Real high school dishes out a dose of disillusionment for students raised on TV imitations
As a restless third grader, I couldn't wait to get to high school. High school, compared with my small world, embodied my vision of paradise: Teachers and students were intellectual equals, every kid had a lifelong best friend and sidekick, and casual conversation was peppered with witticisms ranging from mildly hilarious to downright side-splitting. It was where homework and other academic matters were an afterthought and where every Zack Morris was offset by a Screech Powers.
Of course, my vision was brutally dashed on my first day at Blair. The friends I'd made in the casts of my favorite high-school sitcoms (from which I'd gleaned everything I knew of high-school culture) were nowhere to be found, and it seemed they had been replaced by a gigantic faceless mass that would rather trample me than crack jokes for my amusement. I'm still reeling from the disappointment.
I am now somewhat comforted to know that I'm not alone. An informal Silver Chips survey of 100 Blazers conducted on Jan 7 reveals that 93 percent, as ninth graders, found Blair a far cry from what they'd been led to expect by shows such as Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World.
Tricked by the bell
For senior Nikki Mosuro, a loyal Saved by the Bell viewer from its advent until the series finale, the shock came when she stepped into school four years ago. For all the loyalty she once pledged to the show, she now blames her disillusionment and resultant bitterness on its terminally optimistic characters. "They lied to me," says Mosuro through gritted teeth.
Expecting to see the spacious halls of Bayside High, Mosuro says her jaw literally dropped at the sight that greeted her instead. "My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, I've never seen so many people in my life,'" recalls Mosuro. "It didn't occur to me that those shows had schools with only a few hundred kids each."
Mosuro had expected to be welcomed into a tight-knit group of students in which everyone knew everyone's name and friendship and love would be easy to find. "I thought I'd be friends with everybody," she says, "and that in the first week I'd find a cute boyfriend like Zack Morris."
Freshman Zahra Gordon says that the plastered-on smiles of Zack, Kelly and their friends gave her a woefully unrealistic vision of the true nature of life as a student. "Of course they were happy!" proclaims Gordon. "All I remember them doing was running around the campus, never going to class! That isn't real high school."
As infatuated as I once was with the Bayside High gang, I am now inclined to agree with Mosuro and Gordon on all counts. Even the show's name was inexcusably misleading. Saved by the Bell? After four years full of unexcused tardies, I fail to see where the bell ever did me any favors.
Girl meets Blair
Of all the television "friends" I so cherished during my impressionable youth, the one I loved most was Cory Mathews, the often ill-fated yet always happy-go-lucky central character of the resilient Boy Meets World. For all his foibles, Cory remained a likeable and even lovable character that viewers could simultaneously laugh at and relate to. For some reason, I expected that his high-school adventures would be good predictors of what was in store for me. Again, I was horribly wrong.
Senior Alex Lo says there wasn't a single second in which he wasn't wise to the show's many plot oversights, even before he entered high school. He was particularly bothered that through all eight years of the show's lifespan, Mr. Feeney, a neighbor and favorite teacher of Cory, was conveniently at the head of the class to dispense wisdom relevant to Cory's current problems. "A teacher that moves up with the students?" says Lo, raising a skeptical eyebrow. "Ridiculous."
Still, even Lo admits that the show had its moments of shining accuracy. After watching Cory and Shawn sleep their way through innumerable English classes, Lo says the sleepers all around him in his tenth-grade Health class were like old friends. "I walked in the first day," remembers Lo, "and I felt right at home."
"All about the Benjamins"
Television syndicator Michelle Thomas, president of KHEMETCOM Entertainment Corporation, says that discrepancies between high school on television and high school in real life are evidence that in a capitalist society, marketability takes priority over realism. For nearly two decades she has worked selling television programs to networks. Through her experience, she has found that stations like what sells. "If there's one thing I've learned, it's that it's all about the Benjamins," she says.
In other words, to networks, the disillusionment of high schoolers across the nation is worth winning that key evening time slot. I suppose this is only to be expected; after all, it's been a while since I last saw a network executive battling his way through one of Blair's very un-Baysidelike hallways.
Realistic or not, old favorites like Boy Meets World and Saved by the Bell will always remain dear to the heart of this high schooler, who would rather watch Shawn sleep or hear Screech screech than smell another stink bomb any day.
Shannon Sanders. Shannon is stumbling through life as a Magnet senior. She's an aspiring obstetrician, who hopes to live in NYC and somehow blend seamlessly into the masses of chicness after graduating from Columbia University. She's a sort-of member of Blair's Model UN club, takes dance lessons, ... More »