Cliques and Cars
The high school in 21 Jump Street uses rhetorical devices in order to make arguments on our society, culture, and time period. These arguments are all relevant because this film was released only two years ago in 2012. This film is a humorous drama that tells the story of two undercover cops attempting to find the suppliers for a new drug, HFS. This drug is extremely dangerous and these two cops, Morton Schmidt and Greg Jenko, are ordered to solve this issue in a timely manner. Schmidt and Jenko were high school classmates themselves and lived two totally separate lives during their teenage years. Jenko was a popular athlete who was not too concerned with his schoolwork. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have Schmidt who was an intelligent student obsessed with the rapper Eminem. A specific scene to represent their two different social lives comes when Schmidt asks Jenko’s girlfriend to senior prom. Once Schmidt gets denied Jenko laughs and remarks, “You’re a nerd and she’s, I don’t know, she’s hot” (21 Jump Street Lord). The high school makes arguments on the superficial culture and segregated society that we currently live in. These messages along with materialistic characters reveal the issues in our culture. By breaking down these scenes we can clearly see the high school as a place where 21 Jump Street makes arguments on the 21st century lifestyle.
Messages about our superficial society come early on in the film. Once Schmidt and Jenko have been assigned their missions they quickly jump into the world of high school in 2012. The wide range of cliques immediately shocks the two cops. One of the first groups they see is the hipsters. A modern day definition of a hipster is, “You are the epitome of laid back, but it’s something you have to try to be” (University of Michigan 3). This group is described as environmentally conscious and also free spirited. Jenko remarks that there is the gleek club, the nerds, the cool kids, and the “I don’t know what those things are” (21 Jump Street Lord). Right off the bat we clearly see the segregation of people in high school. There are specific cliques in any real high school; therefore this adds believability and logos. This scene also adds ethos as the film gains credibility due to its accurate portray of these cliques. The nerds look like nerds and the athletes look like athletes. When these groups of people are shown as Schmidt and Jenko walk into the school music is played that helps get the message across that these people belong to a specific clique. For the gothic crew dark music is played that helps further describe these people, “Both words and music convey meanings, but each in a different manner” (Giannetti, 213). The words describing these groups give clear definitions but the different music for each group give us even further insight. The music helps set the tone and mood of the film. These descriptions of the cliques give evidence of the segregation in today’s high school society. Segregation doesn’t mean judging simply on race or skin color it means, “the action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things or being set apart” (Merriam-Webster 4). These students set one another apart based on their interests, outlooks, and style. This also plays into the argument that the high school is superficial and materialistic. All of these arguments are attempting to comment about the issues in our modern day society.
Schmidt finds his way into the group of cool kids that are also very hipster in their mannerisms. Schmidt befriends Eric who is the head of this group. Eric attempts to try and be open about his life and show that he can relate to anybody. However, at the same time he tells Jenko, “Me and all my friends care about the environment” (21 Jump Street Lord). Here Eric reveals that he too distinguishes whom he likes and whom he doesn’t base on the fact of whether or not somebody cares about the environment. Here Eric showed how superficial his friendships really are. Aside from the segregation and the superficial relationships there is also a theme of being materialistic. Again all of these messages are true issues and are extremely relevant therefore adding logos and some ethos to this film. The fact that these two detectives are going undercover and experiencing these issues themselves adds to their ethos. The use of pathos is pretty clear-cut. This film is hilarious and it uses this to emotionally attach the viewers to the film. Other than the use of humor there aren’t any other ways pathos is used in this film.
Psychologist, George Monbiot, offers this, “Materialism is associated with depression, anxiety and broken relationships” (The Guardian 3). This definition reveals the underlining causes and emotions that go along with materialism. Being materialistic goes deeper than just caring about what you have and what somebody else has. It also is an indicator that somebody might be insecure or relies on their material objects to define who they are. Jenko is the best example of a materialistic person in the film. In the first 10 minutes of the film Jenko announces, “First rule, of being cool in high school: drive a sick ass car” (21 Jump Street Lord). Here Jenko is saying that his car is the object that defines him, not his actual personality. He also says, “don’t try hard in anything” (21 Jump Street Lord). These two quotes reveal where his priorities are. He says in order to be popular you must have the best objects and not care about anything. The fact that these words are coming from a man who was indeed a popular figure in his high school tells us that he is accurate in his claims. The fact that a car defines a person rather than one’s own characters speaks volumes to the materialistic society that we currently live in.
By examining the materialistic, superficial, and segregated society in high school we pick up on the main messages in 21 Jump Street. All of these scenes and messages occur in the high school. This school is the specific place where these arguments originate and the place where these ideas flourish. The cliques and the cars define one’s personal worth in this high school, which represents the troubled society that we currently live in.
Funny Moments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9jjAer-Mn4