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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

United by fate: 18 fictional school rivalries

Illustration for article titled United by fate: 18 fictional school rivalries

1. Bayside High Vs. Valley High, Saved By The Bell
The relationship between Bayside High School and Valley High School was never friendly—a wily Valley student even pretended to flirt with Screech just to get in his head before the big chess match between the two schools—but it really heated up in Saved By The Bell’s season-one episode “Save That Tiger.” That episode found the two schools embroiled in a fierce prank war leading up to the all-important city cheerleading competition. While Zack and Slater pumped helium into Valley’s glee club room and put super glue on the school’s track, Valley spent a lot of its time toilet-papering various Bayside landmarks (and nerds). After Zack and Slater steal Valley’s little English bulldog mascot, Valley retaliates and steal’s Bayside’s mascot—Screech in a tiger costume. The whole thing eventually goes awry, leading to Valley embarrassing itself and losing the competition, both of which are offenses worse than death in the world of Saved By The Bell.

2. Riverdale High Vs. Central High, Archie Comics
While Riverdale High is loaded with well-meaning jocks, big eaters, and girls with both blonde and brown hair, the school’s athletic nemesis, Central High School, seems to be stocked with nothing but villains. Central’s sports teams regularly resort to cheating, almost always at the encouragement of their coaches and teachers, and while Archie and the gang would rather eat burgers than rumble, the student body at Central seems to be made up exclusively of thuggish guys and easy girls. They’re like the wiry, sexually charged interlopers that Grease’s Rizzo and Danny use to make their significant others jealous, but with fewer pockmarks.

3. Sweet Valley High Vs. Palisades High, Sweet Valley High
Every good fictional high school has to have a rival, especially when that high school is the subject of a book series with literally hundreds of stories. Sweet Valley High’s rival is Palisades High, or Pali, if you’re nasty. Things really escalate between the two schools in book #121, The High School War, when “fun” twin Jessica finds herself secretly dating Christian, the leader of Palisades’ dangerous gang, during a heated feud between the two schools. Tires are slashed, Elizabeth joins a nerdy unity-related task force, and poor Winston catches a beating from the Pali students. In book #122, A Kiss Before Dying, things get so bad that Christian actually dies during a scuffle near a pool, a loss so shocking that it leads to the schools ending their beef and coming together to watch Jessica win the long-teased surfing competition.


4. St. Joel’s Catholic High Vs. Benvie Tech High, Scott Pilgrim
What’s a high school rivalry without a kidnapping? Sure, it usually involves a mascot and not a human being, but it’s the same idea. In the Scott Pilgrim comics, Benvie Tech High School students infiltrate St. Joel’s Catholic High School, kidnapping Kim Pine and beating everyone else up. Scott rescues Kim by defeating Benvie Tech gang leader Simon Lee, and as a result, Kim begins dating Scott and drumming for his band Sex Bob-omb. In true Scott Pilgrim fashion, readers only later discover the reality of the rivalry: Simon is Kim’s ex, and Scott only punches him in a tantrum-like rage because of misinformation implanted in his brain by one of Ramona Flowers’ evil exes.

5. South Glen South High Vs. North Glen North High, Never Been Kissed
Nothing is more important in high school—or at least in high school films—than prom. From dazzling dance numbers that are too good to be true to surprise performances in the same category, Prom is often the biggest night of these characters’ lives. But where does it all start? Long before the coronation upset and the happy ending, a prom theme must be chosen. Never Been Kissed’s South Glen South High School may have settled on “The Millennium” as the theme for its event, but was thwarted when it discovered that rival North Glen North High had made the same choice. Luckily, a tragedy of epic prom proportions is avoided when Drew Barrymore’s character, Josie, suggests “Made For Each Other: Famous Couples Throughout History.” Thus, North Glen is foiled and a 20-something David Arquette and his 16-year-old date attend as an underwear-clad Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay from Risky Business, which is totally appropriate for a high school function.

6. Springfield University Vs. Springfield A&M, The Simpsons
Like they have so many other times over the show’s long history, the Simpson family created a problem where there wasn’t one: It’s not until Homer has to attend Springfield University in season five’s “Homer Goes To College” that its rivalry with Springfield A&M begins. Grossly misled about college life by Animal House and its knockoffs, Homer causes chaos on campus, leading up to a disastrous prank conceived by Bart. The only other college close enough to be the prankee is Springfield A&M, which results in a kidnapping of the school’s pig mascot. Richard Nixon gets involved, and some nerds are expelled in one of the show’s classic episodes. The rivalry returned in season 11’s “Faith Off,” when Homer’s prank obsession turns Bart into a “faith healer,” which plays a pivotal role in Springfield U’s annual homecoming game against Springfield A&M.

