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Perspective | Celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Zits” as an educator

I am a regular reader of the comic strip “Zits,” which made its debut 25 years ago this past summer. Written by Jerry Scott and illustrated by Jim Borgman, “Zits” focuses on the experiences of Jeremy Duncan, a 17-year-old high school student. 

Jeremy relives his junior year in high school over and over again. Every August, Jeremy finishes his quirky summer job and then finds himself right back at the beginning of his junior year. 

As an English professor in my 39th year at UNC Charlotte, I can relate to Jeremy’s annual pushing of the reset button. Indeed, my impression is that all teachers who have taught for many years, no matter what the grade level, feel like they are pushing a reset button with the start of each school year. 

Part of me wants to tell Jeremy to drop all of his AP courses since he is never going to make it to college. Another part of me wants to tell him to make the most of this latest version of his junior year, for with each new school year comes a new set of stories. 

As the school year unfolds, Jeremy and his friends participate in many school functions, such as their high school’s homecoming dance. This year, Jeremy and his rag-tag rock band attempt to perform at the dance. Things go awry, however, for things always seem to go awry for Jeremy. In this case, Jeremy has his rock ’n’ roll moves down pat, but nobody can hear him because he has no extension cord that he can use to plug in his electric guitar. Like many teenagers, Jeremy goes through lots of ups and downs as he attempts to navigate his life as a high school student, but he always seems to be ready for the next adventure in his endless junior year.

In the beginning of every semester, I have a sense that the grand tempo of my life is about to start all over again. For me at least, there is something reassuring about having the opportunity to come up with new variations on a familiar theme. Although the story of each school year has a similar overarching plot, the characters change, the details of the setting change, and in some ways, my viewpoint changes. 

Such variations are what keep me reading “Zits,” and such variations are what cause me to look forward to teaching a new batch of students. 

While I would be happy to have Jeremy show up in one of my classes, I know that’s unlikely given that he is a fictional character stuck in an endless time loop. Still, I have plenty of students who remind me of Jeremy, and that’s good enough for me.

Mark I. West

Mark I. West is a Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he teaches courses on children’s and young adult literature.