Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There Is Life After High School...

It being the thirty-year anniversary of my high school graduation, I am sadly reminded of a reality program on TV Land called High School Reunion. The show brings together a smorgasbord of classic archetypes from prior high school graduating classes. Only now these former teens are pushing forty. And trigonometry is a distant memory. In fact, the High School Reunion stars have lived for two decades in various adult incarnations and, naturally, acquired ample psychological and other baggage along the way.

Granted, it’s part and parcel of human nature: We desire recognition in some demonstrable ways for being wholly unique individuals who possess special qualities and talents. But I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone of sound mind would willingly embrace unflattering attention, perverse publicity, and the opportunity to appear like utter nincompoops for fifteen minutes of fame? But, apparently, it happens all the time.

High School Reunion features casts of characters who once upon a time stood apart in their educational milieus. You know: the school jock, the haughty gal who thought she was better than everyone else, and the bully; the class clown, the nerd, and the teen Lothario. What’s particularly disconcerting about this show—and indeed so many others with similar reality premises—is that these real people are perfectly willing to ride emotional roller coasters and endure periodic meltdowns with the cameras rolling. And all of this melodrama is supposed to be swallowed hook, line, and sinker as real? Surreal, perhaps.

What’s equally unpleasant concerning this entire production is that the aforementioned classic archetypes appear to be stuck in time warps. The doofuses, bullies, and bitches, if you will, from high school have by all accounts not grown up, and are essentially still doofuses, bullies, and bitches intent on settling past scores and wallowing in very old and mostly petty grievances. And worth noting, too, is that these various ensembles consist of men and women whose life high points seemingly occurred when they were sixteen and seventeen in high school. The scary part is what is real.

Why not? Let’s all go on television and act out, swapping genuine emotions, human interactions, and relationships for flickers of fame and all-expenses paid trips to Hawaii or some such idyllic locale. Ah, yes, the class of 1988 does the Bahamas, and the teenage girl magnet, now a man of forty, practically bald, and with a noticeable paunch from one too many Budweisers and Dunkin’ Donuts is still getting the girls. Go figure. And that dreadfully toffee-nosed member of the school’s in-crowd, also forty, still loathes the wannabe popular girl, the loner, and just about everybody else for that matter. Beyond reality TV, there is very fortunately life after high school.

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