Pretty much by definition, most media for kids involves school. Just as adult movies have to at least pay lip service to the idea that people have jobs. That’s just how these things work. Anywhere you spend eight hours a day is going to feature in stories about you, right? But because most screenwriters are removed from their school days by decades, high school in movies and TV doesn’t always bear the strictest resemblance to high school in real life. And I say that even as someone whose own high school days are roughly a quarter-century past.
It is true that there are problems that people care about in movies and TV that don’t seem important, but that’s possibly the most realistic part of these movies. One of the subplots in Trollhunters is the contest for “Spring Fling” royalty, and even though the main characters are literally trying to save the world, they still put more focus into the various contests to get Jim to be spring king than things like, for example, keeping up his grades and passing his sophomore year.
On the other hand, Jim’s a sophomore. He turns sixteen in the show. Spring Fling is referred to as prom once or twice, and prom—at least at my high school—was exclusively for seniors. Certainly the dance is seen as being schoolwide, but seniors aren’t mentioned. And the position seems to be voted on, but there are contests they have to win as well? I don’t understand what’s going on, entirely, and it seems as though the show doesn’t, either.
Similarly, the first thing I ever did when writing about events in a school was figure out my characters’ class schedules to make sure that stayed consistent, and it seems as though practically no one else bothers doing that. Joan of Arcadia and My So-Called Life are the only two things I can think of that put in that kind of effort. Joan, Angela, and the others were obviously following a regular schedule. Most fictional schools don’t seem to realize that’s a thing.
Cliques did exist at my high school, but unlike in many fictional schools, they didn’t always care about one another. It was possible to be incredibly popular with one group and have another literally not know you existed beyond having seen you around somewhere. I went to a relatively small school, and there were candidates for prom court that I barely knew. We didn’t really have bullies so much as actual gang members, and the gang members were more concerned with their, you know, gang rivalries than with beating up nerds.
I get that, you know, Trollhunters is more interested in Jim’s fight against Gunmar. And Joan of Arcadia cares more about Joan’s interactions with God. And so forth. But so many of the details that these shows get wrong seem to me to be incredibly basic to fix, if they just ran a thing or two past an actual high school student. It can’t be that difficult to do, can it?