7. McKinley High Vs. Lincoln High, Freaks And Geeks
Throughout Freaks And Geeks’ short run, it seemed that the only two high schools in that Michigan town were McKinley and Lincoln. Whenever a competition happened, it was with Lincoln. In “We’ve Got Spirit,” a basketball game ties several storylines together. Sam dons a truly creepy-looking Norseman head and becomes the school mascot, after the regular mascot (a baby-faced Shia LeBeouf) broke his arm. Lindsay needs a public place to break up with Nick once he turns into a clingy boyfriend, then her mother accidently dumps him for her. A blindingly blond Matt Czuchry (Gilmore Girls, The Good Wife) plays the Lincoln student who throws drinks at the freaks from his very nice car, which the freaks later spray paint before fisticuffs ensue. Fresh from their ass kicking, the usually apathetic freaks show up to the game to cheer on their fellow Norsemen. The rivalry continues in “Looks And Books” where Lindsay trounces the Lincoln High Mathletes despite a commendable showing from future Veronica Mars bestie Percy Daggs III.


8. McKinley High Vs. Carmel High, Glee
Once upon a time, life was simpler and Glee was a cute little gumdrop of a show about a group of singing oddball kids calling themselves New Directions. The central conflicts were how to outfox a sadistic cheerleading coach and how to defeat Carmel High’s champion glee club. Established as the primary competition in the show’s pilot when Vocal Adrenaline performs a costume- and choreography-heavy version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” during practice, the rivalry between the McKinley Misfit Songbirds and the Carmel Cult Singers has been revisited regularly throughout four seasons. But it seems that Glee has left behind any inclination to tell actual high-school stories in its effort keep characters around long after they’ve left the high school glee club behind.

9. Flatpoint High Vs. Mt. Valley High, Strangers With Candy
The rivalry between the two oxymoronically named schools of Strangers With Candy is only featured in one episode, “The Goodbye Guy,” but it’s a momentous one. Flatpoint High is the underdog every year in the Inter-School Father-Student Sack Race—seemingly the highlight of the athletic calendar—but 46-year-old freshman Jerri Blank (Amy Sedaris) intends to beat the odds. Standing in her way are the Mt. Valley Rabid Dogs, who (true to their name) are a more extreme version of the already dysfunctional Flatpoint Concrete Donkeys. To wit: The Rabid Dogs bring actual rabid dogs with them on their team bus, and these snarling beasts promptly jump off the bus and murder Jerri’s father. The Rabid Dogs also show no sympathy when Jerri, who competes in the sack race with her dad’s cremation urn, is disqualified for dropping too many of her father’s ashes before crossing the finish line. Mt. Valley’s boundless nihilism almost makes the garden-variety heartlessness of the Flatpoint faculty seem warm by comparison.


10. Clone High Vs. Genetically Engineered Superhuman High, Clone High
Canadian import Clone High wasn’t warmly received stateside, with MTV airing only eight of the 13 episodes from its lone season. The show with the very literal title placed cloned versions of historical figures in a high school setting, and the series’ sixth episode, “Homecoming: A Shot In D’Arc,” opens with a basketball game, a nimble means of introducing Clone High’s rival, the fascist-like Genetically Engineered Superhuman High. After the rivals deface the clones’ game banner the episode shoots off in several directions, including a gender-bending plot for Joan Of Arc, and the attempted theft of Superhuman’s mascot headed up by Gandhi and Genghis Khan, before bringing the schools back together at yet another basketball game. Though few references to Superhuman High were made past this point, likely due to the series’ short life, when it afforded itself such bountiful plotlines Clone High let few of them go to waste.


11. Neptune High Vs. Pan High, Veronica Mars
The tensions that make Veronica Mars’ SoCal world go ‘round are typically intraschool, rather than interschool: Neptune High’s spoiled-rotten ruling class versus their lower-income contemporaries. But in the first-season episode “Betty And Veronica,” the show takes a case-of-the-week detour out of the fictional 90909 zip code and into the realm of crosstown basketball rivalries, specifically the one between the Neptune Pirates and their hated adversaries at Pan High. When Neptune’s prized parrot mascot disappears, it’s perceived as the latest jab in an escalating tit-for-tat between the schools, one the show’s titular sleuth is tasked with ending—but not before Pan’s own mascot goes missing. Going undercover (and nodding toward Archie) as a new Pan High student named Betty, Veronica discovers the many similarities between the quarreling schools, including a shared gambling habit that unmasks the bird-stealing culprit—and ties into the show’s tradition of Neptune-on-Neptune crime.


12. Greendale Community College Vs. City College, Community
School spirit is scarce at Greendale Community College, an academic purgatory so loathed by its student body that even a memorial service can erupt into an anti-pep rally. (Considering enrollment apparently comes with a mandatory enlistment in the Army Reserves, it’s hard to blame them for wanting to burn the place to the ground.) But if there’s anything that can unite Community’s disgruntled studiers, inspiring even notoriously apathetic Jeff Winger to wave the anus-adorned flag, it’s a profound hatred for crosstown rival City College. Only when facing a challenge from this better funded, more prestigious institution do the Greendale Human Beings find their pride, rallying to defeat the competing school in debate or win the attendance of a wealthy prospective student. As for the true source of the rivalry, it may run a little deeper than a turf war: Isn’t it obvious that Greendale’s sexually fluid dean, Craig Pelton, has a little history with his City College counterpart, Dean Spreck?

