Sitcoms Always Lie

Scripps Ranch High School senior Grace Klein will write occasional columns for the SRCA Newsletter about her experiences at the high school from her unique perspective. She requested that her column be called “The Voice” in honor of her summer reading assignment, “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” “The Voice” is the name of Owen Meany’s column in his school newspaper in the book. He used his column to criticize everything and everyone about Gravesend Academy.

Grace explains, “My column will be far more sanitized than that, as my parents have forbid me from insulting anyone directly. But the principle still applies.”

Grace is also one of eight National Merit Scholarship semifinalists from SRHS. There were only 23 in the district.

Her first column is titled, “Sitcoms Always Lie: What Hollywood Taught Me to Expect of My High School Experience vs. What Actually Happened.”

My parents, and presumably most screenwriters, hale from the mystical land of Texas, where people still wear cowboy boots unironically, and the halls of high school are ruled by quarterbacks and cheerleaders. Naturally, after spending my preteen years being spoon-fed inspiring coming of age stories by Hollywood, I assumed that I would step through the gates of Scripps Ranch High School straight into a made-for-TV tweeny-bopper flick. I was the worst dressed freshman of the bunch; obviously, I was destined to meet my popular blonde nemesis before first period, kick-starting my epic romance with her current boyfriend.

Reality was, as always, sorely disappointing.

As it turns out, almost all petty drama is reserved for middle school. In fact, one of the ways we upperclassmen judge when it has finally become safe to engage the freshmen in meaningful conversation is by waiting until they stop inciting any diva-tastic cat fights in the halls. Real high school drama isn’t nearly as exciting but incredibly more self-destructive.

Middle schoolers don’t actually have serious problems; they just think they do. High schoolers face the truly terrifying possibilities of car crashes, employment, unemployment, and—horror upon horrors—sexual activity. TV only warns prospective teenagers about one item on that list—the last—and it turns out that most people don’t even engage, they just claim they do. There are too few teen-moms in Scripps Ranch to make a reality show out of, and cable TV will do an expose on anything these days.

There are still cliques in high school, true. But they aren’t exclusive or hierarchically ranked like in the movies Mean Girls and Heathers. The football players don’t strut through the halls with cheerleaders on their arms, parting the plaid sea: the general populace of our school could care less about football. I mean this somewhat literally—to care less they’d have to be legally dead.

Cheer squad gets a lot a flack from those students too “alternative” to appreciate the finer things in life, like short flouncy skirts and launching tiny women 10 feet into the air. Underclassmen, operating within the delusion that cheerleaders are automatically prettier, more popular, and meaner than they are, often claim to “hate” such girls. Personally, I commend both teams for their efforts but couldn’t name more than two members of either even if my life depended on it.

Scripps Ranch High is a somewhat unusual school in that it doesn’t seem to assign popularity by any of the normal scales, like “hotness,” “athleticism,” or “cheekbone height.” Instead, social rankings mirror class rankings: the person with the top GPA also is likely to be the best-known name in school.

The Associated Student Body (ASB) elections and all ASB-sponsored events stand in for the lack of traditional competition to satisfy our need for beauty contests. But they certainly aren’t as cutthroat, or even well-publicized, as hopeful drama queens might assume from watching TV.

No one is going to get hurt in a dispute over the right to the glittery plastic tiara. Especially since they usually announce the winners at football games, meaning half the school finds out about it through the grapevine a week later.

The one thing television got right was their depiction of the chemistry lab. Experiments often do release noxious multicolored gases, explode, or just generally fizz over in ways they aren’t supposed to. Advanced Placement (AP) students get the worst of it, since their teachers trust them with the more dangerous chemicals. Remedial courses experiment with Pepsi- Cola and Mentos.

To be perfectly blunt, I have learned two important lessons over my years in high school: if the fire alarm goes off, it’s the chemistry department’s fault, and sitcoms always lie.

Grace Klein, SRHS Senior