I’ve been watching Judd Apatow’s series ‘Freaks & Geeks’ over the last two weeks. There aren’t that many episodes so I’m trying to savour it a little bit and not rush through the series as I usually do with delicious Television that is witty, true to itself and extremely entertaining.
The cast has some very familiar faces who were unknowns at the time. James Franco, Busy Phillips, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segal make up part of the main crew of “Freaks” we are interested in, and there have been some amazing Cameo appearances by the likes of Jason Schwartzman (who at quick glance doesn’t even seem to be credited on imdb.com) and David Koechner to name a couple.
The series is set in 1980, and the fashion, posters, and music are flawlessly selected. The acting is natural and the production values are great. All around, I love this show so far. But the High School experience these kids are suffering through is not the one I had to deal with.
I started High School in January 2001 – a full 20 years after Freaks and Geeks was set (We called it High School even though it was Year 7 and we started in January because I was living in Australia then.) I attended a private school in one of Sydney’s nice wealthy areas. My year group was probably 120 people, with 7 classes. We learned German, Latin, French and Japanese and at the end of that year had to choose three electives (one of which had to be a language.) It was a pretty nice school with teachers that cared deeply about us, and with more after school activities than you would ever need. If you loved something, you were nurtured in it, and you were encouraged constantly. I left Sydney at the end of year 8 and moved to Hong Kong where I attended an International School. When I graduated in 2006, I was part of a year group that number 40 students.
To say I always attended educational institutions that had involved teachers would be a HUGE understatement. It was hard to fall through the cracks basically.
And that’s not to say that there wasn’t bullying or that there were times when we struggled, of course there were. But the teacher to student ratio was always good. And although we thought our teachers were pretty uncool (except for the cool ones…obviously) we did respect them. We were taught to stand when our teachers entered the room. I wore a uniform every single day of my lower, middle and high school education, and I wore it with VERY strict rules attached to it. I always had a blazer, my top button always had to be done up, no rolled up sleeves, no piercings, hair at shoulder length or longer had to be tied back.
What a contrast to the world of Freaks and Geeks. And, as it turns out to my boyfriends experience.
As we watched some episodes together, the Canuck BF kept saying “it’s so real. It’s so true” as the bullying, the slamming into lockers, the awkwardness and the disparity between the Jocks/Cheerleaders and the Geeks and Nerds lengthened. No school I ever attended had cheerleaders, we had girls sports teams. And sure we had the “cool kids” but they weren’t all untouchable.
Is it a North American thing then?
I recently watched the re-make of 21 Jump Street with Channing Tatum (YUUUUM) and Jonah Hill (have half jewish-babies with meeee!) and one of my favourite lines from the movie came from an early scene where Tatum and Hill stroll through the car park on their first day of “school.” Tatum – built like a 1980’s Jock is pointing out the different groups he identifies, the Jocks, the Goths, the nerds and instructing Hill on how they will become cool. He points at a group of hipsters and metrosexuals and says “I don’t know what those are.”
I think High School has changed (obviously) since 1980, and the High School I left behind 6 years ago, and that the Boyf left behind a decade ago, is different to what it is today. I’m led to believe there are lots of choreographed musical numbers just like in High School Musical. Smartphones, millions of social networking sites, pretty much all learning material migrating online…High School is a different beast.
Being an Expat Brat was a unique experience in itself in High School. I never really smoked pot (why would I when I could go into a 711 and buy alcohol without getting ID’ed), I never wrecked my parents car or had them teach me to drive (in what? We lived on an island compound resort that didn’t have cars…only golf buggies), I had a fake ID at the age of 14 – and we did use it to go out, but the bouncers really didn’t care what the spoilt white kids did, and never looked too closely (my fake ID was a scanned copy of my passport which I had edited in Paint so…).
My tiny International School didn’t really have cliques. There was certainly a divide between the Expatriates and the Hong Kong Chinese kids who attended. I was a Drama Freak, a Girl-Jock, Head Girl of my school (in Year 11), a loser and a rebel (as rebellious as you can be when your parents trust you enough to let you have a boyfriend sleep over, and are too cool themselves that they are home drunk after you.)
I was always a big fish in a small pond, and while I suffered at the hands of bullies (inevitable when you move schools frequently and with teachers who can’t be everywhere at once) I was never pigeonholed by anyone for long.
It’s therefore with voyeuristic fascination that I watch Apatow’s show. Is that what my life would have been like if I had gone to a public school in North America? Or Australia or England? The characters in the show seem to struggle with totally clueless parents and teachers. I definitely felt as though my parents “didn’t get me” but it grew for more of an angst ridden “waaaaaaaaah” feeling, than from actually thinking my parents and teachers were totally disconnected. I think the adults in my life were pretty with it considering they were a generation that didn’t have cell phones or internet growing up.
I wonder what High School will be like when my kids go through.