A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Campus Confidential is a satire on teenage life that uses extreme cliches about high school cliques (gay kids, cheerleaders, jocks, nerds, misfits) to make a point about power and corruption. Though the film's message about power's ability to corrupt even the most meek among us is ultimately positive (drawing parallels from George Orwell's Animal Farm, which the students read in class during the movie), it almost reinforces the very stereotypes it seeks to warn against by portraying them so heavy-handedly.
What's the story?
New girl Violet Jacobs is in for a rude awakening when she discovers the hierarchy of power among the cliques at her new high school -- not only do the popular kids rule the school, but the teachers, the principal, and even the cafeteria lady kowtow to their demands. With journalism in her blood thanks to mom's (Katey Sagal) job as a reporter, Violet and her new friend, the wallflower Cornelia, decide to start a high school tabloid, The Tattler, to expose the skeletons of the popular kids and begin righting the wrongs of the power structure. At first it seems to work, but along the way, Violet and Cornelia must reconcile whether their sleazy methods mean they are just as guilty as the bullies and jerks they seek to dethrone.
Is it any good?
CAMPUS CONFIDENTIAL has a clever enough premise -- teen high school comedy based on George Orwell's Animal Farm explores the ways in which power can corrupt anyone at any level. And to that end, it teaches some decent messages about how we treat people, and especially the ethics of the takedown in the name of justice. However, to achieve that end, it uses some questionable means, like portraying the clique of gay teens as needlessly campy, or the cheerleaders as super airheaded. One has to see the irony in the fact that Orwell often explored the idea that the end doesn't justify the means, and that this applies as much to the actions of the characters in this film, as it does to the choices the filmmakers made to achieve it.
That said, anyone who went to high school will find the dynamics to be familiar territory, and this film occasionally finds some solid ground when it invokes the best cattiness of Mean Girls or the darker hypocrisy of high school life in Heathers. But viewers may tire of the heavy handed, overly referential feel in this movie, and parents may find too many stereotypes to unpack to get to the nugget of positivity underneath.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way gay students and other cliques are presented in this movie. How could the film have shown these students and still portrayed life in high school accurately? Parents can reference these tips for battling stereotypes in media portrayals.
High school life is depicted as a particularly brutal rite of initiation. Are there cliques in your school? How do they interact? Do some kids seem to have more power or influence than others? Do they use that power for good or bad?
Ethics come up often in the film. Is it OK to do something wrong or hurtful if the result is good? Have you ever done something you knew was wrong because you believed the outcome would be positive or worth it? What happened?
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