Oh high school. It was a rough time for a lot of us. Maybe more memorable for some. While we’re passed those adolescent days now, we’re deep in Back to School days and getting more than a little nostalgic. That’s due in part to all the high school teen movies that still rattle around in our pop culture consciousness. Many of the characters in the movies shared the same embarrassments we did, the same first crushes, the same droning teachers, and we all wish we had a friend like Ferris Bueller.
So we asked the PopOptiq staff, which high school character from the movies were you? Share your own pop culture doppelgänger below!
Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) from Scream
Randy Meeks and I have much in common. We are both massive horror movie fans who worked in a video store, studied film and had a hopeless crush on our best friend. Randy used his knowledge of horror film plots and clichés to define the series of murders that occur in Scream, Scream 2 and Scream 3. I’ve used my knowledge of horror films to help me host and produce a podcast for the past eight years in which I spend the majority of the time discussing genre films and everything I love and hate about modern day filmmaking. “Simplicity! If it gets too complicated, you lose your target audience,” said Randy, and I’ve used that phrase a hundred or so times since. I think it is fair to say that Randy knew everyone better than anyone else and he knew more about everyone than they’d like to admit. He was sly, clever and creepy, and smart enough to admit that if this were a scary movie, he would be the prime suspect. Randy is also the one constantly reinforcing the rules while taking the liberty to break them. And while he would seem the most likely to survive a scary movie, his character would, of course, bite the dust sooner than we thought. If the staff of PopOptiq found themselves in a horror film, I would be Randy Meeks — the prime suspect — the maker and breaker of rules — and the one smart enough to die in order to avoid working on Scream 3, a disappointing sequel that pales in comparison with its predecessor. – Ricky D
Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini) from Freaks and Geeks
Lindsay is the character I most identify with since she spends the majority of her time on Freaks and Geeks trying to figure her own identity out. Lindsay is a young girl told most of her life how she should be, but once she begins high school, she suddenly realizes everything she thought she knew and understood really might not be a fit for her. Much like her, I spent my entire life being raised with a strict foundation of morals and values and ideas, and then once I hit high school I just started questioning it all. Like Lindsay, I began looking for my own identity and wanted to carve out my own persona for the person I was becoming. I questioned my family, my role models, my future, and even my religion. I’d also discovered rock and roll like Lindsay, which was a huge turning point in my development. I also learned the glory of thinking independently, and wanted to see so much more of the world that I’d seen beyond my small scope. I found new people that you could technically call “freaks” that I associated with, who helped me realize what I wanted and didn’t want to be when I was officially an adult. Like Lindsay, high school is when it all seemed so definite and surreal for me, and I spent so much of my time trying to decide who I was, and if I could ever really build a foundation for my own beliefs and values. Sometimes it was disastrous, but I learned to be true to what I wanted and needed. – Felix Vasquez Jr.
Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) from Dead Poets Society
Like Todd, I was an awkward loner when I signed up for creative writing my junior year, unaware then that it held the key to my entire future. At my top-rated, conventional suburban high school, it was a shock to meet Mr. Phillips, who, like Dead Poets Society’s John Keating, had a free-thinking style completely foreign to us. Don’t feel like writing at your desk? Go to the library. Go outside. Go barefoot. How can I possibly dictate what inspires you? Somehow, this fellow misfit had gotten away with this for 17 years. As with the class in the film, his style didn’t click with everyone, but I was part of a small group who held him in awe. He became the positive wellspring for a kid whose stepfather considered him an unathletic disappointment and brought my creative self to the fore. Under his mentorship I went from loving to write to needing to write, and began to take pride in accomplishment both in and out of class. Shortly after graduation, I learned that Mr. Phillips was fired. Some do-gooders decided that writing effectively required staying at your desk with your shoes on. Where was I when this decision came down? Where were my classmates who, like me, were reaping the benefits as promising English majors? Jumping on desks and calling out “Oh captain, my captain” might not have worked, but I would’ve given anything for the chance. – M. Robert Grunwald
Kip (Aaron Ruell) from Napoleon Dynamite
