Grand Army is a ” drama series that tells the story of five high school students as they struggle with sexual, racial and economic politics and fight to succeed and become somebody.” (IMBD).
The show recently premiered on Netflix and as a former teen drama television obsessed person I could not help but to check it out. Now keep in mind that the show is not built for me, and by that I mean the 25+ crowd.
I know its hard to put down the Yu-Gi-Oh cards and pick up a pack of adult diapers because WE ARE OLD.
But we have to accept it.
So aware of my old-ness I still watched a show meant for teenagers; and as expected I did not love it.
My main reason for not appreciating the show was that the High School was totally unrealistic. I can see how people growing up in large northern cities could find the school relatable, but not my conservative bible thumping Southern school self.
I bet every single one of the students from my school feels the exact same way; and I’m not saying every teen drama has to portray a strict, rule based school as a backdrop, but writers should recognize the diversity in schools.
Stop only showing fun High Schools where you can show up to class whenever and dress code doesn’t exist.
Not all High Schools are like that, and for many people over 25, High School was not the ultimate time period in our lives anyway.
But at Grand Army (and every other show set in High School) it is! Pretty much everything relevant to their lives happens at or because of school.
School is like that ambiguos character in a show that demands compliance or you’ll die in seven days.
But this article is not about how much I liked or didn’t like Grand Army, this blog post is about the focal point of almost every teen drama, the school.
Now some people loved High School and wish that they could go back. I’m not among that crowd.
In High School I was just a chubby little caterpillar, and then I went to college and got addicted to fitness and turned into a beautiful butterfly.
But when I was a caterpillar I loved shows like Degrassi, Skins UK, Radio Free Roscoe…(random side note, was I the only person who watched Radio Free Roscoe?????????? I’m going to put the theme song...)
Those shows were always set in High School and featured a diverse cast, but not diverse High Schools. For some reason High Schools don’t have dress codes or rules on tv shows, students are rarely portrayed studying but easily get into prestigious Ivy League Schools and High Schools on television also never seem to have any repercussions for being tardy to class.
Also High School hallways on television often times look like a hotel lobby during New York fashion week. Even the “poor kid” is rocking a $60 dollar shirt from Urban Outfitters.
Then the “students” are all like 25 years old and gorgeous.
At my school everybody was ugly. Every last one of us. Including me, but we had great personalities, though.
The thing is the really average and boring High School is rarely portrayed on television because people don’t want to pay to be bored unless they’re getting a degree out of it. People also don’t want to see average looking High Schoolers strut around their screen mindlessly. If they wanted to, they could go down to H&M and do that for free!
Also on TV the students leave school and go straight to their big ass houses. Maybe my school district was not elite enough to have a lot of financially rich kids, but I don’t remember anyone having a big ass house.
To sum it all up my boring High School full of average looking middle class kids is always portrayed as an exciting place full of supermodels from China, India, Haiti etc. Supermodels who are blessed to have high intellect as well as lovely faces. They get straight A’s and perfect scores on SAT exams while not sacrificing going to parties, maintaining relationships etc.
This work-free High School ideal has been pushed for decades. Did anyone ever see Fonzi go to class on Happy Days? What about JJ “getting the”…book instead of the door on Good Times?
Sidenote: Fonzie was supposed to be in High School?! You can’t tell me dude look a day under 25.
The issue with portraying a place as much more grand than it is, is that it creates a perpetual system of disappointment and it can abolish efforts. When kids learn they will likely be unable to be the Valedictorian, a Sports champion, and maintain an active social life all at the same time the frustration from that dashed expectation often leads to low performance in aspects of school related to that failure.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) kids are “getting dumber”. In a recent study “the results of ACT standardized tests, college-bound students are doing worse than they have ever done in the examination’s history”. This decrease in test scores is directly correlated to the increased production of High School dramas.
Do you think this is a coincidence?