Logical Fallacies in “High School Confidential”

5 Feb

In the essay “High School Confidential” David Denby uses many stereotypes in order to point out the connections between high school movies and the realities of teen life. I agree with Denby when he says that these movies “would not survive if they did not provide emotional satisfaction to the people that make them and to the audiences who watch them.” He then goes on to say that in order for the movies to connect to all American teens, the movies need to draw out a collective memory or an emotional trauma that can be related to all. Throughout the essay, our class has been able to point out the many logical fallacies that Denby makes in his essay. However, these fallacies do not make his essay any less convincing. In fact, I believe that it is the opposite because these fallacies create pathos for the audience.

            Denby makes a hasty generalization when he says, “My guess is that these films arise from remembered hurts which then get recast in symbolic form.” This example is a hasty generalization because he groups all of the film writers into nerds that are resentful for the things that happened in their past. In reality not all of the film writers fall into this category. However, in order to make his point, Denby needs to make this stereotype. His generalizations continue as he describes the football players and cheerleaders being jocks and the most popular people in the school. This example helps Denby’s point that in order for movies to survive, they must create an emotional connection to the audience by drawing out those past memories. I believe that every school has a football jock or the popular girl, but most of the high school movies take this to an extreme.

            Another logical fallacy made in Denby’s essay is sentimental appeal. Denby states, “Genre films dramatize not what happens but how things feel—the emotional coloring of memory.” This is a sentimental appeal because he is saying that films distract the audience from the facts by exaggerating the drama of an average teenagers life. I agree with this statement that most of the films are not based on reality. I also think that there is a reason for that. The film writers have to keep the audience interested and the best way they can do that is to add a little drama. However often times the drama is exaggerated and the audience is not able to relate these films to the high school that they had come to know. I think that this is where most stereotypes are born. Most of today’s high school movies are nothing like what is in reality.

            Now that I am able to point out logical fallacies in writing, it is obvious that the essay “High School Confidential” has quite a few. In the fallacies that I found, it seemed that a majority of them were hasty generalizations. Denby uses stereotypes in order to make his point that the high school movies are nothing like reality. He stereotypes the film writers and popular teenagers that have a role in creating the high school movies of today. However, I do not think that these fallacies take away from Denby’s essay. I think that Denby’s essay was so successful in making his point because of these fallacies that he used.


  • Contemptible: deserving of or held in contempt; despicable.
    • “a natural aristocrat, who transcends the school’s contemptible status system.”
    • I’ve never met a more selfish, contemptible person.
    • Shrewd: marker by clever discerning awareness and hardheadedness
      • “The motherless child, of course, is a shrewd commercial ploy that makes a direct appeal to the members of the audience…”
      • The man was a shrewd who was shady with his investments.






One Response to “Logical Fallacies in “High School Confidential””

  1. jeremyfshen February 5, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    While it is true that some of the fallacies in Denby’s essays added to the points he was making in fairly significant ways, as with the generalizations of various movies and societal patterns, many of them were just large appeals to pathos without ethos or logos, appealing many of us because we could relate to some of the points Denby brought up. I don’t entirely disagree with you, but it’s hard for me to call the essay successful when the main driver of it is excessive short-term appeals to the emotions of the reader.

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