Graduation Scenes We Love (And Love To Hate)

| May 30, 2013
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It’s that time of year again: the stress of finals is over, you’ve already gotten your acceptance letters and now you have the whole summer to party and look forward to starting college in the fall.

Or, if you’re past those particular rites of passage, it’s the time of year where you relive a little of your teenage glory with some graduate-themed viewing. Below are some of the best (and of course, worst) graduate-related scenes in the western canon. Some are already in the cultural lexicon (“Donna Martin GRADUATES!”) some are… well, they can’t all be perfect.

Best: Beverly Hills, 90210

No, we’re not here to talk about Andrea Zuckerman’s valedictorian speech (duh, of course she was valedictorian; she was like… 40?) we’re here to talk about perhaps the most significant thing ever to happen on television. When goody-goody girl Donna Martin (Tori Spelling) gets drunk at senior prom (let he who is without sin…) the administrators at West Beverly Hills High decide her punishment will be to forgo graduation because they take teenage drinking VERY SERIOUSLY. I will refrain from mentioning that with everything else going on in that show teenage drinking was really the least of their worries. Because it just wouldn’t be the same without Donna, Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestly, be still my prepubescent heart) rallies the senior class in front of the school board and leads a chant of “Donna Martin graduates!” and of course, she gets to walk the stage. The coming together of friends and not having to pay the price for bad decision making: this is my “oh captain, my captain moment.”

Best of the Worst: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse 

“Major in philosophy because there’s no way you can make a career out of that.” Really? In this economy THAT’S the advice you have to offer, girl who is neither Bella nor one of the Cullen sisters nor that werewolf chick with the scar? That’s just irresponsible… and by the way, princess is a VERY realistic career goal, how dare you insult my lifestyle choices.

Please tell me she meets her end in some future installment: Twilight 27- The One Where The Volturi Eat That Girl Who Gave The Terrible Graduation Speech

Best: Happy Days

Neighborhood greaser, one time dropout and… valedictorian? That’s right! The Fonz is a graduate-a-mundo! After returning to night school years after walking out on high school (they wouldn’t let him wear taps on his shoes or ride his motorcycle through the halls…damn those fascist “No Child Left Behind” requirements!) the Fonz gives a valedictorian speech filled with the kind of wisdom that I return to time and again. “Quitting things is not cool-a-mundo.” (I tell myself this every time I want to sneak out halfway through a Bikram class) “This may surprise you, but some of the smartest people I know have high school diplomas.” (The ’50s, er, ’70s, were a different time.) Way to exit strong, Fonz: “Staying in school is cool.” Ayeeeeeeeeee!

Best of the Worst: Dawson’s Creek

Poor Joey Potter (Katie Holmes): she’s got that super sad back story (deceased mom, dad in prison), she can’t decide between Dawson or Pacey, and she even DATED A GAY GUY ONCE! If only she knew what the future held: a child who dresses better than her, only being in one of the new Batman movies (and not the one that had Heath Ledger in it) and…hey, did we mention she dated a gay guy? You know, on the show? In typical late ’90s style Joey’s speech is sort of sad for reasons you can’t put your finger on. Now, if neighborhood tramp Jenn (Michelle Williams) had given the commencement address, that would have been some life advice I would happily follow. Joey just makes me wish the sprinklers went off two minutes earlier.

Best: Fame

I’m getting all verklempt just thinking about this graduation, probably because there’s no terrible speech to mock. The kids at the New York High School of Performing Arts send themselves off to their conservatory programs and careers in the food service industry as only a bunch of high school theater kids can: with a kick-ass musical number taken from the title of a Walt Whitman poem. Also, let’s talk about how well Coco (Irene Cara) has bounced back from her “audition” with the porn producer as she belts out that solo. As much as I love this graduation, I’d just like to point out that this is a public school these students are graduating from. I don’t know if it’s Hollywood licence or changing times but they look like they have a much better budget than a public school graduation would have now. “I’ll look back on Venus, I’ll look back on Mars, and I’ll burn with the fire of ten million stars. And in time we will all be stars.” By the way, whatever happened to those graduates from Fame?

Best of the Worst: High School Musical Three Senior Year

The simple fact that this is not the graduation scene from the above mentioned Fame makes me hate it on instinct. Also, Zac Efron looks so much better now with some extra lbs.

Best: Legally Blond

“I’m an American citizen!” Take a lesson from Elle Woods: THAT is how you give a Harvard graduation speech.

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About the Author ()

Tony Bravo is a San Francisco freelancer covering fashion, menswear, lifestyle and entertainment stories. He is a regular contributor to The Bold Italic and the San Francisco Chronicle's Style section.

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