselves in an attempt to cause something -- anything -- inside of you to burst, go septic, and kill you so fucking dead you can never watch that show again. That's why Hollywood casts people in their 20s as children: because the human psyche can't handle actual child actors. We were never meant to see some things, not the least of which is Miley Cyrus trying to emote about homework back before she got weird.
For more from Felix, check out 5 Fictional Universes Where Being a Regular Person Sucks and 4 Behaviors the Modern World Is Only Making Worse.
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