The stories we tell ourselves, and the ones the media gives us, have a huge impact both on the way we see ourselves and the way we see the world. My family used to rent movies every week from our local Blockbuster, and every time, without a doubt, I would pick up “Another Cinderella Story” with Selena Gomez. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite movies because, seriously, who doesn’t love the idea of a high school romance, let alone one with a teen pop star? But, unfortunately, I walked into my sophomore year of high school, newly 16, without any prospects. And —spoiler alert —left high school the same way.
It’s this kind of expectation and daydream that got me thinking. What other movies shaped the way I viewed the world? “The Avengers” made me believe that at this point in my life, I would be balancing school and saving the world from alien domination. Romantic comedies have me imagining the pivotal meet-cute in the Diag that would change the course of my non-existent love life. And I’m pretty positive the characters from Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOM; wow, what a throwback) who always seem to be straight-A students are the reason I was convinced that I had to be one, too. After some thought, I decided that there are three movies in particular that made me who I am today.
Let’s start with “Mulan.” She is the reason that I went through a tomboy phase. In case you don’t know the story, Mulan pretends to be a man to replace her father in the war and meets a handsome prince. As the only Disney princess that I looked like, my thought was that I, too, had to pretend to be a boy or, rather, shun anything remotely “girly.” I like to think that I have changed since then, but my affinity for athletic clothes in the summer and sweats in the winter tends to prove otherwise.
“High School Musical” played a huge role in my childhood and led me to believe that I needed to move away in order to have the truest high school experience, complete with the random outbursts of singing. Also, Gabriella Montez and her brainiac tendencies is a perfect example of the DCOM character that I strived to be. Now my obsession with the movie manifests itself in the occasional break dancing in the Diag and my inclination to stay in and study rather than tailgate with the rest of the school.
Anne Hathaway’s Ella from “Ella Enchanted” is why my flirting technique was to pretend I didn’t like someone, despite the fact that all I wanted was their attention. And, honestly, the only thing that has changed about this part of me is that if I’m into someone, I just don’t talk to them, which is a sad and unfortunate reality.
Stories like “10 Things I Hate About You,” and really the plot of any romantic comedy, are why I think everything has to be tied up so neatly and why I am having such a hard time with deciding what to do with my life. I want to be able to embrace the mystery of life, but I’m also attached the clean and nicely wrapped ending of a movie and a character that doesn’t need to think about the future.
But this kind of thing isn’t just limited to me. Our culture is shaped by movies and the best kind of Twitter content is rooted in the entertainment industry. No matter how much we like to pretend that they don’t dominate our lives, movies and the people who star in them drive the creation of our generation’s culture, especially because of social media. Noah Centineo’s Peter Kavinsky (from Netflix Phenomenon “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”) is just the latest example of this whole phenomenon, with Twitter drooling over his hair and his eyes and creating a standard that most real-life high school boys can’t even dream of meeting.
The fact that I can trace a lot of my personality traits so directly to specific films has me worried about the fact that the movies on my Netflix recommended list are all high school rom-coms. Am I doomed to pine for an “ideal” high school experience? Will I ever be able to ignore these unrealistic expectations and actually figure out what I want from myself instead of some fictional character that has seemingly no flaws? My Twitter retweets indicate no, but the Magic 8 Ball that makes my decisions says we’ll see.