13. Degrassi Community Vs. Lakehurst Secondary, Degrassi: The Next Generation:
Most television high school rivalries form casual comedy or get channeled into sports, but on Canada’s premier teen soap export, the rivalry between Degrassi and Lakehurst started bad and only got worse. After it seeped through student activities and sporting events, it ultimately lead to serious violence. Introduced at a pep rally that devolves into a riot at the beginning of season six, the conflict between the two schools escalates to the murder of J.T. Yorke. That stabbing is still one of the saddest moments in a purposefully melodramatic series. The response to that death, in typical Degrassi: TNG fashion, takes the form of J.T.’s friends inciting yet another “riot” at a cheer team competition. The bad blood lingers long after when, at the start of the next school year, all of the remaining Lakehurst students fold into Degrassi’s student body following a devastating fire.


14. Dillon High Vs. East Dillon High, Friday Night Lights
Credit Jason Katims and the rest of the Friday Night Lights staff with the ability to build the mythology surrounding a school and its football team, complicate that loyalty, then shift it to an entirely new school. After a loss in the state championship at the end of the third season where Coach Taylor benches phenom J.D. McCoy in favor of calm veteran Matt Saracen, J.D’s abusive father conspires to oust Taylor as Dillon High School’s football coach. But Coach lands at the newly opened and poorly funded East Dillon High, where he builds a new legacy for a long-forgotten school, eventually earning emotional victories over the Dillon Panthers viewers had rooted for throughout the first three seasons. The subtle shift of Taylor’s livelihood from Dillon to a crosstown rival is a testament to the show’s ability to create characters the audience cares about more than the individual teams on the field.

15. Monsters University Vs. Fear Tech, Monsters University
Though the school doesn’t appear much in the Monsters, Inc. prequel, Fear Tech is the designated rival college of Monsters University. And though the familiar rivalry leads to Sulley stealing Fear Tech’s mascot in a demonstration of school pride, the football rivalry between the two schools seems to be more for bragging rights like Harvard vs. Yale than title implications like the rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State. Disney’s peripheral marketing actually built out the rivalry further than depicted in the film. The Monsters University admissions website is still functional, but on April Fool’s Day, Fear Tech “hacked” the site, pranking MU for the day and keeping the spirit of the relatively low-key rivalry alive throughout the film’s promotional campaign.


16. Ridgemont High Vs. Lincoln High, Fast Times At Ridgemont High
It’s only a minor subplot in Amy Heckerling’s adaptation of Cameron Crowe’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High, but Forrest Whitaker got his second screen credit as Charles Jefferson, the highly recruited football star who drives a 1979 Chevy Camaro Z28. When he’s out of town, Jeff Spicoli and Jefferson’s little brother take the Camaro out for a joyride while completely wasted and total it. In over their heads with Jefferson’s wrath looming, Spicoli comes up with a masterstroke to avert the blame: He parks the car in front of Ridgemont and vandalizes to make it appear vandalized by football rival Lincoln High. Jefferson then channels his rage onto the football field, severely injuring several opposing players while on a vengeful tear.

17. Big State Vs. Tech U, He Got Game
While Spike Lee remains a talented filmmaker, as evidenced by his powerful documentary work, he has certainly made his share of questionable decisions. Basketball-recruitment drama He Got Game has moments of poetry and genuine drama, but the plot centers around the two colleges vying for hoops prodigy Jesus Shuttlesworth: the absurdly named Big State and Tech U. Granted, no real-life school would want to be associated with these two fictional sports powerhouses, who use every corrupt means at their disposal—money, sex, fame, even an early release for Shuttleworth’s jailbird dad (played by Denzel Washington)—to court the country’s top high school prospect. But surely Lee could have picked an unused 19th-century president for one school and a compass direction for the other, rather than making viewers wonder what kind of school would have “Big State” printed on its uniforms.


18. Lawndale High Vs. Oakwood High, Daria
Nobody would ever accuse Daria Morgendorffer of having school spirit, although the same can’t be said for her Lawndale High School classmates—specifically, those fired up by a fierce football rivalry with nearby Oakwood High School and their squad, the Taproots. Naturally, the students most concerned with this pigskin enemy are dim-but-handsome QB Kevin and his bubbly cheerleader girlfriend, Brittany. In the episode “The Lab Brat,” this comes back to haunt the latter: She finds out that there’s photographic evidence of her (gasp!) hooking up with the Taproots’ QB, a fate akin to treason (or social suicide) in Lawndale’s halls. But overall, the Lawndale/Oakwood battle is just one of many examples of high school absurdity Daria can use as ammo for her anti-conformity crusade.

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