Much like the cruel insults and judgments expressed in Never Been Kissed, there are several ways that teens judge their peers by their appearance in high school. Teens are self-conscious about the way they dress because of the harsh judgments they face from their peers. As said by Allen “Fashion is a part of society, whether it be good or bad.” Teens judge each other by whether or not their appearance revolves around or creates new fashion. If someone isn’t rocking the latest style, fashion’s hold on society deems them a loser. On the other hand, a new quiet kid in the high school cafeteria can instantly become “popular” simply by wearing the newest clothes or even unusual piercings. Unfortunately, the teenage mind undeniably judges their peers by appearance without any consideration of personality or any true values. Gosnell shows this in his film Never Been Kissed when 25 year old copy editor Josie Geller is sent back to high school to do an undercover piece on high school kids. On her first day of school, Josie’s outfit is chosen by her older friend Amanda whose knowledge of fashion stems from the 80s. Her white jeans and feathered boa attract a lot of negative attention and comments from the more popular kids in school like Kristen, who mouths off saying “Like five chickens had to die just so she could look that stupid.” (Never Been Kissed). Because her style was ten years older than all the teenagers in the school, Josie was immediately labeled as a weirdo with no fashion sense or any hope of fitting in with the “popular kids.” Although appearance is a major factor in the way teens judge each other, it isn’t the only aspect they base their opinions on.
Gossip is the main way information is spread around a high school, and everyone believes it. Teens believe every outrageous tale that they hear about anyone and judge people based on the rumors they are told. The “rumor mill” can make or break a teen’s reputation. In order to help Josie fit in with the “cool crowd” for her assignment, “Rob offers to sign up for the same school to act as the cool-guy friend she’ll need to fit in.” (Deming). If Rob can become “popular” in high school again and the other teens see Josie hanging out with him, they will assume that Josie is just as cool as Rob and tell all of their friends. Teens believe anything they say and hear and will pass around any information they have to everyone they know. One minute nobody knows your name, and the next, everyone is talking about how cool you are because of some silly gossip that isn’t even true. In the film Never Been Kissed, Josie’s younger brother becomes popular by lunchtime and tells all of the “popular kids” how awesome Josie is. Rob tells people that Josie has dated famous band members and that her parents invented x-lax and convinces people that she deserves to be in the “popular crowd.” Shortly after Rob spreads the rumors about Josie, she is accepted by Kristen, Kirsten, and Gibby-the three most popular girls in school. Gossip is a big deal in high school and can totally change someone’s reputation-for better or for worse. In some cases, the rumors people spread can build someone up and give them confidence or even make them popular in school. In other cases, rumors can tear someone down. The gossip teens hear about others puts immediate images in their head. Nobody has the desire to track down the truth behind a rumor and get to know the person everyone is talking about.
In the 1990s a teen’s status in high school was everything. It defined who they were. Looking only at their high school status, teens label each other as “lame” or “cool.” The teens that everyone loves are usually athletes or cheerleaders. It doesn’t matter how dumb he may be, the muscular football player is almost always “cool” simply because he’s a strong athlete (Denby). Teens don’t care about each other’s character or values. They don’t have any interest in learning about who someone really is; teens would rather just look at what somebody appears to be by what they do in high school than get to know anything about their personality. Teens judging each other by status are shown in Never Been Kissed when the “popular kids” insult the geeky math nerd Aldys and call her “Alpo” as in dog food. When she drives by one of the places that everyone goes to on weekends and the most popular guy in school, Guy, tells Aldys to go home and calculate how many lifetimes it’s going to take her to get cool. Everyone treats her like dirt because she isn’t a cheerleader or anything cool like that. Although someone in a math club or other club of the sort is much smarter and has more potential than a dumb athlete or cheerleader, nobody treats them the way they deserve to be treated. Josie was an excellent writer and had a great potential in high school but nobody even noticed because they were too busy bullying her and calling her cruel names like “Josie Grossie” (Never Been Kissed). Many teens who are bullied because they aren’t in the cool crowd in high school have amazing talents that go unnoticed because their peers look at what they do in high school instead of appreciating their talents.
The way teens judge each other will never change. Teens will never look deeper into someone before reaching a conclusion on who somebody is. Just like Gosnell shows in 1999 in Never Been Kissed, a teen’s image of someone else will always be based on appearance, gossip and status.
Allen, Glen. "Judgment of Appearances - Positive or Negative?" Teen Ink. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2013.
Deming, Mark. "Never Been Kissed on AllMovie." AllMovie. Rovi Corp, 2013. Web. 21 May 2013
Denby, David. “High-School Confidential: Notes on Teen Movies.” Comp. Lawrence Scanlon and Robin Dissin Auteses. The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric. Comp. Renee H. Shea. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 709-14. Print. Never Been Kissed. Dir. Raja Gosnell. Perf. Drew Barrymore and David Arquette. Twentieth Century Fox, 1999. DVD.