School is as universal in pop culture as it is in our lives. Chances are at least some of our favorite shows growing up featured at least one conversation in front a locker or at a school lunch table or one embarrassing moment in a classroom. And if you have kids, they are probably seeing the same kind of things on their own screens. So what better time of year to nostalgically partake in some of the best fictional schools in pop culture. Even better even use that tv-time to subtly start some deep and meaningful conversations about school with the students in your life.
Here’s where I think you should start:
First, Hogwarts from “Harry Potter”. Any list of fictional schools that doesn’t talk about Hogwarts is a bad list. Hogwarts is iconic amongst us millennials because it was so popular it's almost impossible to not at least know the general concept. Hogwarts is, thankfully, way more exciting and dangerous than real school. At least as far as I know, none of our readers went to schools with moving staircases or the underlying threat of a powerful would-be fascist dictator waiting to resurrect from the shadows after having been presumed dead for years. But in spite of that, this fictional school still shows us how awkward and difficult it is to manage the changing emotions of adolescence, and I think most of us can relate with that.
Second, Walkerville Elementary from “The Magic School Bus”. In case you didn’t know, both the original and the new reboot “The Magic School Bus Rides Again” are on Netflix. The original holds up, as I can attest from watching several times with my preschooler. The reboot is not quiet as charming, but it still engages. This is a great one if you are wanting to really relive those early elementary school days or find out what areas of science really drive your own kids curiosity.
Third, Sunnydale High School from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Buffy is over twenty years old, and a reboot is in the works because sometimes we can't just let good things be. But in spite of its age, the varied characters of Sunnydale High speak to many universal things we feel about growing up: the sting of an unrequited crush, the tension of maintaining friendships, how much it hurts to be betrayed by a former romantic partner, or how hard it is to get homework done with vampires constantly trying to murder you and everyone you love. Okay, that last one is not so universal, but I’m of the opinion that if you can get past the campy vampire stuff, this actually one of the most relatable high school stories of all time.
Last but not least, North Shore High from the movie “Mean Girls.” Full of laughs and every kind of clique one could imagine existing, this high school feels relatable because we’ve all met a few mean girls and guys in our lifetime. And just like the characters, we all would do better to rise above rather than stoop down to that level.
There’s tons more worth mentioning. John Adams from “Boy Meets World”, Permian High School from “Friday Night Lights”, every school from every John Hughes Movie. Chilton from “Gilmore Girls”. So don’t just take my word for it. Sit down with a young person in your life, check out some of these fake schools, and see what they think. I bet you get a deep conversation out of it, but if not at least you’ll be glad you don’t have to remember a locker combo anymore.
Rachel Strange tackles all things pop culture in her weekly column Strange Perspective for the Claremore Progress.