High School: So Not Like High School In Fiction

High school. The glorious nightmare that is your life. But forget about tests, homework, and grades. This time is about social hierarchy…and at the top is the girl who rules them all.

She alone has the power to manipulate anyone into doing anything for her. The boys stare at her with their tongues hanging out. The girls suck up to her and try to copy her every move. She strikes fear in the hearts of all, and is undeniably the meanest girl you will ever meet. Yet even so, every year she gets voted queen of the school dance. Hold on a second.

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This isn’t real life. This is high school as exaggerated and dramatized by books and movies some out of school adult wrote. This is nowhere near reality. I’ll admit that before I started high school, I believed in the misconceptions generated by books about high school. I believed that all cheerleaders were jerks who cheated on their boyfriends.

I believed that there was one little popularity cult that ruled them all. I even believed that someone as mean as the “queen bee” portrayed in books and movies would even be the “queen bee” in the first place. There is no clear cut popularity. Sure, some people are more popular than others, but that’s just life. Veronica Roth is more popular than Shannon Hale, and in my opinion, Shannon Hale is a much better writer. However, Veronica Roth knows how to appeal to her audience and therefore has more people going nuts over her writing.

That goes for popularity. Those who fit in with a certain type of crowd are popular within that crowd and then maybe outside of that crowd depending on who they know and their participation in extracurricular activities. If someone asked who the popular girls were, I wouldn’t be able to tell them. Because there is no such thing as one singular group of popular girls who are worshipped by the entire school. And then I might add that you can’t just go up to a lunch table and identify it as the table of the jocks or the nerds or the band geeks or orch dorks (orchestra dorks).

Everyone is different, and people connect to certain personality types more than others. I am in orchestra, but I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t want to sit with the majority of those people during lunch. Not because they’re bad people, but because I don’t connect with them. We took a survey last year asking us to put lunch groups into categories. No one could do it. When my friends and I discussed it at lunch, we decided to categorize ourselves as the “weird people who sit in the third floor hallway”.

That is a very general categorization, and could go for anyone sitting in the third floor hallway—such as the people who threw trash at us on a day with first and second combined lunch. The less of a jerk you are, the more friends you have. There’s no way the “queen bee” from books and movies would survive socially if she was put in a real life high school situation. When you are as mean and manipulative as this queen bee—even if you may be hot or rich or whatever people see in these types of girls—no one likes you. Because no one likes jerks except other jerks, who are the minority.

And the word “jerk” is putting it lightly, because I have never in my entire life encountered anyone as mean as the queen bees from books and movies. Next, let me talk about the cheerleader stereotype. I have yet to come across a book with even a remotely nice cheerleader. And the cheerleaders in books aren’t just mean; they have a reputation for being s***s as well. Naturally, that assumption carries over to real life.

I do know about the Texas Cheerleader Scandal as well as the mother who would “kill for her daughter to be on the team”. I know that there is a cheerleader stereotype for a reason and that there are several cheerleaders out there who are the living image of the stereotypical teenagers from books. However, cheerleaders at my school are surprisingly nice if not friendly. At the Welcome Back assembly last year, when I was a freshman, I heard a boy in front of me whisper about the cheerleaders being all the popular girls. At the time I assumed that too and invited the comment.

For days afterwards, I listened hard to gossip or complaints about the imaginary clique of cheerleaders I had in my mind. There was nothing. Cheerleaders didn’t even sit with other cheerleaders most of the time, but instead sat with their friends at lunch and laughed and joked and talked like genuinely kind people do. My friend told me a story about a cheerleader she was friends with. That was the turning point in my assumptions about cheerleaders. I no longer believed in the social hierarchy and stereotypes of teen books and movies, but instead turned to real life.

Because books and movies are completely wrong about high school. Perhaps what struck me the most was when a cheerleader at the Diversity Assembly spoke out about how she was shunned because of stereotypes and how everyone thought she was a s***. It made me realize that the cheerleader stereotype is a big issue and is something we should not fall victim to no matter what. Because cheerleaders are not all the same. They are very different people, and they’re not in the squad to be popular or virtually immortal or s*****y.

They are in the squad for the only reason that should matter—because they are passionate about cheering on their school and leading our team to improbable victory. Books and movies have negatively shaped our ideas about high school and has promoted unhealthy stereotypes in society. We need to recognize that in real life, high school is nothing like the books…until writers realize where they were wrong and paint a portrait of high school as it really is.