There’s a St Trinian’s film coming out later this month – I don’t know if it’s a remake of the originals (or one of them), taken from the original cartoons, a whole new story, or a ‘reimagining’ (I’m sure you can guess how I feel about that phrase) or what its origin may be, but I might see it, I might not.
Anyway, that’s not the point of this post, what I want to talk about here is an element of the whole image of the St Trinian’s films, and one which should help garner me a few more hits courtesy of search engines: sexy schoolgirls.
My recollections of the old black and white films are vague and far-off, but I recall being a bit weirded out by the fact that the headmistress was her own brother in drag (I was never quite sure if they were meant to be the same person, which kind of suggests a certain dissociative disorder), or why Arthur Daley used to emerge from the bushes looking shifty. I think I was probably about ten or so the first time I watched (or failed to properly watch) them, but the one thing I used to find a bit disappointing was that the apparently shockingly-naughty schoolkids just didn’t seem to be very naughty at all. This might speak more about my behaviour at school (or, rather, misbehaviour), but my recollection of the films seem to be that the ‘naughtiness’ of the kids usually extended to some scenes where they’d all yell and run at adults with hockey-sticks, and the adults would rather inexplicably be overpowered by them. All very odd.
Still, though my recollection of the St Trinian’s films doesn’t feature any kind of sexy schoolgirl stuff, the phrase has in itself become a bit of a shorthand for young ‘women dressed in short school dress with stockings showing, possibly hair in bunches etc’ (which you might imagine would be frowned upon in today’s society with paedo-fear and all, but apparently it remains pretty mainstream – I understand the popular music group Girls Aloud are to appear in the new film). The schoolgirl image was all too apparent in the Britney Spears ‘One More Time’ video – and, of course, in the UK, the School Disco brand (club nights and associated CDs) has been doing big business for years, very much trading on the idea of schoolgirls in a sexualised context (and a weird mix of music from wildly different eras, from what I can see: the aforementioned Britney song, alongside songs from the 80s and Abba and the like, so it’s hardly representative of the genuine experience of a school disco for anyone… except maybe teachers or caretakers who’ve been pressed into helping out, I guess).
My point – and you’ll be relieved to know I actually have one – is, I like to think, rather highlighted by the tangled nature of the above paragraph, but it boils down to this: the whole ‘sexy schoolgirl’ thing is just made up, isn’t it ? I was at school for the usual length of time, and at no time did I ever encounter anyone who wore the sort of modified uniform involved in the whole St Trinian’s style thing. And apart from possibly in Japan – and that’s an uneducated guess born of watching films and reading the odd bit of manga – I don’t think that there are any schools which actually have uniforms for female pupils which are even vaguely reminiscent of that look.
On reflection, I can’t help but think that the whole thing is not only made up, but probably made up by men in their 30s or beyond with an unhealthy interest in teenage girls (possibly as a result of not being able to talk to them when they were peers). I mean, when I was at school, I looked at some of the girls and thought ‘ooh, she’s nice’, but that was when they were pretty much my only frame of reference for these things, but none of them were wearing that kind of clothing – and let’s be honest, when you’re a teenage boy, you’re onto a bit of a loser as far as the girls in your class (or even year) are concerned, as they’re usually more interested in the Sixth Formers. The ones with cars, who can buy drink and cigarettes with impunity (well, with money, but you know what I mean).
All in all, then, I have a sneaking suspicion that people – and by people, on this occasion I mean men – are kind of deluding themselves about this whole thing. There may be a cultural aspect to it – in the same way that the USA doesn’t have any kind of ‘gas mask fetish’, probably because gas masks weren’t a feature of life there during World War 2, but here in the UK some people get their jollies from such things – but in a slight echo of my post from the other day, it feels a little bit like the whole ‘sexy schoolgirl’ thing has little basis in people’s genuine experience, and is just a myth which has mutated into a preference which has, itself, made its way into the mainstream. And as with so many things, I think it’s worth just taking a moment to examine its roots and see where it came from… and here, I fear, it’s probably some older blokes leching at young girls. That’s not right, is it ?
You might suggest the reason I’m sceptical about this sort of thing is because, at an age when I was actually spending time with schoolgirls, I wasn’t very good at chatting them up, let alone asking them to wear inappropriately sexualised versions of school uniforms, but the fact is, I was pretty happy at the time; I had my comics, a ZX Spectrum, and had accumulated a number of Experience Points for my character in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Not just ordinary Dungeons and Dragons there, note, but Advanced… hmm.
Actually, I might have been aware of the unlikelihood of getting a snog from playing ‘AD&D’, as there was a joke told at the time which me and my friends laughed at, though not without a stab of self-recognition. The joke, such as it was, went thus:
Q – So, if ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ comes after ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, what comes after ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’?
A – Dating.