Gunn Party Culture Eschews Stereotypes


Throughout films, shows and various media, party culture has typically been depicted in a negative light. For example, television series such as “Euphoria” and “Gossip Girl” portray teen partying to the extreme, involving drug usage and drinking. In addition, high school students in media are often viewed as unruly and uncontrollable, as well as lacking empathy and manners. The reality is, teenage party culture, especially at Gunn, remains laid-back with movie-like situations being a rare occurrence.

The stereotypical high school party portrays chaotic teenagers dancing and jumping to loud music. However, according to junior Sarah Tannenwald, party culture at Gunn is not as drama-filled, action-packed or crazy as media suggests. “Gunn (doesn’t really have) the traditional party culture you see in movies,” she said. “(Actually,) there aren’t that many parties at Gunn.”

Nonetheless, senior Adele Davis believes that the parties Gunn does have are enjoyable social experiences. Typically, these parties celebrate an occasion or act as an opportunity for individuals to commune with each other. “It’s a time for people to hang out and have fun,” Davis said. Tannenwald agreed that attending parties can be a positive social experience. “(It’s a good time to) listen to music, meet new people (and) sometimes eat,” she said. Parties provide unique situations for students to reach out and meet new people beyond their normal school peers.

Yet not everyone believes in the positive side of teenage party culture. “Especially with teenagers, (party culture) has a bad reputation,” Davis said. In a self-selected student survey sent out to Gunn students by The Oracle with 25 responses, an anonymous student critiqued parties and party culture. “Parties are a complete distraction and an artificial form of having fun,” they wrote.

Whether positive or negative, student experiences with parties will vary for each person depending on their circumstances. In particular, parties tend to take place at different times for students of different grades.

For example, during AP test preparation season, some students can enjoy the warmer days with fewer responsibilities. “Especially for seniors, people relax more during second semester, so there are more (parties),” Davis said. For juniors, on the other hand, Tannenwald believes that there is more time for parties and social events in the fall semester. “Earlier in the year, there was more time to relax,” she said. “Now, everyone is more stressed.”

Despite their social nature, parties can often have an exclusivity element. “People are very ‘cliquey’ with who they invite,” Davis said. “(Some) people tend to like hanging out with their friends, rather than meeting new people.”

Tannenwald shared similar insights. “Exclusivity occurs because there are specific friend groups that are not good at mixing or intertwining,” she said. “Sometimes when you walk into a party, there’s no music or it’s just really quiet. It’s awkward (at first) if people don’t know each other. If it’s not your normal group of friends, you can feel tension.”

Related to exclusivity, Davis has seen individuals affected by the Fear Of Missing Out when it comes to parties. “There’s definitely a lot of FOMO that people can feel if they’re not invited to certain things or are left out,” she said. “Social media definitely makes it worse because you can see other people posting about things (that you were excluded from).”

Tannenwald has experienced FOMO before, but new experiences have shifted her perspective. “I used to feel it earlier in the year, or when I was younger,” she said. “But now I just have different priorities.”

While parties can serve as a serious distraction to students from typical academic rigor, students still can find themselves conflicted by them—despite Gunn’s party culture being minimal compared to other areas. However, Davis believes that due to the studious environment Gunn creates, students are still capable of managing their time well. “For Gunn students, it doesn’t have too much effect (on school life) because people here are very academically focused,” she said. “People know how to balance.”