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High school sucks.

At least for me it did. Those were probably the worst four years of my life, and, while I get that some people think it was the greatest time in their lives, I just don’t understand that mentality. It’s a time in your life where you have no idea who you are, what you’re doing, what you want, and even those who project that they have their shit together don’t. They’re just able to hide it behind a façade better than the rest of us. They have their own doubts, fears, concerns, worries… regardless of how cool or popular they are. That can’t chase away their true feelings and emotions. However, rather than take ownership of their lives and its state of uncertainty, they can put on the show in order to fit into the fabric of high school life, not rocking the boat at all, which might put them on the outskirts of the cliquish social ladder that comprises high school.

I wasn’t the cool kid in high school or the most popular. I ran track, which I eventually quit, because running isn’t very fun after awhile. I played in the band, because I loved making music. I had a handful of really good friends, and, while I don’t know that I’d call myself a social misfit, I was probably about as weird or awkward as anyone heading through high school still trying to figure out where they fit in the world. About the only thing I had going for me was my hot girlfriend who, for some reason, was really into me at the time… but even she wound up treating me like shit in the long run. Fuckin’ bitch (we’ve seen become friends after those wounds healed).

My point is high school is a terrible part of one’s adolescence yet unfortunately a very necessary one. Believe me… if I didn’t have to send my kids through it later in their lives, I wouldn’t, because it’s a horrible place that, over time, can break you. However, this is a time when you do really learn about yourself. You measure how strong you are. You make friends that may not stand the test of time, but at least for the moment, are there for you when you need them most, because they don’t have families of their own or full-time jobs or serious responsibilities that get in the way of that.

My own experiences in high school are a big part of my connection to Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own novel THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. Having not read the book beforehand, I had no connection to the material whatsoever, but, as Chbosky’s film quickly set up the emotional boundaries in which it would play, I found myself drawn further and further into this story about a freshman in high school who has endured more traumatic shit than anyone his age ever should really trying to find his place in the world, as he starts off with no friends, an initial belief that high school is far worse than middle school and the realization that he hasn’t talked to anyone outside of his family in the summer before he begins this level of learning. Charlie, played grippingly by Logan Lerman, is already counting down the days until the last day of his senior year, waiting to move onto something bigger and better than the awful pettiness that makes up high school life. He eats lunch by himself. He goes to the school’s football games by himself. His brother is off in college. His sister is engrossed in her own high school life. His best friend… well, he’s no longer around. He has no one, except an English teacher (a restrained Paul Rudd) who challenges him with books he hasn’t read yet.


However, that is all about to change when he finally gets up the courage to approach one of his classmates, a senior who appears on the fringe of the high school totem pole named Patrick (Ezra Miller as a less disturbing student). Patrick is more than happy to bring Charlie into his circle of friends, which includes a pixie-ish girl named Sam (Emma Watson, who more than holds her own dramatically post-HARRY POTTER) and a band of ROCKY HORROR fanatics. This new-found confidence in finding some new free-spirited friends allows Charlie to expand his horizons, to do things he hadn’t done before – attend a party, get high, have a girlfriend, kiss a girl – and it gives him a feeling of acceptance and, more specifically, or acknowledgement that he hasn’t felt in quite some time.

Outside their bizarre taste in music (Who really knows The Smiths, but can’t recognize Bowie?) which is a bit distracting, this trio of characters are compelling due to the insane amount of baggage each of them carries at this still very young age. As rebellious as they think they are, they still are very scared individuals dealing with very personal issues, whether it’s a sullied reputation or societal acceptance of their sexuality or deep-seeded psychological issues and depression, and through these prisms, we can watch Charlie, Sam and Patrick all try to create these identities for themselves as they try to find happiness for themselves but also amongst their close-knit group of friends.


Chbosky has really tapped into the mindset of teenagers, much like John Hughes did many years ago. These don’t feel like caricatures of today’s youths or really youths of any time. They feel like real people with real struggles and real questions about themselves and the world around them. They don’t understand their relationships or their feelings or their futures, and the volatility of this point in their lives doesn’t make it any easier.

Anyone who has ever attended a day of high school can identify with something in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. No matter what label you found yourself living out during those days of your teenage years, there’s something here that most likely represents what you were going through then. It is absolutely tough to look that in the face at times, and it does for an emotional introspection of what you may have gone through, but it is cathartic and rewarding to come out on the other side of PERKS knowing that someone somewhere at some time experienced something similar in trying to find their spot in the world, too. This is one powerful film. 


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 28, 2012, 2:54 p.m. CST

    Again with the good looking "misfits".

    by Garbageman33

    We can't cast a fat kid? Or someone with horrible acne? Nope, it's Hermione, the Chanel model. Yep, she's a misfit.

  • Giggle

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:06 p.m. CST

    Not a single mention of Egg, I mean Ann

    by spacehog

    Which I guess is appropriate.

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:13 p.m. CST in Egg Shen?

    by I_Snake_Plissken

    What's in the flask Egg, magic potion?

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:20 p.m. CST


    by SteveGoBoom


  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:28 p.m. CST

    Is the tagline to this seriously "We are Infinite?"

    by mr.underwater

    Good grief... I see the Pittsburgh skyline in the one photo. No wonder the kid feels like a misfit. He probably doesn't rub snuff, listen to Hank Jr, or go deer hunting.

