Teen Dream


Georgia Goldberg, Assistant A&E Editor

As rumors swirled around the auditorium, Emily Malkan ’23 said she noticed that the culture of the school’s theater department resembled that of McKinley High from the TV show “Glee,” which centers around high school students in a show choir club.

“During the auditions for the musical, everyone was so intense and competitive and you could see people’s moods going crazy,” Malkan said. “There were rumors that people were sabotaging people and there was even a lot of drama after the casting and well into rehearsals. So I definitely see [the school’s] competitive edge in ‘Glee.’”

Malkan said the competitive culture depicted in “Glee”does not apply to most high schools. However, she said that most of the school’s student body would be able to relate.

“The crazy part is that ‘Glee’ isn’t supposed to be that realistic in the sense that in most high schools you don’t really see that passion and ambition to the point where it gets vicious,” Malkan said. “But I think that’s the irony. At [our school] you can see these parallels and that’s just how crazy our student body can get.”

Malkan said the general environment of the school tends to be more accepting in comparison to the culture of high schools presented in shows like “Gossip Girl,” a TV show that follows Manhattan’s privileged teenagers.

“‘Gossip Girl’ is a lot about fashion and a lot about wearing the newest brands and the coolest, most expensive things,” Malkan said. “At [this school] it’s the opposite: Everyone just has their own style and no one judges anyone for what they wear at all. You just wear crazy things and people think it’s cool. Wearing stuff that’s not a typical trend is cool and no one cares about brands.”

Malkan said dating in high school is depicted as more common and more dramatic in teenage shows than in real life, and she said this promotes insecurity among the shows’ teenage viewers.

“Most relationships in high school are like three months long and very casual,” Malkan said. “They’re not these very serious things that these shows present. It’s not that normal to have such a serious relationship in high school to the point where you eventually marry them or they meet your parents or you have family dinners. It definitely makes people feel bad about themselves that they’ve never had like a boyfriend or seriously dated anyone.”

Katie Hadsock-Longarzo ’23 said “Gossip Girl” normalizes the insecurities felt by the show’s teenage audience by depicting the faults of every character.

“I like that they include storylines that involve eating disorders to show the dysfunctionality behind these so-called perfect people that if you went to school with you would probably look up to,” Hadsock-Longarzo said.

Malkan said a lot of high school shows also tend to magnify teenage drug use and drinking. She said the way in which “Euphoria”, a show about teenagers’ experiences surrounding relationships and trauma, presents party culture is unrealistic and detrimental to young people’s expectations about teenage life.

“The parties in ‘Euphoria’ are supposed to be artistic with the cinematography, but high school parties are not like that,” Malkan said. “The kids that aren’t in high school yet who watch ‘Euphoria’ see this and then they get this vision that’s just not a good mindset.”

Hadsock-Longarzo said though “Gossip Girl” glamorizes underage drinking, it doesn’t glorify drug use in the way that shows like “Euphoria” do.

“In ‘Gossip Girl’ there are a lot of storylines about the problems of drug use,” Hadsock-Longarzo said. “[The show] doesn’t glamorize drugs. In fact, it villainizes them.”

Although Caleb* ’22 said “Euphoria” heightened his curiosity about drugs, he said the show also highlighted the prevalent dangers of addiction.

“There are moments in the show that have spiked my interest surrounding drugs,” Caleb said. “Though [the show] glorifies the use of drugs, the amount of scenes that portray the disturbing reality outweigh the good I see in using them.”

Caleb said “Euphoria” and other high school dramas like “Glee” and “Gossip Girl” are able to simultaneously romanticize aspects of the teenage experience like drug abuse and mental health issues while depicting their negative effects.

“The show exemplifies a very interesting oxymoron,” Caleb said. “It utilizes glitter and makes the show very aesthetically pleasing, [but] they also show the blatant realities of high school, such as facing mental health problems, sexual assault, drug abuse and familial issues.”

Gemma Lippman ’22 said “Euphoria” provides a dual perspective on teenage problems.

“In some ways [‘Euphoria’] glamorized mental illness and drugs by portraying them with a really appealing aesthetic, but the show also didn’t shy away from the horrible negative [aspects] of these situations,”

Grace Hudson ’23 said depictions of characters struggling with mental health in teenage TV dramas contribute to the public’s perception of mental illness.

“Shows like ‘Euphoria’ and ‘13 Reasons Why’ turn depression and other mental illnesses into mere plot points for entertainment purposes,” Hudson said. “But at the same time, how else would mental health and drug use get talked about if more people weren’t exposed to it?”

Hudson said “Euphoria” presents unrealistic situations and relationships in a high school setting.

“While some parts of the show reflect the high school experience, the intensity at which ‘Euphoria’ depicts drugs, sex and abusive relationships is far more extreme than what the average teenager experiences,” said Hudson.

Caleb said “Euphoria” provides emotional support for students who see their own stories reflected in the show.

“I know a lot of people relate to certain stories about each of the characters, so I think the show helps bring comfort to those that feel like they’re alone in their struggles,” Caleb said.

Elise Fried ’24 said she welcomes the differences between “Gossip Girl” and her own life because it makes the show more interesting to watch.

“[The characters in ‘Gossip Girl’] are always going out to all these functions and getting drunk and in relationships and there’s this crazy blog, and none of that is super similar to my high school experience,” Fried said. “But I like it because it’s not my experience, it’s like a view into someone else’s experience.”

Kieran Chung ’23 said high school-centered shows like “Glee” display an accurate teenage perspective rather than an exact account of the high school experience.

“I think ‘Glee’ is really interesting because it doesn’t exactly reflect things that would actually happen to most high schoolers, but it reflects the dramatic perspective that a lot of middle and high schoolers have,” Chung said. “Normal things like breakups or tests are blown way out of proportion in teenagers’ minds. I think the show being overdramatic validates that stress in some way.”