There is something present in both Western and Eastern popular culture that I really think needs to stop: the glamorisation of life in high school. In popular culture it is presented as one of the most important times of your life. While it is true that you won’t get another chance at it, there will be so much more in your life after high school is over.
Do you know what high school life is characterised by? Social awkwardness, academic pressure, a great amount of pressure for young people to conform, the looming threat of being placed into harmful and dangerous social interactions, peer pressure, and of course, the odd suicidal feelings every now and then (although many of us survive those). Not to mention, mounting feelings of weakness, desperation, and failure. It’s also a time where many of us fall in love but don’t handle it well. Somebody stop me! I’ll admit that there are good times one can experience in high school, but let’s face it, high school in general is a bad and pointless time that no one who had an informed choice would put themselves through.
So why the hell would you glamorise that in TV and movies? In the West that seems to be what we do all the time, from the days of Luke Perry and John Hughes, to the modern age of clean-looking hunks and air-headed ladies to the cue of cringeworthy pop soundtracks. As though we seem to think these are one of the best years of our lives, when actually they could easily be one of the worst. This is most likely tapping into the teenage mentality that there’s not much more after high school life (which is likely a contributing factor in youth suicides), but there’s a lot more in this life for you to be a part of.
But don’t ever think the West is the only guilty party here. In Japan, we find the academic setting very prevalent in anime and manga. Now I don’t mean be negative about anime, because I actually like anime, nor do I intend to criticise any particular works of anime or manga, but I feel I should be honest about how sick I am of the recurrence of the academic setting in anime and manga.
I am not familiar with high school life in Japan, but I imagine it’s almost like in the West except probably, if you think about it, worse. Why? For starters, there’s an enforced uniform code in Japan, much like in the UK and other countries. That alone implies a sense of conformity involved. And if I know Japan, then all the academic pressure is there, but probably worse. In anime and manga, the academic setting is just plain uninteresting, partly due to the fact that it recurs so often. And I’m not just talking about shojo or slice-of-life genres. You even find it in shonen anime and manga, and action and supernatural anime and manga. In those kinds of anime and manga, it’s ridiculous how someone with power of any sort is still confined in high school, when he/she could easily use his/her power to break free of his/her rut. Wouldn’t that be grand?
Even the magic academies that appear in some anime is just meh to me, although it does make an iota of sense given that it is a means the characters in a story can learn about how to use their powers. Still, magic academies are still an academic setting by definition, which means, surprise surprise, it’s like a high school (though often with dorms)!
I’m just sick of culture being saturated with glamorised high school life, as though it somehow relates to us. Newsflash, most people think school sucks. Why in the hell would anyone in school want anything other than escape?
Let’s face it, the only thing high school is good for in both West and East is as a fetish or source of fetishes, especially in Japan though.