Kip is the man. He doesn’t care about what most people think about him. Despite being a vanilla nobody from Preston Idaho, Kip dares to believe he is somebody. He aspires to be a cage fighter, he’s confident and boasts about chatting with “babes” on the Internet. Whether he is in denial or not, the important thing is that Kip is true to himself. I was like that. While growing up in an urban neighborhood, it never dawned on me how atypical my mannerisms were in high school, until looking back as an adult. For the most part, I got along fine with my classmates, despite being sheltered and quite nerdy at home. Yet, in the halls of my high school, it was common for me to roll up a pant leg, wear a do-rag, and mouth the lyrics to a popular rap or reggae song. I thought I was so cool. In the moment, I felt like I was fitting in, kind of like how Kip (Aaron Ruell) from Napolean Dynomite felt with Lafawnduh (Shondrella Avery). The truth was, I was the corniest, nerdiest kid around. I got along with jocks and thugs because I would tutor them. My thoughts were that if I tutored them, I wouldn’t be bullied and get some respect. That mantra paid off and I made lots of friends along the way. Nowadays I’ve hung up the do-rag and wear both my pant legs at the same length, but I do turn up my car stereo every time a Sean Paul song comes on the radio. Hey, you can take the boy out of the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the boy. – Christopher Clemente
Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) from The Breakfast Club
There are a shortage of Brian’s in the movies. Almost never is a Brian a romantic lead or an action hero. Would the franchise have lasted past one film if 007 was Brian Bond? Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian Johnson in The Breakfast Club is closer to the speed of most movie Brian’s, and it’s surprising and perhaps tellingly embarrassing that of all the movie high schoolers, I have a lot more in common with him than just sharing a first name. I would be the one to get a Fake ID just so I could vote. I would be the brainy nerd living out a “demented and sad” form of socializing in all my “academic clubs”. And of a group of three guys and two girls, I would be the one most likely to not get paired off and end up writing the paper for everyone instead. But for being the brain, Brian isn’t the cliche outcast. He’s dryly funny and quick to interject in a way that I branded some of my own sense of humor. He’s awkward, but he can fit in with the preps and the jocks and go along for the adventure, and I too had friends that straddled both classes of high school popularity. Plus, I think we both look cool in sunglasses. – Brian Welk
The Mean Girls
Though it owes much to Clueless and Heathers, there’s a slickness in the satire of Tina Fey’s Mean Girls. Cady (Lindsay Lohan) is our audience surrogate, malleable and moldable, especially in the contrasting presences of her friends Damian (Daniel Franzese) and Janice (Lizzy Caplan) and the popular Plastics, Regina (Rachel McAdams), Karen (Amanda Seyfried), and Gretchen (Lacey Chabert). The influence the Plastics have in shaping Cady is more obvious, but the influence Janice and Damian have is a little more subtle. We accept them, as Cady does, as trustworthy, but they’re just as vitriolic and spiteful as the Plastics, their superficiality presented as anarchic coolness. That’s one of Fey’s greatest strengths as a writer. From 30 Rock to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, though her brand of comedy has since leaned more to the absurd, she’s able to carefully construct jokes whose punchlines, and narrative/emotional arcs, have a subtle comment about the social environment in which they are supposed to be delivered. Since having ascended to cult status, Mean Girls builds on the examination of gender roles and female agency/lack thereof in high school that was introduced by the aforementioned films. But it’s Mean Girls’ slyness which makes its satire stick. – Kyle Turner
Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) from Brick
I have but one regret in my life, and that is that high school was not exactly like Rian Johnson’s neo-noir thriller Brick. That is because I feel the character of Brendan deep in my soul, he is the personification of who I always wanted to be in high school – a private detective. Rian Johnson’s script takes beats, characters and tropes from the noir film and transplants them into a modern day high school, and it fits perfectly given how centered around cliques high school can be. Each clique in Brick serves as another faction in the criminal underworld that is high school, and the Vice Principal acts as the pissed off police chief. Brendan’s an outsider, coasting on the fringes of this high-school set microcosm of criminal society. He spouts classic detective dialogue and keeps to himself as he tries to solve the murder of his ex-girlfriend. This wasn’t me in actuality during high school, but this is hands down who I would be if I was in a high school movie. This is the stuff I would fantasize about during class. High School as a noir underworld in Brick makes so much more sense to me than actual High School ever did. I realize that some awful things would have to happen to me in order to reenact Brick in it’s entirety – my ex-girlfriend would have to die – but I would legitimately trade everything to relive high school as Brendan. – Dylan Griffin