So you've landed in an evil boarding school. Chances are your parents thought they were doing the right thing: giving you a great education, sending you to the top disciplinarians who will set you on the proper path in life. But there's something wicked going on behind the cute uniforms and impressive alumni list, and you might not survive until graduation. So what's a life-loving student to do? We look to the best in evil boarding school survivalism.
Be warned: there be spoilers below.
Make a powerful ally. When the faculty or student body turns out to be evil, sometimes you just need to find someone bigger and badder than your evil school. If you're lucky enough to get the Doctor teaching at your school (Doctor Who "Human Nature"), he can bail you out when your peers and neighbors get themselves possessed by aliens. And if you're Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. Batgirl, you can always depend on Batman to help you punch and kick your way out of the evil assassin death cult that is St. Hadrian's Finishing School (Batman Incorporated "Leviathan Strikes!").
In some cases, though, that powerful ally is just as interested in your education (and potentially just as nefarious) as your alma mater. In Tom Siddell's Gunnerkrigg Court, Antimony's eponymous school is filled with dark, sometimes murderous secrets. When she befriends the school's rival, the trickster god Coyote, he has her tutored in the ways of magic. After all, if you give a girl a rescue, she's safe from her evil boarding school for a day. Teach a girl to rescue herself, and she might just bring the whole institution down with her.
Get someone to smuggle you out. All that torture got you down? Sick of the faculty trying to turn you and your classmates into superpowered assassins? Maybe it's time to take a break — a gap year while you travel the outer planets and find yourself out in the black. But the best evil boarding schools don't let kids just wander off. Firefly's River Tam isn't fazed by silly rules or sadistic doctors who censor her mail. She still manages to send coded messages out to her beloved (and thankfully rich) brother, who's more than happy to bust her out.
Suck up to the faculty. Unless you're spending class time in an isolated surgical room where people are hack at your brain, you get two choices in evil boarding school: you can side with your classmates or you can side with your teachers. Nine times out of ten, joining up with your fellow prisoners is the way to make it to graduation. But in Morning Glories, junior sociopath Ike gets a better offer from the staff of his killer new high school. In exchange for betraying his Scooby crew of fellow freshmen, Ike gets to move out of his triple bedroom into a swanky suite, plus all the booze and short-skirted girls he can stand. Given the gory horrors that lurk behind every door at Morning Glory Academy, numbing yourself with drugs and sex might be a better plan than making friends.
Escape to Narnia. CS Lewis' The Silver Chair starts in the ominously named Experiment House, where bullies may do as they please, and the headmistress has little interest in discipline. Fortunately for Jill Pole, her new pal Eustace Scrubb knows how to get to Narnia without the use of a wardrobe. And eventually, they join up with Aslan and use his Jesus lion powers to throw out the bullies and headmistress and turn Experiment House into a nice Christian school.
Don't participate in extracurricular activities. Not everyone at Marvel's prestigious Massachusetts Academy is a member of the mutant Hellions, but headmistress Emma Frost takes her brightest and most genetically peculiar students under her wing. Hellions learn to use their powers for the benefit of the shadowy Hellfire Club, but they also don't have a terribly high survival rate. Plus, I'm not sure you can list "Hellion" on your college applications.
Make great art. The academics aren't terribly rigorous at Hailsham, the boarding school for cloned children in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, but there's a heavy emphasis on fine arts. As they leave Hailsham for less opulent quarters, some students come to believe that if they can prove they've fallen in love, they can wait an extra few years before they have to donate their organs to non-clones — and their artwork might be a litmus test for their ability to love. As it turns out the art was the key to their survival, but to prove clones have souls. What does that say about schools that are cutting the arts?
Get with the program. If you're able to thwart your school's plot for global domination, you're going to a real bush-league evil boarding school. In The Outer Limits episode "Straight and Narrow," Ryan Phillippe lands in a boarding school that's transforming its students into morally bankrupt corporate executives devoid of free will. When Phillippe tries to thwart a corporate assassination, he's simply carted back to school by the vast conspiracy. I imagine he lasted about five minute before the last bits of his personality and will got sucked out of his ear. The upside is that he probably got a good decade wearing baby seal-skin gloves before he contributed to the global financial meltdown.
Drop out. Even the best boarding school can go bad when the wrong people are sitting at the helm. When Dumbledore goes to that great wizard's tower in the sky, leaving his double agent Snape in charge of the school, the Death Eaters move in and turn Harry Potter's once-happy haven into a Voldemort stronghold. So Harry and his pals decide to get out of dodge. But I guess hunting down Voldemort's horcruxes and defeating the Dark Lord is the wizarding world's equivalent of a GED.
Lowell Academy, the Martian boarding school from Robert Heinlein's Red Planet, is pretty terrible from the get-go. But it's not until Jim Marlowe and Frank Sutton learn that their headmaster plans to block the annual migration colonists (the one that keeps them from freezing to death) that they run away from school. Handily, the colonists decide that the academy would a rather nice winter shelter — whether the headmaster likes it or not.
And in Vertigo's new book A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division a group of teenagers lives inside a concentrated media testing center that plans to turn children into pure consumers. When the teens decide they're sick of being used and abused to pad someone else's bottom line, they ascend to a higher consciousness, leaving only their blank bodies behind.
But running away doesn't always work out. In X-Men Noir, an alternate reality comic where none of the X-Men have superpowers, psychiatrist Charles Xavier invites sociopathic teenagers to living at his boarding school, where he hones their criminal talents. Grifter Jean Grey decides she wants out, and cons her way out to safety — which works well right up until she gets herself pushed off a roof.
Burn the school to the ground. Pyromania is the best way to deal with evil girls' schools of the supernatural variety: Suspiria, Satan's School for Girls, Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall, and The Woods all see their spooky boarding schools taken down in a blazing inferno. Sometimes the administrators — who are usually witches, demonic cult leaders, or exploitative mediums — go down with the burning ship, but sometimes they walk out of the flames, living to start another all-girls' school.
Die. Death may seem like an extreme solution to a little old evil school (and not one you're likely to survive), but occasionally it's the way to go. When, in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, the gates of Hell close and all the dead souls are expelled, scores of dead boys return to St. Hilarion's, their old boarding school. They conveniently show up during a school holiday, when the only living student hanging around is Charles Rowland. St. Hilarion's was a gloomy enough place before the damned souls appeared, but it's downright deadly with them around. A few of the more sadistic ghosts torture Charles, mortally wounding him. But once Charles dies himself, he decides unlife isn't so bad — after all, it finally gives him an excuse to leave damned St. Hilarion's.