A new documentary series called High School Confidential premiered on the WE channel last night. Creator Sharon Liese followed twelve girls, living in suburban Kansas, for all four years of high school, getting an Up series-in-miniature look at the agonies of being young and adrift. Liese is by no means the first to document young America (RJ Cutler had a very similar project on PBS in 2001), but her work still seems fresh and important. Because, I guess, no two people are the same.
Last night's premiere featured Cappie, a nice girl who casually wanders away from academics and toward drinking and boys, and Lauren, a popular dancer who, with remarkable poise and courage, copes with fears of illness and death after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. The great thing about the episode was that both girls were portrayed through the same objective lens, the editing was open and even and never felt sensational or slanted toward one girl over the other. I suppose you could grumble that the whole thing is sensationalist by nature (the home page of the show's website features photos of the girls with unfortunate captions like "Anorexic. Wrist Cutter."), but so far the footage itself seems to avoid the easy finger pointing resorted to in the worst installments of other "let's follow young people" series, like MTV's True Life. Included here are two videos, one of Cappie enjoying the social life, the other of Lauren at her doctor's office.