COM 208: Hollywood Goes to High School

Test your knowledge about movies geared toward a young audience

What movie is this from?
(See answers at bottom)

1. The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom; I’m a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh… you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor’s office.
That’s worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.

Same movie…

I did have a test today. That wasn’t bulls**it. It’s on European socialism. I mean, really, what’s the point? I’m not European, I don’t plan on being European, so who gives a crap if they’re socialists? They could be fascist anarchists. That still wouldn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car.
Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism – he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: ‘I don’t believe in Beatles – I just believe in me.’ A good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus – I’d still have to bum rides off of people.

What movie is this from?

2. I look exactly the same as I have since summer.
Utterly forgettable. No, I didn’t expect to wake up transformed. I just thought that…I’d wake up with an improved mental state that would show on my face. All it shows is that I don’t have any sort of a tan left.
I better get downstairs. My family’s probably pissed off I haven’t let them wish me happy birthday yet.

How about this?

3. I would like to say this. Tardiness is not something you can do on your own. Many, many people contributed to my tardiness.
I would like to thank my parents for never giving me a ride to school, the LA city bus driver who took a chance on an unknown kid and last but not least, the wonderful crew from McDonalds who spend hours making those egg McMuffins without which I’d never be tardy.

Same movie…

Murray: Your man Christian is a cake boy.
Cher & Dionne: What?!
Murray: He’s a disco dancin’, Oscar Wilde readin’, Streisand ticket holdin’ friend of Dorothy, know what I’m sayin’?

Here’s another one:

4. Kathryn: I’m the Marcia f*cking Brady of the Upper East Side and sometimes I want to kill myself for it.
So there’s your psychoanalysis, Doctor Freud. Now are you in or are you out?

And another:

5. Lloyd: I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.

Last one:

6. Joel: So is this Guido guy… he’s your ‘manager’?
Lana: That’s right.
Joel: Or a pimp?
Lana: Now that’s quick Joel. Have you always been this quick, or is this something new?

Same movie…

Miles: Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, ‘What the f**ck.’ ‘What the f**ck’ gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.

Teen movies

Many teen movies are predictable. They have many of the same characters, according to the book, “Hollywood Goes to High School

  • Popular cool guy
  • Dumb jock
  • Bitchy cheerleader
  • Horny virgin boys
  • Misunderstood rebel
  • Mean football coach
  • Wise janitor
  • Clueless parents
  • Nerdy best friend

Jon Lovitz played the role of Mr. Clark in the movie, “High School High.” Source of image:Yaboon

“Work as hard as you can. Do a couple hours of homework each night and nothing can stop you”

Urban teen movies

  • Middle-class outsiders come to the rescue
  • Often it’s a lone teacher-hero with a mysterious past, a good heart and an unorthodox approach to teaching
  • The hero or movie highlights the importance of individualism
  • Socially troubled, low-achieving students are dramatically transformed
  • Academics are important

Suburban teen movies

  • Academic success isn’t so important. It’s not a central focus of the plot
  • Movie is often about the search for identities
  • Characters have angst over status and popularity
  • Students reject conformity of peers
  • Hero is often a student who rebels against or overcomes the conformity of his peers or authoritarianism of adult society

Private school movies

  • Academics are again an element of the story
  • Academic achievement is an oppressive burden
  • Upper-class students must conform to wishes of parents and the school
  • Hero is a middle-class outsider who challenges the culture of privilege
  • Middle-class ambivalence about wealth
  • Pursuit of wealth through hard work is a value
  • But wealth can threaten moral integrity

Discussion: What do most of these movies have in common whether they are about urban, suburban or private high schools?

  • Many of the movies reflect middle class values
  • Urban movie themes
  • Teacher-heros: Students can achieve anything they want if they set their mind to it.
  • Anything is possible
  • Lives are defined by individual choices


  • American individualism has its roots in Protestantism, capitalism, democracy and the history of the western frontier.
  • Modern society depends on strengths of individual. It’s a complex society. We can’t all be the same. We can’t all do the same jobs. We need to specialize.

Individualism found in teen movies has its roots in religion

  • Protestant theology – the individual’s relationship with God determines salvation

Capitalistic ethic. Be rational and efficient

  • “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Suburban movie themes

  • Middle-class student-heroes not expected to apply themselves (Ferris)
  • Stable and safe lifestyle is an obstacle to individual self-discovery (people want to escape the boring suburbs)
  • Students not expected to work hard
  • They are expected to be their true selves

Unlocking the meaning of movies

  • High school movies are “cultural artifacts that provide clues to the society that made them and paid to see them.”
  • “They offer clues to how Americans make sense of education, youth and inequality.”

Source for the material in this presentation: “Hollywood Goes to High School” by Robert Bulman

Answers to Test your knowledge

Back To Top

  1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  2. Sixteen Candles
  3. Clueless
  4. Cruel Intentions
  5. Say Anything
  6. Risky Business

5 thoughts on “COM 208: Hollywood Goes to High School

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