A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that High School USA! is a rude animated satire of high school narratives with many jokes and situations parents will find offensive. There are many sexual entendres and images: animated near-naked bodies, a girl sitting on a toilet, a mother making obscene hand gestures. There are jokes about rape and suicide, and rough and insulting language, though no cursing. The female characters on the show are portrayed in a sexist fashion, always in short dresses and concerned with shopping and dances. Teachers, parents, and other authority figures are weak and useless. Characters scuffle and punch each other; blood flies from noses.
What's the story?
Brought to you by the creators of Community, HIGH SCHOOL USA! is a naughty and perverse take on typical teenage drama, creating a world where a bully is urged to embrace his cruel side, and a girl expresses her individuality by copying everything her friend does. The most obvious reference point for HIGH SCHOOL USA! is the Archie comics; you've got Marsh (Vincent Kartheiser) as your bland ginger at the center of the action, you've got your Betty/Veronica thing going on with Amber and Cassandra (Mandy Moore), you've got your Jughead-ish nerd Blackstein and your Reggie-like BMOC Brad. Except here, instead of cruising around Riverdale and listening to good advice from good ol' Mom and Dad, these teenagers are binge eating, visiting secret pro-bullying clubs and learning mom is an amateur porn star.
Is it any good?
Many years after the The Simpsons (and later Family Guy and still later American Dad) made mincemeat out of typical family sitcom plots, and shows like Daria and Awkward. did the same for earnest high school dramedies, it takes a really fresh approach to make this kind of humor laugh-out-loud funny. This isn't it. The jokes aren't sharply written enough to make the sitcommy antics funny, and the goings on aren't absurd enough to elevate the same old plots you've seen a million times.
That said, there are some amusing ideas at work here. The notion of a cyberbully teaching a meathead how to really torture people is a unique one, and there's definitely humor to be mined from the concept of a kid discovering her parent has an extremely seamy secret life (though South Park did it better 10+ years ago). But considering the pedigree of the creators of High School USA!, one just wishes this was funnier.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what High School USA! is satirizing. Does the show take on subjects you often see on high-school shows such as Degrassi or 90210? How is the satirical take different from the straightforward one?
Is the viewer supposed to empathize with the characters on this show? What about the way they are presented brings you to this conclusion?
Do you know what it means to have a "token" representation of a certain type of character? Are Blackstein and Cassandra tokens? Why or why not?
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