ART BY ANNA MACIAS
If Cady Heron had not moved to America, would Regina George have been crowned Spring Fling Queen?
Many, if not all, school-themed movies display an unrealistic representation of the high school experience. Yet they depict, although hyperbolically, a relatively accurate portrayal of the role of popularity in high school.
One’s popularity has an unnecessary impact on their school experience, resulting in toxicity and inferiority complexes, which are only detrimental to growing teens’ mental health.
Popularity is largely associated with superficial factors. Students around campus whisper and gossip about many things, yet ignore when people are treated with more respect and manners for their good looks, which is an actual issue.
We try to deny that this occurs, but I personally see it happening every day. A girl can spend freshman year not paying attention to what her hair looks like, if her eyebrows look nice, or if her outfit matches her backpack, and instead bonding with her group of girl friends that she has known since elementary school. However, she enters sophomore year with flawless hair and a high-budget wardrobe, and suddenly everyone wants to be her friend; boys are chasing after her left and right. Over the summer, did she undergo a dramatic personality upgrade? Not at all. She was the same girl, yet after this so-called “glow-up,” she has instantly gained popularity.
This shallow scale of determining a student’s spot on the social ladder leads to a sense of inferiority. In high school years, teenagers tend to feel more self-conscious and compare themselves with their peers. A student that is less popular than her classmate finds herself scrutinizing herself in the mirror, questioning why she cannot look like the other girl. She fails to realize her own beauty and loses her confidence. Thus, this emphasis on popularity deteriorates teenagers’ already unstable mental health. With the pre-existing pressure of high school such as academics and extracurricular activities, in reality, a seemingly small aspect of high school takes a large toll on students.
This high school culture of glorifying popularity only worsens these emotions. Teenagers feel that they are inferior to others because they do not have as large of a friend group or do not have a higher social media follower count.
Although there are people who accrue a great and well-deserved amount of popularity because of their personality, in the end, popularity is more dependent on other factors. People are more likely to approach the girl who spends two hours in the morning doing her makeup and planning her outfit than the girl who overslept because she stayed up late counseling her friend, and came to school in pajamas..
None of this would matter if high school life was not so focused on popularity. College applications are essentially a display of one’s high school achievements. Among these, college admission officers tend to look for club and organization cabinet positions, so colleges are indirectly asking for one’s popularity. Yes, there are many merit-based club officer positions, but a majority of them are based on a popular vote. This direct democratic voting process is good in theory, as the majority should decide leaders that will lead the future. But when students elect others based on their friendship or other factors rather than pure potential, the system has failed.
This supremacy of popular students is engraved into high schoolers’ minds that they should become friends with everyone. As a result, students are more focused on gaining popularity for the sake of people liking them, rather than for wholesome relationship establishments. This creates an overall toxic environment, as person-to-person associations start to decrease in value.
All in all, popularity takes an unnecessary role in high schools, leading to an overall toxic and mentally unhealthy environment. School exists for the sole purpose of education and wholesome interactions, not a battle to sit on the tip of the social pyramid.
So the answer is most likely yes, Regina probably would have been crowned queen at the Spring Fling. Popularity is so focused on superficial factors that it brings out the worst in people, as seen in Cady’s character fluctuation.