The film, High School, accurately depicts the central embodiment of “total institutions,” an idea honed by Erving Goffman in his publication, Characteristics of Total Institutions. The features of this idea were that “first, all aspects of life are conducted in the same place and under the same single authority. Second, each phase of the member’s day activity will be carried out in the immediate company of a large batch of others, all of whom are treated alike and required to do the activity leading at a prearranged time into the next, the whole circle of activities being imposed from above through a system of explicit formal rulings and a body of officials” (Goffman, 1957). High School represents all three aspects through the school-wide drug test that’s ordered by the school’s officials and required from every student. A school is a set place where all the students are on the same set schedule, and despite Henry being an overachiever and being up for class valedictorian, he’s faced with taking the drug test like every other student in the school.
Despite the impositions of the “total institute” structure within the school, the characters still find a way to come together to rebel against the authority figure despite their different characteristics. Typically, story writers put the bad guys against the good guys, but in this instance, the good guy (Henry) and the bad guy (Travis/Psycho Ed) teamed up to go against the authority figure. In the case of this film, Dr. Leslie Gordon is the authority figure, which traditionally has more power than Travis and Henry because he is an adult. Dr. Gordan’s purpose in this film is merely to mock the idea that teenagers hate adults. But what if adults are a crucial facet to the lifestyle of teenagers? It’s not solely because they are the power-house. It’s because the type of adult or guardian that is present in a child or teenagers life depicts if that teenager is going to grow maturely or not (McLennan 197).