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:28 p.m. CST

    egg shen!

    by Ted Knight

    LMFAO! I almost dropped my phone laughing so hard reading that quote from the movie. Thanks plissken

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:40 p.m. CST

    garbageman33 -Agreed

    by southwick

    Maybe they should rename it the "perks of being an incredibly good looking wallflower"

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:43 p.m. CST

    Who really knows The Smiths, but can’t recognize Bowie?

    by Max


  • Sept. 28, 2012, 3:49 p.m. CST

    Did you call yourself The Infamous Billy the Kidd in High School?

    by yourebreakingthejacket

    Maybe that was why it sucked so much for you. Also, garbageman33 agreed with the good looking misfits. In my High School any good looking girl, cheerleader, brain, Goth(that was what they were called then), dirtbag, freak, etc at least got hit on by "popular dudes". Cast someone along the lines of a young Heather Matarazzo in the Emma Watson role.

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 5:39 p.m. CST

    Middle school was WAY fucking worse than high school.

    by Aaron

    High school sucked, but at least I learned how to do drugs and fuck, and how not to give a shit about stupid assholes and their opinions. Middle was wretched. Every kid is a different size, with tiny sixth graders being mercilessly tortured by humongous 8th graders, racial conflict being very intense in this distended shithole named Florida, where I've spent almost all of my educational career, if you can't tell by my horrible, passive sentence structure. High school was a breeze compared to MS. I don't mind the pretty outcasts, because I've seen lots of pretty outcasts in real life and been one, myself. It's just not THAT awful of a lot in life. It's only because we are all fucking retarded when we're young and we don't realize how good we've got it in this safe American life that we go out and look for trouble to get ourselves into (speaking solely for myself). So we create girl problems, most of them imaginary, we believe our own bullshit, etc etc, and really we're just dumb little kids who don't know anything. There's nothing magical or winsome or dramatic about it. God, I wish an adult would've told me this back then and straightened me out. Unfortunately my parents, like so many of ours, were not hard enough on me, too non-judgemental, as Chris Hitchens would've said.

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 7:03 p.m. CST

    I saw this last weekend

    by mukhtabi

    LOVED IT! It captured the suckitude that is high school. Although yeah, Middle school is worse, it's only 3 years. HIGH school is 4 years of unmitigated misery. Especially when you go to a boarding school and you're NOT a townie. The things they did to us out of towners *shudders*.

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 8:28 p.m. CST

    Billy, running IS fun after awhile

    by theBigE

    At least it is when you're good - and you win things! And you get incredible stamina.

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 9:44 p.m. CST

    The Kidd vs. A desk lamp

    by RedJester

    Who else wants to see the Kidd battle random every day items? I know I do. How long does it take the Kidd to figure out how to put together an IKEA shelf? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

  • Sept. 28, 2012, 11:18 p.m. CST

    End with some marginal tragedy

    by Katet19

  • This special boy will be fat and bald jerking off to old pictures of his bright shining light pixie friend While his wife makes tuna casserole and shouts at the kids to get off their Xbox.

  • Sept. 29, 2012, midnight CST

    I, for the most part, loved high school.

    by GravyAkira

    Nice group of friends. I had a decent football team I played on. I made a killing selling cds for $5 and $10 by being one of the first kids in school with a cd burner freshman year(1999-2000). And got stoned out of my mind on a regular basis. Got laid for the first time. Music and movies were even better back then. Great times! Hope things are going better for you now Kidd. Cant wait to see Looper in the mourning!

  • Until some years back...the social misfit was usually the stereotypical Bill Gates-esque computer geek. Now they are roles filled by attractive but quirky manic pixie dream girls and all that shit...who really aren't all that nerdy but more hipster like. Oh i don't know, shoot me now.

  • Sept. 29, 2012, 10:24 a.m. CST

    Kidd, about the whole "Smiths/Bowie thing,"

    by the dolphins are in the jacuzzi

    I am a high school teacher, and I can tell you that a kid knowing a band like the Smiths and not knowing an artist like Bowie is extremely common. It never ceases to amaze me what kids know and what they don't know these days. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that a member of one of their favorite bands listened to the Smiths and mentioned them in an interview, so the fans of this band go and seek out everything they can find by the Smiths. But since no one they pay attention to has mentioned Bowie yet, they have no idea who he is. It also has to do with the fact that there is no great common denominator of pop culture reporting anymore. Since the decline of print media, kids don't have a Spin or a Rolling Stone magazine that hips them to the new music while making sure that they have a firm foundation in the classics. Besides, if you've read Spin or Rolling Stone lately, you'll see just how far out of touch they are with the music scene today, anyway. The closest thing we have to a totem in music/pop culture is something like Pitchfork, but it skews so narrowly hipster that it winds up creating some of the same "Bowie/Smiths" schisms inadvertently itself. Anyway, just wanted to throw my POV in there, for what it's worth.

  • Sept. 29, 2012, 11:55 a.m. CST

    I loved high school.

    by phifty2

    It wasn't the peak of my life but parties, girls, friends, little responsibility...I had a good time.

  • Sept. 29, 2012, 11:57 a.m. CST

    The Smiths

    by phifty2

    Going to see Morrissey at Radio City in less than two weeks. This has nothing to do with this article.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 9:12 p.m. CST

    I banged a lot of girls in high school

    by BuffDaddy

    I was a nerd, skinny, ugly with a head that was too big for my body but my great looks came when I turned 16. And I got all the girls, even the popular out of my league girls and then I became popular. Then I graduated, traveled the world, came back to USA as a drug addict and shagged my first celebrity, then another and another. The high school years set the foundation for me to be the failure I am today.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 9:15 p.m. CST

    2pac died on the night of my homecoming dance

    by BuffDaddy

    And all of the broads was sad and crying. But me and the homies poured out a little liquor. Rest in peace Tupac Amaru Shakur. Rest in piss piggie smalls, you fat bastard and your notorious movie sucked like your face, you fat piece of horse shit

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 10:58 p.m. CST

    katet19 that was hilarious

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports