High school is all about trying to fit in despite the constant judgment and stereotyping by others. This is a concept that is present in almost every television portrayal of this tumultuous time in the lives of youth, and is the core of Freaks and Geeks. As the title suggests, every student fits into a certain predetermined category, and the show focuses on the freaks and the geeks.
Lindsay is struggling to find out who she is and where she belongs, and in this search for herself she is transitioning from the geek group to the freak group. Even though she is unsure of whom she is, the rest of the school seems to be pretty sure that she is a geek and nothing else. Her struggle to depart from the constructed image that everyone has of her is really introduced when she first goes out on the “smoking patio” with Daniel.
Daniel and Lindsay walk out onto the patio as some rebellious rock tune plays in the background, and Lindsay hesitates. Daniel doesn’t seem to notice and walks towards his friends, leaving Lindsay behind and alone. She looks unsure of herself, but seems to get a small burst of confidence and walks towards “the freaks.” The music fades as Daniel introduces Lindsay to Ken and Nick who remain reclined on the bleachers. The first thing that Nick says to Lindsay is “you were in my English class last year right? You’re that chick that got an A.” This establishes the fact that Lindsay is stereotyped as a geek; that when people look at her all they see is the smart girl. Lindsay tries to downplay her nerdiness and jokingly replies “yeah well, what are you gonna do?” Ken looks at her judgmentally and responds “I don’t know, what are you gonna do?” Will Lindsay be able to part with her geek image and prove to them that she is a freak? Nick and Daniel seem to laugh the comment off but Lindsay looks a bit disturbed by it. She realizes the comment is a challenge.
Lindsay brings up the dance and the guys jokingly attack her for it. They obviously disapprove of such a lame suggestion of going to the dance. Daniel looks down at his feet as if he is embarrassed for her, and then sits down with the other two guys. There is now a visual separation between Lindsay, who is standing, and “the freaks,” who are all sitting on the bleachers. She is once again isolated, just like when she entered onto the patio.
Then Millie shows up, and Lindsay is literally in between the freaks and the geeks. As she turns to look at Millie, I’d like to think that she’s remembering Ken’s comment asking her what she’s going to do. She makes a choice in this moment, and she chooses the freaks. As the camera switches between shots of Millie, and shots of Lindsay standing with “the freaks”, each seem distant from each other. There is a widening gap between Lindsay’s old life as a geek and her new life as a freak. This scene is the moment where she makes the decision to reinvent and prove herself as a freak, and sets up Lindsay’s dilemma for the rest of the series. Unfortunately for Lindsay, due to shallow high school stereotyping, she has to conform to one or the other, and can never really be herself.