Congratulations to all the 2012 high school graduates! I passed a gaggle of them on my way to work this morning – 1500 screaming, ecstatic, barely dressed teenagers out on the sidewalk waving their report cards around, making plans for the summer, kissing and hugging their friends good-bye like it was the last time they would ever see them (even though they will see them later at the 800 graduation parties lined up for the week), signing yearbooks, all blissfully unaware of how much their lives are actually about to change. As I overheard one student on the phone (presumably with his parents) rattling off his grades, “95 in Biology, 94 in Literature,” and another student proudly declaring his victory over his buddy, “Ha, I beat you in History – I got a 76,” I was instantly transported back to this happy, happy time in my life – my last days of high school. I was headed to Ithaca College in the fall with my best friend, I had the whole summer with my then boyfriend to look forward to, the graduation checks had started to come through – ah, life was good. And, (we can all guess where this is heading) this wonderful time has been captured often in the pop culture space as well – let’s reminisce, shall we?
First a warning – I have never seen American Graffiti or Fast Times at Ridgemont High in their entirety, so while I’m pretty sure these movies are supposed to be on this list, I can’t speak intelligently enough to include them. Instead, I give you the movies that spoke to me as a 17-year old high school graduate with the world at my fingertips.
American Pie – I love this movie for its raunchiness, honesty and for the ability of the main character, Jim, to make a fool of himself over and over again as he tried to make the best of his senior year of high school. The only thing that mattered was the after-prom party at Stiffler’s house, which turned out to be exactly what every character needed it to be – for Oz, a loving night with new girlfriend Heather; for Kevin, a farewell night with long-term girlfriend Vicky; for Jim, a tutorial night from band geek Michelle; and for Finch, a magical night with Stiffler’s mom. OK, so while loosing one’s virginity might not be the most important part of one’s high school graduation experience, I still appreciate that it was for these four boys and that they were successful in their endeavors.
Grease – Why was there not a full-on carnival outside of my school on graduation day where us seniors could ride a Ferris wheel, get lost in a haunted house and eat cotton candy? After seeing Grease at such a young age – and idolizing it – I couldn’t understand why that was not part of the packaged deal. Let alone, why all us seniors didn’t break out into a choreographed dance complete with flipping gymnasts, large football players and a song that immortalized our friendships forever. Oh right, I went to high school in NYC where we didn’t have a balance beam in the gym let alone a football field so I just had to settle for appearing in my high school’s senior performance of Grease. I was Rizzo. It was amazing.
Dazed and Confused – OK, so I’m cheating here a little bit in that this movie doesn’t focus on the last day of school for a group of seniors but rather for a group of freshman and juniors who are about to take the next step in their lives by moving into the next grade. For Randall “Pink” Floyd, it’s a confusing time as he must decide if he wants to go down the path that has been laid out for him as senior quarterback, or fight the man and go outside the lines. For incoming freshman Mitchell, it’s a painful time as he must endure the paddling tradition like so many freshman before him. It’s got some epic appearances (Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck), epic scenes (Mitchell receiving his beating from the nu-seniors in slow motion to the musical stylings of Alice Cooper and epic lines (“Fry like bacon you little freshman piggies, fry!”). Overall, a can’t-miss coming of age tale.
Dazed and Confused