Kate’s Television Musings: Life lessons from high school TV shows

By Kate Emswiler

This weekend I’m going to a high school graduation party and, naturally, it got me thinking about high school TV shows.  Of course I continue to watch shows about teens even though I graduated high school back when TLC’s “No Scrubs” was topping the charts.  And over all these years of watching high school shows, I’ve discovered some valuable life lessons straight from the mouths of awkward adolescents.  Without further pomp and circumstance, here they are:

Lesson #1 from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”: Be a hero, even when you’d rather go to the mall

This is the first chapter heading in the book What Would Buffy Do?, in which author Jana Riess examines the many spiritual lessons to be learned from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”  In the beginning of the series, 16-year-old Buffy wants to resign as a Slayer, but she ultimately accepts her responsibility to others and continues fighting for the good of the world.  She sacrifices a good deal in order to do this, including ordinary teenage experiences like hanging out at the mall or having a “normal” boyfriend.  In addition to the importance of self-sacrifice, there are plenty of other messages to take away from the series, perhaps most obviously the idea that we need to battle demons straight-on — no running and hiding from the creeps and various undead.  We could do well to strive to be more like this particular teenage girl, heroic and fearless.

Lesson 2 from “Beverly Hills, 90210″: Money isn’t everything

In the first season of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” the wholesome Walsh family rolls into posh Beverly Hills and it seems like their wealthy neighbors and classmates have got it made:  flashy cars, the coolest outfits (featuring the latest in high-waisted denim couture) and money to burn.  But many of them are lacking when it comes to the things a teenager really needs:  supportive parents, self-worth, boundaries.  Families in the hottest zip code around put up an enviable facade, but the Walshes soon learn the truth:  There are some things that money just can’t buy.

See also: “Gossip Girl” and “The O.C.”

Lesson #3 from “Veronica Mars”: There are times when you just need your dad

One of the most poignant father-daughter relationships on TV, ever, is the one between Veronica Mars and her father.  Playful, sarcastic banter is just the surface of a loving relationship between private investigator Keith Mars and his willful, whip-smart kid who proves herself to be a tough and savvy private eye in her own right.  Keith is a protective father, but I love that he knows there’s only so much he can do to keep his daughter out of harm’s way, since Veronica will do as Veronica will do, no matter what anyone says.  But when it really matters, he’s there for her.  And it’s nice to see that even Veronica Mars needs her dad sometimes.

Lesson #4 from “Saved By The Bell”: When you sprain your ankle, find a way to keep on dancing.  

Remember when Lisa Turtle hurts her foot just before the big dance contest at The Max?  Her dance partner ditches her, but loyal Screech steps in and the two of them do a lively little number despite Lisa’s bandaged appendage.  Lisa Turtle wouldn’t let an injury stop her from dancing at the Max and we shouldn’t either.  Figuratively speaking, of course.

What’s the best lesson you’ve ever learned from a TV show set in the halls of high school?

Kate’s Television Musings is a column running on Kate-book.com every Friday at 10:30am. It is written by the television obsessed Kate Emswiler, who you should follow on Twitter.

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One thought on “Kate’s Television Musings: Life lessons from high school TV shows

  1. Bob Huntzinger says:

    Television programming started out as transferred radio variety shows to television. Shows such as Texaco Star Theater got their start on radio and was one of the first US television hits in the late 1940s.`

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