The Effects of Unrealistic High School Depictions on TV


Sophie Sturdivant, Staff Writer

With common sense, high schoolers typically know not to expect a dance break or a murder in their high school career. However, we have seen unrealistic high schools in movies and on TV since we were young, so will the effects of unrealistic expectations soon take control of our high school expectations?

Looking at shows labeled as fiction—like Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, Glee, Gilmore Girls, Degrassi, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and other shows similar to these—can give an understanding as to what these expectations are.

“[TV shows] set a high expectation [for high school],” said freshman Sage Blankenfeld. Blankenfeld prefers watching more realistic TV shows because she gets to see herself represented through the characters.

Seeing unrealistic characters give people the false expectation of their own high school experience and how it should be. “It made it seem like [the characters in these TV shows] are more mature than most high schoolers,” said Blankenfeld. Part of this problem is seeing adults in their mid-20s and older, who have perfect skin and fully developed bodies playing teenagers.

“I always thought that was really weird,” said junior Khushi Salgia, Section Editor of Arts and Entertainment for the Vista Voice. “I think it does set this bad expectations, in high school most people are still going through an awkward phase, but when they have adults play it, they’ve already grown out of the awkward phase. It’s not realistic…it’s just awkward.”

Freshman Zoē Willkie believes that most fictional TV shows get overly dramatic and in turn, they lose their  entertainment because their relatability is lost. “[TV shows] made me think that my relationships were going to be dramatic or toxic…and [TV] made it seem like I would either have a lot of friends or no friends, because TV shows never really portrayed the person that blends in with the crowd,” said Willkie.

“[TV shows] portray [high schoolers] as everybody is separated into different cliques and they can’t interact with each other,” said Salgia.

Most TV shows handle the subject of drugs and alcohol in one of two ways: showing the horrible potentials of doing drugs and alcohol or showing drugs and alcohol as a fun thing to do at parties.  “I have mixed feelings, I don’t judge people if they drink or do drugs, but I’m not planning on joining in,” said Willkie. Most people who watch these TV shows have become more tolerant of drugs and alcohol usage.

Certain TV shows can fuel the unrealistic expectations of a high school student, but most high schoolers know not to fall for the ideals of a TV show.