Why “Hype Central” goes too far


Courtesy of Wes Duggan

Social chair Shayan Hussain poses in the new “Hype Central” video for the football game against Lyons Township on Thursday, Oct. 12.

My freshman year here at Central, I remember sitting in a circle during gym class for one of my biweekly Peer Leadership sessions. One of the peer leaders handed out notecards to each of us and asked us to write down some of the stereotypes people have about Hinsdale Central. Unsurprisingly, everybody wrote the same three things: rich, white, and preppy. The peer leader then went on to describe why those stereotypes weren’t entirely true, even though she knew very well herself that they were.
I’m not saying that every Hinsdale Central student’s parents make over $500,000 a year, live in a house worth millions, and own an equally expensive lake home in Wisconsin. Of course, that would be a gross hyperbole. I’m a testament to the fact that you don’t need to be the child of a doctor or a lawyer or a CEO to go to this school. But what has continuously mystified me is the seemingly overwhelming desire to downplay the role wealth plays at Hinsdale Central.

“Hype Central” is a prime example of that role. From the Ferrari to the lavish mansion worth more than I’ll probably make in a lifetime, it’s obvious that being rich is something a good number of people at our school take pride in. They’re not ashamed of their wealth. In fact, in September, the Devils’ Advocate website uploaded a video entitled “How you know you go to Hinsdale Central.” Among the student responses were “I drive a Jeep,” shop at “Vineyard Vines,” and wear “Patagonia.”
So, if wealth is so prevalent here, why do we continue to act like it doesn’t define us? We say that Hinsdale Central is more than a rich school, that the kids here have the brains and the character, and that we should try to focus on those things instead of the money. And, you know what? There are smart kids here. There are great kids here. I’ve met my fair share of insightful classmates that have made me question my views and dig deeper into opposing arguments. But, the flip side of that still exists in videos like “Hype Central.”
Devils’ Advocate‘s magazine published an op-ed in its November 2016 issue discussing the role wealth plays in school hype videos.

Last year, an op-ed in the Devils’ Advocate magazine described similar hype videos as “cocky, self absorbed and affluent-oriented.” I wouldn’t change anything about that characterization. What I would change is the conclusion. The op-ed previously mentioned went on to justify the existence of hype videos by pointing out the decades-old rivalry between LT and Central and the equally obnoxious attacks from LT. It concluded by advising readers not “to take them so seriously.” I’m not inclined to believe that the hype videos are all in good fun. I’m also not inclined to believe that Red Devils “maintain more than enough character and sportsmanship to justify our simple jokes” after watching “Hype Central.”

Our hype videos are the opposite of “simple jokes.” They’re a reflection of the culture at our school—a culture that has alienated a significant part of the student body, including me. A discussion in my English class recently prompted me to write this response. What I noticed was that it wasn’t just me who abhorred the whole “we’re rich so we’re better” spiel. A classmate of mine mentioned his surprise when he first came to Central, because people spoke freely about going to their lake homes in Wisconsin, Indiana, or Michigan like everybody had one. I can name countless more examples of how people flaunt their wealth here, whether knowingly or not. I still remember the kid who thought it would be funny to snap a picture of his Tesla while driving, like it wasn’t dangerous or anything. I remember the tailgate debacle, and I’m sure everybody else remembers how the senior class raised over $2,000 in less than three hours just to hire a DJ for tailgate.
I think certain people ought to remember that their wealth is a result of their parents’ work. Congratulations on being born to the right people in the right place at the right time. I’m not sure bragging about being handed the right cards really says much if anything at all.