The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Future Fragments: Postmortem for the High School Reunion

Written by: Anastasia Salter, Pop-Culture Editor


High school reunions make for great fodder for popular culture. But they’re quickly becoming irrelevant, and if the digital age has its way, soon references to reunions in movies and books will make about as much sense to the rising generation as references to VHS and mix tapes. Why? Well, consider the satisfying resolutions of the classic high school reunion in popular culture–the perfect retaliation to high school itself. Geeks and outcasts come back successful and attractive. Popular kids come back with stories of divorce and minimum wage jobs. The real world flips all of high school’s cliques and accolades on their heads, or at least in Hollywood’s versions it does. All of this depends on mystery–the excitement of finding out what happened to a cast of once-familiar characters who’ve vanished for years and suddenly reappear, transformed. 

According to a Facebook invite, my ten year high school reunion is next week. I won’t be going, but after a few moments online I feel like I’ve already been. Old classmates pop up from time to time in my Facebook feed next to life updates, political rants, and sports celebrations. Sometimes there are even baby pictures (though the Chrome browser plug-in ensures any such images are replaced with kittens in my feed instead.) I’m already more in touch with the halls of high school than I ever intended to be, even if most of these encounters are on the fringe of awareness.

So, in honor of high school reunions everywhere this time of year, and the Facebook chatter that has rendered them obsolete, I’ve been watching a few high school reunion flicks. Here are a few of the best moments in popular culture brought to us by the high school reunion–and that sense of mystery that the social web has, for better or for worse, mostly eliminated.

Young Adult: While not exactly a high school reunion movie, Diablo Cody’s recent film Young Adult perfectly captures the return of a “big-city” author to her home town. Charlize Theron perfectly captures the arrested adolescent drawn in by a vision of her high school life very far from reality. This movie is absolutely horrifying to watch, and thus probably one of the best possible subsitutes for actually attending your own reunion.

Grosse Pointe Blank: Let’s face it—most careers we can take back to our high school reunion are throroughly mundane, and in this economy we’re just lucky to be employed. But coming back to a high school reunion as a hit man? Now that’s news fit for more than a Facebook status. John Cusack’s completely absurd romantic comedy about a paid killer having second thoughts about his career choice is surprisingly on target.

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion: Offered as proof that almost no one enjoyed high school, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion features two women who try to reinvent themselves for reunion day and fail miserably. However, good luck trying that sort of scheme in this day and age—unless you plan 10 years of fake Facebook updates, everyone probably knows that your job and relationship status are set on a holding pattern.

Peggy Sue Got Married: The ultimate time-travel high school reunion movie, Peggy Sue Got Married features the nightmare of reliving high school after slipping back in time alongside the possibility of making better choices. Good for watching while contemplating regrets and feeling nostalgic for a totally pre-Internet age. Also fun for seeing a gossip network that works at the speed of Twitter.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno: In a weird way, all of Kevin Smith’s movies feel like high school reunion films, at least in the Jersey “trilogy” where characters keep encountering each other not far from their home town. But Zack and Miri takes it to the next level after two desperate friends decide to make a porno and market it to people who knew them in high school after a reunion combined with economic woes.

PhD Comics High School Reunion Storyline: For anyone who put off starting life in the name of education, or just because, PhD comics hits close to home. Thus, the high school reunion includes exchanges like a graduate student explaining still being in school ten years later. If you feel like you’d have nothing to talk about a reunion, this should sum it up.

Something Positive High School Reunion Storyline: If you have any love for webcomics, you’ve probably read Something Positive. If not, start with the high school reunion story of a reluctant reunion attendee accompanied by paid escorts and you should be sucked in to the rest. Perfect reading for anyone who might attend their high school reunion if it wasn’t for all the people.

And finally, if you’re skipping your reunion in favor of a quick Facebook catch-up–you’re not alone.