By Kenzie Nelson

High school is hard to explain even while you’re still in it. It can be terrifying, hilarious, harsh, and exhilarating all at the same time. While everyone has a different experience, whether it be good or bad, we can all agree that high school is just rough.

Filmmakers have long been fascinated with high school life, with all its intricacies and emotions and self-growth. Your teen years see you doubting and struggling to find yourself more than any other period in your life, which makes it the perfect backdrop to a deep coming of age story. There are plenty of fantastic movies set in high school, but so few of them are accurate to real high school life. Hollywood depicts it as a glamorous, scandalous, and reckless experience. Sadly, when you get to high school you find out pretty fast that it is neither Mean Girls nor High School Musical.

There are so many stereotypes in high school based movies that aren’t present in most real high schools. We see popular girls who are worshiped and show no human emotion as they bring about the social destruction of all who wrong them. Football players are skull crushers with the IQ of a grape, and are always stuffing the awkward nerdy kids into lockers. Cliques rule the school, everyone sleeps with everyone, they have an infinite amount of free time between classes, and no one seems to be actually learning things in their classes. Not to mention the actors always look old enough to be having a midlife crisis.

But movies can get things right while still getting some stuff wrong. You may not come across as many serial killers and merciless mean girls as Heathers suggests, but the movie portrays an unsettlingly realistic look at bullying, isolation, and teen suicide. And you’re probably not spending your time after school running around fighting crime and webslinging through the city like Spider-Man, but Spider-Man: Homecoming does a darn good job of portraying the awkwardness and stress of high school (bonus points for casting actors who actually look like they could be in high school!).

High school is very rarely the ruthless, popularity-based hierarchy that Hollywood is so obsessed with. The star football player can be a straight-A student and the pretty cheerleader can be the nicest girl in the school. Math is cool, cliques are not all powerful, and no one has that much time in between classes. Portraying high school as Hollywood does is damaging not only to high school students, but society as a whole. If we enter into high school or raise our children believing what the movies tell us, we may only perpetrate these stereotypes. Perhaps it’s finally time for movies to start depicting a high school as it really is.