Everybody’s gorgeous and wearing designer clothes, no one is concerned with their grades or being accepted to college, and there is about twenty minutes of passing time in between classes. Sounds like a typical high school right?
As your average high school student, I can attest that most television shows claiming to depict the high school experience are completely inaccurate in multiple areas.
First, the actors and actresses that are cast to play “high school students” are much older than ages 15-18, which is the typical time one spends in grades 9-12. In the hit ABC Family series, Pretty Little Liars, the four main female characters are played by actresses with the ages of 22, 23, 25 and 27, and they all certainly look their age, just not the age of a high school student. High school is the awkward time for puberty and pimples, not flawless beauty and complete maturity.
The extensive makeup, painted nails, perfectly sculptured hair each of the girls feature on the show are not helping matters. Stiletto heels are not something that the average high school girl wears to her classes, and yet at least one of the characters on this show is wearing these shoes in every episode. No average high school girl or boy has enough money to buy and wear a different designer outfit to school every day for the entire year, nor do girls have the time to perfect their skin and hair each morning while still getting some sleep.
On the other hand, the Teen Nick cult hit Degrassi is completely exaggerative when focusing on “common teen issues” such as drug abuse, peer pressure, and body image problems. However, the show is surprisingly accurate in other respects.
The actors are all within the ages of 15-20 and look believable as high school students when judged by their clothing and natural hair and makeup. The actors and actresses often look simply average and may even have a pimple or two. This sets the tone for depicting average high school students because at that age, that is what students look like.
In addition, the characters that attend Degrassi high school all graduate in a timely fashion. The show’s success and years on the air can most likely be attributed to this. New characters will enroll in the high school, old characters will graduate, and some end up leaving in accordance to other story lines. This aspect makes the show so much more realistic in contrast to other programs where students remain in high school for year after year and with ambiguous references to what grade they are actually in.
Lastly, Degrassi high school actually holds classes with teachers, homework, tests and projects. So many shows fail to include this in their plots even when claiming to display the “average high school.” Degrassi never focused just on the schoolwork the students do because that would not be entertaining, however the characters are often showed studying in class and at home. High school characters are simply more relatable when stressing about college applications and essays, than when constantly at the mall and partying with friends.
To produce good television shows surrounding a high school atmosphere, some time showing classes and students doing school work should be included, simply because it is refreshing for teens to see somewhat relatable characters without losing the aspect of entertainment.