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Review: Television Show ‘Popular’

Osborne, T.J. (1999). A review of the October 28, 1999 episode of the Warner Bros. Television show, “Popular”. The show addresses the topic of cheating.


“Popular” is a drama about high school teens and popularity. To offer a sample of the show, one scene is scripted below. The scene occurs during an episode in which the student editor of the school paper has uncovered that several popular cheerleaders cheated on a science exam, destroying the “curve” and causing numerous others to fail. After the teacher threatened to fail the whole class, Nicole, the cheerleading co-captain who had actually stolen the test, came forward to take the fall for the others. Nicole is sent to the principal’s office. The following scene is the conversation between her and the principal.

The Scene

Principal Hall: “You have committed a serious offense, Miss Julian, and you can be sure I will not tolerate cheating. Do you have any explanation to offer for your actions?”

Nicole Julian: “Is this the part where I am supposed to apologize because I’m a teenager and I’m under stress and nobody understands me. I’m not going to do that, Principal Hall. Let me fill you in on my world view. My dad cheated on my mom and vice versa, I grew up with it. Recently I read that over seventy percent of the population cheated on their taxes. I came of age in a decade ruled by a president who told the nation that he cheated in several forms. He was never punished. His popularity ratings improved. So am I sorry I cheated? H—, no, I’m not sorry…I’m the norm.”

Principal: “But you are feeling stressed, correct? Overextended?”

Nicole: “I’m a type A, absolutely.”

Principal: “Perhaps I can lighten your load. As punishment for your cheating, I am revoking your participation in Homecoming next week.”

Nicole: “You can’t do that!”

Principal: “Ooooh, you watch me.”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What do you think of Nicole’s explanation for her actions?
  2. Do you think that this reflects the average teenager’s attitude toward cheating?
  3. How do the actions of the president and other public figures influence the actions of youth?
  4. What do you think of the principal’s response? What could she have done differently?
  5. How can we help teens to see the negative effects of cheating in a society that seems to condone it?

Timothy James Osborne
© 2018 CYS

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