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The Horror of High School: Formal vs Informal Learning in Teen Horror Television

  • Katrina Lawrence
Chapter

Abstract

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, attributes the success of his hit show to its perpetuation of the myth that “High school is hell.” This myth has become the mainstay of teen horror TV, reaffirming adolescents’ anxieties about school by presenting the space as a literal hell populated by demons, vampires, and werewolves stalking their vulnerable teen victims. Furthermore, these shows reinforce the sense that formal schooling is disconnected from and unable to support teens to address their most pressing concerns by presenting teachers as, at best, inept, and, at worst, dangerous. But, teen horror TV also presents informal mentoring relationships as a potentially productive source of support and guidance for teens attempting to negotiate both the threatening world and their own identity formation. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) and Teen Wolf (2011–) depict two models of mentoring relationships: “functionalist mentoring” and “humanistic mentoring,” the former a hierarchical relationship focused on skills transmission, the latter defined by a more holistic concern for the mentees’ long-term personal development. This chapter suggests that teen horror favors the humanistic model, but that the efficacy of both models is limited by a perceived generational divide; ultimately, the protagonists of Buffy and Teen Wolf benefit most from experiential learning with their peers. In a genre focused on the transition from childhood dependence to adult independence, teen friendship groups support each other to learn from their experiences in order to gain confidence in their ability to cope with a dangerous world.

Keywords

Mentor Relationship Friendship Group Adult Figure Heart Monitor Dangerous World 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lady Margaret HallUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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