High School

Recently, my Saturday and Sunday mornings have been defined by classic 90s teen films, and this is likely a result of one of two things: 1). Either Canadian cable caters solely to people like me (lazy souls who spend weekends lying around wearing flannel and eating M&Ms for breakfast) or 2). The world has finally caught onto what the rest of us have known all along: the 90s were better.

And not only that, but paying attention to teen films between 1995 and 1999-ish would’ve adequately prepared us for high school. (Kind of – in a way).

WORDS: Ms Anne Donahue

After all, nothing can really prepare anyone for the shitstorm of grades nine through 12, but if the technology were available, I (like most of you), would go back in time and warn my teenage self that:

a).High school really doesn’t matter and

b). eating McDonald’s is the fastest way to outgrow ill-fitting pleather pants.

Thus, in the spirit of such revelations – and because I’ve run into many former classmates who now work in factories or as dog food salesmen – here are the films we previously idolized and quoted, and why we should continue to pay attention to them (if only for the children).

Never Been Kissed
Remember 1999 when all of us spent the duration of summer swooning over Michael Varton and attempting to spread the word “rufus”? (No? Just me?  Nevermind).  Well, we probably should’ve spent more time embracing our socially awkward selves and admiring the fact that Drew Barrymore created a character who’s smart, funny, intelligent, lovable and above all: not afraid to be herself. (Is this cliché enough yet or should I keep going?)

Josie “Grossie” Gellar embodied the nerd in all of us (yes, even the cool kids). And instead of compromising who she was and what she aspired to be, she literally flung dog food back at the upper crust and made the iconic statement, “find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it”.  Cue: fist pumps of agreement from anyone who’d been on the receiving end of taunts and mockery during the ever-painful formative years. Sure, we may have just been happy that Josie kissed the beautiful teacher-man, but had we just realized that the “losers” always prevail (seriously – punk rock itself was the result of the unification of misfits), I, for one, wouldn’t have been shy about my knowledge of ‘Star Wars’ or my affinity for 60s pop-rock.

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
True, it’s not technically teen-oriented, but when I watched ‘Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion’ for the first time prior to starting what I thought would be my five-year sentence at the big house (read: Catholic high school), I held onto the fact that “in high school, everybody made somebody’s life hell”.  However, I repressed it until my best friend and I realized years later that we were actually the Heather Mooneys of grades nine through ten. So an apology goes out to everyone we may have told to “fuck off” both directly and passively through our running commentary.

This isn’t an academy-award winner by any stretch – are they ever? – but what it displayed was the importance of sisterhood, the fact that adolescent social awkwardness gives way to future success, or at least a sharp wit that will make previous bullies feel uncomfortable, and the realization that just because someone hides behind their white picket fence and nuclear family doesn’t mean they’re better than you.  Or, in the case of high school students, their parent-bought SUVs and designer wardrobes.  Now if only I’d have known that the Billy Christensen equivalents of my town would currently all be 30 pounds heavier and renowned for their beer funnelling capabilities six years after graduation.

She’s All That
I promise I’m not about to wax poetic about the importance of makeovers and “looking mad good”, but I am going to gush about the fact that Lainey Boggs was totally hip, with it, and above the popular kids who looked between the ages 24 and 36. Seriously – am I an old person now or does Freddie Prinze Jr. look 30? Confession: I was actually uncomfortable with having a crush on him at age 13 because I thought he looked “too old”. Lame, but true.

Aside from the soundtrack, Lainey’s overalls and “hack . . . y . . . sack” (upon seeing that clip, I didn’t know whether I should pursue performing arts or get in on the next hacky session at recess), the true beauty of this cinematic gem is the fact that unlike other movies of underdogs’ victories, the fringe kids got their comeuppance in high school. No, Lainey didn’t win prom queen but who cares – teenage royalty usually means “I peaked at age 17”.  But together with Anna Paquin and her charming best friend, she won the respect of fellow students, got into a prestigious art school and destroyed the hearing of a sexually-harassing Paul Walker. Win. However, just so everyone’s aware: being class president in North America – particularly Canada – doesn’t mean you have a personalized licence plate or framed school photo. It means you have a knack for making inappropriate campaign posters and caring the least about everything.

Mean Girls
Alright, fine – this isn’t a movie from the 1990s, but 1). I’ve already written about 10 Things I Hate About You and 2). Tina Fey penned it, so I feel inclined to declare its brilliance. When ‘Mean Girls’ came out in 2004, I was in my last year of high school (my third year in public high school), and I had already begun to recognize that the film was a complete re-enactment of my teenage years. Meaning? Minus the full-scale brawl following the discovery of the Burn Book, I was lucky enough to have witnessed regular “bitch fights”, romantic scandals and, “Oh my God, I love your bracelet – where did you get it?”-based mockery.

Clearly, I should’ve looked past Regina George getting hit by a bus to appreciate Ms. Norbury’s speech on the importance of respect and sisterhood – especially since girl-on-girl crime begins at such a tender young age. Like Cady Heron eventually surmised: calling someone else fat won’t make you skinny, stealing someone’s boyfriend won’t make you popular, and making someone cry won’t mend your hurt feelings. (Alright, I said it a little differently, but you get the idea).  And for the record, if you’re sending a candy gram, send one to everyone or don’t send one at all. (“You go, Glen Coco!”)


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