Musical Musings: Popular culture


Ilena Peng

People wearing purple and gold clothes, purple and gold face paint, and holding purple and gold posters on sticks with catchy slogans; this is what students now see all around campus. But as much attention as the posters draw, they really don’t make a difference in who wins. True; those in class office are intelligent and spirited students who are great at what they do. But the elections themselves? Nothing more than a popularity contest.

In middle school, I ran for student council twice. And in eighth grade, I ran for MVHS’ class office. I still have all my campaign videos on my computer and watching them is rather cringeworthy. Not because of my slouching posture or the fact that I hate the way my voice sounds on camera, but because of my words. As a naive sixth and seventh grader, I listened to the teachers when they told me that I should sell myself in my campaign video — put myself in the best light possible.

“I am organized, cheerful, encouraging, determined, energetic and dependable.” That may as well be the most egotistical phrase to have ever come out of my mouth.
“I have never been tardy or delayed and am rarely absent.” Well, I’m sure students cared a whole lot about my attendance.

Did they have brains or knowledge? Don’t make me laugh!

And what all students know is that those elections are based off of little more than popularity. After watching students all around me fill out those little ballot sheets before watching any of the videos for two years of elections, I gave up on those cheesy campaign videos. I refused to campaign, saving for four 8.5 x 11 inch posters.

Throughout the entire campaign week, I had friends that would ask me “why aren’t you campaigning?” And one friend that asked, “If you aren’t campaigning, how are you going to win?”

They were popular!

The truth of the situation was that the amount of face paint I wore wasn’t going to help me win. If students didn’t want to vote for me because I wasn’t popular and didn’t really have any particular interest in trying to be popular, then no amount of campaigning would make them vote for me. I’m sure that inserting the words “VOTE FOR ME!!” into every conversation wouldn’t have made them any fonder of me either.

My campaign video ended up being more of a talk with the school than a campaign video. My ultimate goal in this video? To cut it with all the self-promo.

“I’m not the candidate that does the most campaigning and I won’t waste this speech talking about why I’m nice and responsible and what not. We’re all amazing; the point of campaigning isn’t to get in your face all the time and make everything sound better than it is. Besides, I know you’re all sick of seeing posters everywhere.”
Still clichéd, but I’ll just say it was censored since we had to submit a paper copy of all of our speeches to the teachers.

Please – It’s all about popular!

I remember being very tempted to start my speech by saying “Hey, I bet you’re not watching this. And I bet that you checked off the names of all your friends on that paper in front of you. We all know this is a popularity contest.” But since this teacher approval thing existed, I couldn’t really do that.

Looking back, I’m not sure why I wanted to be in class office at all. I loved being a part of the school, yet I hated the fact that to look like you loved the school you had to dress up for every spirit day. So when I submitted a video file to be broadcast to the school during those middle school daily announcements that we all miss, I knew I was going to lose the election. I mean, I was by far the most un-class officer-y, un-school spirit-y person I knew. I guess class office isn’t exactly right up my alley.

But after watching that video and after the election results were out, I still had a few people coming up to me, telling me that my campaign video really got to them, that my video was honest and truthful. And even though the video would’ve contained a lot more bluntness and honesty if not for the teacher approval requirement, it still proved honest and unconventional enough to resonate with someone.

It’s not about aptitude

It’s really not about intelligence anymore.
Yet when voting for your class officers this year, please watch the videos. Don’t just check off the names of all your friends and call it done. I know I’m not alone in thinking that class officer elections are a popularity contest. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that either, since everyone running in the first place is more than capable of being a great class officer. But just take a moment to realize that maybe less popular students would be discouraged from running since the elections, after all, just a matter of popularity.

Not much can be done about that — high schoolers revering the “popular” is a decades old stereotype — but if you’re going to make elections a popularity contest, at least watch the videos so you can pretend you voted for your best friend because they had an effective campaign.

Originally published in the Apr. issue of El Estoque