Sunday, August 12, 2007

Trapper Keepers.

Noelle turns 10 today. In honor of her birthday, I asked her if fifth graders these days are still using Trapper Keepers. It turns out that fifth graders these days have never heard of Trapper Keepers. I am officially an old person.

I've been thinking lately about school, and particularly about how school is portrayed in popular media. Idealized notions of the American high school experience pop up all over books, movies, and TV and have been since at least the 1950s; even post-modernist laments of teen angst are typically idealized in a way that real-life teen angst never is. I'll never forget seeing Welcome to the Dollhouse in the theater when it first came out. The audience was distributed in age, ranging from middle school kids up to people in their 40s and 50s. The movie is painful, funny, and painful again; everyone above 30 laughed throughout, but at some point everyone younger kind of stopped laughing.

Here's the thing I wonder about school-related media: Who is it meant for? I read an article once that claimed that on average high school students rated the movie Clueless a full two points lower out of ten than viewers above 30. Who is watching Laguna Beach oops Newport Harbor? Why do I even know that Laguna Beach has become Newport Harbor?

I didn't really like high school very much, but I had a great time in college. Maybe that's why I pay attention to idealized notions of high school in a way that I don't really care about similar representations of college life. The thing is that I know plenty of people who had totally different high school experiences than mine but who feel the same way. What is it about teenage life -- happy, sad, angsty, whatever -- that makes people pay attention?


Blogger jayblack said...

i had a similar experience teaching _catcher in the rye_. every adult i ever talked to _loves_ that book. every one of my students hated it. one of them asked me "is this salinger guy still alive?" i said yes. he said, "good, i want to find him and kill him."

i think that high school literature is meant for two groups of people: tweens who are about to experience high school and old fogeys like us that keep looking back back back.

actually being in high school means so much self-focus that watching a movie about it is about as useful as giving a monkey a mirror.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Kieran Snyder said...

For what it's worth, I hate _Catcher in the Rye_.

2:47 PM  
Blogger jayblack said...

really? why?

i hated it in high school but found i warmed to it as an adult.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Kieran Snyder said...

In fairness, I haven't read it since high school. Maybe I'd love it now. At the time I found it self-aggrandizing and pretentious. Of course, I was a sophomore in high school when I read it, so I was also self-aggrandizing and pretentious.

10:34 AM  

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