One of the many goals of Netflix's American Vandal is to capture the high school experience. It's far from the first television show to attempt such a feat, and it will certainly not be the last, but American Vandal takes a unique approach to the subject. American Vandal places Hanover High School, which is at the center of a massive scandal — and this inspires a Making A Murderer-style investigation of the teachers and students in an attempt to solve the mystery at hand. Over the course of eight episodes, the show explores the good, the bad, and the shady of Hanover High, but don't be fooled. Hanover High School isn't a real school — at least not as American Vandal presents it.
A Google search for Hanover High School brings up real schools in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina (go Wildcats!). But, there's no matching school in Oceanside, California like in the show. It seems that the Hanover High School in American Vandal is meant to be a stand-in for your average high school to make it more relatable. American Vandal's Hanover High — just like the real Hanover High Schools, and many all over the country — is set in the in suburbs with vibrant greenery and long stretches of road connecting the schools to their respective towns. In fact, naming its central school Hanover High School was a perfect choice for American Vandal, because it makes the a story about more than just one high school. American Vandal is a story about all high schools.
While the specific crime that sparks the action of American Vandal — someone spray painted penises on 27 faculty cars — isn't based on the events of a real high school, everything else about American Vandal will feel familiar to anyone who attended a high school in a small town. The relationships, the teachers, the sense of boredom that apparently inspires such ambitious acts of vandalism. American Vandal is a very silly show, but it is serious about high school. In a way, Hanover High School is similar to one of the most famous towns in television history — Springfield.
Springfield is the home of the nearly countless number of characters in The Simpsons. Despite the fact that the show has been around for 28 seasons, it has never been revealed what state Springfield resides in. There are real towns named Springfield all around the United States of America, and The Simpsons can freely pretend to be any version of Springfield it would like to be. This helps The Simpsons be the perfect stand-in for any American town, just as Hanover High School proves to be the perfect stand-in for any American high school.
And, for a few high school students in America, the location of the school will look even more familiar than your average "everyschool" would. According to the San Diego Reader, American Vandal filmed some shots at the real Oceanside High School — the very real town it takes place in.
American Vandal takes the "true" in its "true crime parody" with a grain of salt, since it's not a real story. But, by using the familiar structure and tropes of popular true crime shows like Making A Murderer and Serial, and by utilizing a high school setting that feels familiar to everyone — it maintains the truth of the subject matter that it's lampooning. Hanover High School may not be real, but the fact that it feels real just goes to show just how much work went into American Vandal, and how much those choices will pay off when people sit down to watch on Sept. 15.