Columns, Opinion

Flick Critique: Films for the New Kid

Starting a new school year is never easy, especially if it’s in an entirely new city. The switch from summer to the never-ending school grind is always painful and a foreign environment takes some getting used to. For freshmen, transfer students or upperclassmen looking to reminisce on their earlier years, here are five movies that chronicle the “new kid” experience.

In the 1984 film “The Karate Kid,” Daniel LaRusso moves from a small town in New Jersey to Los Angeles, soon realizing how different these environments truly are. Daniel struggles to fit in and gets picked on and bullied by karate students until his building’s maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi, takes Daniel under his wing and teaches him martial arts. 

While initially annoyed by Mr. Miyagi’s seemingly pointless lessons, Daniel discovers the importance of discipline and honor, taking the high road against his bullies and earning the respect of others. This ‘80s classic is sure to inspire any newcomer to stick up for themselves in the face of intimidating upperclassmen.

While this next film mostly focuses on the newcomer’s friend, no one can deny “Napoleon Dynamite” as inspirational for any student looking to participate in student government or other campus organizations. New student Pedro decides to run for student body president when the other protagonist, Napoleon Dynamite, convinces him to. 

Through ups and downs, iconic campaigning strategies and funky dance moves, Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro’s friendship grows stronger and Pedro discovers his true potential, refusing to let his status as a new student deter him from going after his dreams. 

The movie itself is unconventional and even strange, but has become a cult classic for its unique humor and the unforgettable “Vote for Pedro” t-shirts. It is a perfect example of the importance of putting yourself out there on campus and getting involved, even when it scares you.

In “Bring It On,” a privileged head cheerleader befriends Missy, a transfer student, and welcomes her onto the cheer team. Missy and her brother, Cliff, serve as a support system for Torrance, the main character and head cheerleader, and help her face a competing team that has stolen their routine. 

When many do not believe in Torrance’s abilities, both Missy and Cliff show the protagonist she is more than capable of making the best of the circumstances and leading her team to Nationals. The importance of making friends, which takes time, is portrayed well in this 2000 comedy.

In one of the more iconic new-kid films, “Clueless,” the popular Cher takes new student Tai and teaches her about the ins and outs of high school, and eventually transforms her into one of the popular girls in her clique. 

Through complicated situations and quasi-relationships, Tai’s popularity gets to her head and even shames Cher for being “a virgin who can’t drive.” In the end, however, Tai is an essential character in showing Cher, and viewers, the value of being humble and genuine, sticking to being yourself even when you’re told it’s not “cool.”

Shifting from older classics to a newer film, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” adapted from Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel, is essential to understanding the growth one experiences as the new kid on the block. 

Charlie is a freshman that quickly forms a strong friendship with two seniors and while it is obvious that the three all have their own struggles and traumatic pasts, they complement and help each other through their most difficult times. Although this movie can be a difficult watch for its heavier themes, it is a beautiful film that teaches viewers about growth and self-discovery through key formative years.

Being the new kid in school comes with many challenges —  from growing accustomed to new environments to making friends, newcomers certainly have many other things to worry about than academics alone. These movies show new students that their fresh setting can serve as an advantage if they go into the school year without fear of being themselves and ultimately impacting those around them. 

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