In pretty much EVERY high school movie you ever see, there is one typical objective: Get the Guy! Sure, you have your 10 Things I Hate About You which oh so smoothly changes the purpose to Get the Girl, or Superbad, which is not so much Get the Girl as Lose Your Virginity to the Girl and then realize that all you really wanted was a deep relationship with your pervy friends, but you get the point.
Most of the movies directed towards female viewers, although they may pretend to be about getting into a great college (A Cinderella Story) or playing soccer at an all boy’s school (She’s the Man) are really about getting the perfect guy.
Usually, this whole romance aspect isn’t a problem. Who was it that said “Every great story is a romance?” According to Google, no one said that. Maybe it was just my dad. Anyways, like many teenage girls, I adore romances, all though I do think that the teen movie portrayals of them is ridiculous. I mean seriously, the characters never talk to each other. They just stare adoringly in class and then fall madly in love. And every Taylor Swift song, I mean c’mon…okay that’s a rant for another post, but what was I saying? Right, the romances themselves don’t bother me. It’s the fact that with all of these romances, they involve pitting the saintly nice girl against the “bad girl” ( a.k.a the stereotypical popular bitch) in order to win the guy of their dreams.
Let’s start with A Cinderella Story, one of my favorite movies, category Crying Hilary Duff. If you haven’t seen it, the plot goes something like this: beautiful, intelligent Sam lives under her evil stepmother’s thumb and dreams of going to Princeton ( get it because Cinderella) and has an online relationship with Austin Ames, the hottest and most popular guy in school. Everything’s great until, oh no, she agrees to meet Austin at the masquerade Halloween ball and thus has to face the actual realities of a relationship because surprise! he has a girlfriend.
The reason I like this movie so much is because of Hilary Duff. Say what you want about her, but she’s a beautiful crier. Like seriously, she be in full on sob mode and still look like a model.
The relationship that she and Austin have is pretty normal compared to most teen movies. They both like books and poetry and are smart kids trapped in a school where everyone is a flaming idiot. Their problems are relateable- he’s a football player who just wants to write (oh the sadness! To be popular, handsome, and athletic…my heart bleeds) but his dad wants him to own their family carwash. And Sam wants to go to college, but her step-mom won’t pay for it (because Princeton is expensive as fuck man) and basically tells her that Sam’s future is being a dishwasher at their diner. So good movie, interesting supporting characters (Sam’s best friend is hilarious) and that quintessential early 2000s look from H-Duff. God, I love that hairstyle.
So what’s the problem? Austin’s girlfriend, Shelby. Even though they break up pretty early in the movie, Shelby presents a constant issue for Sam. She calls her “Diner Girl,” which according to Sam’s cry face is a pretty horrible insult (I mean, I get that they live in a rich community, but is it really so odd for someone to a have a job?). She tries to undermine Austin’s affection for Sam, which is understandable coming from a jealous ex-girlfriend, by pointing out how poor and nerdy Sam is. She even stages a pep rally with the express purpose to humiliate Sam (girl would have been expelled, for real tho) and does other various bitchy things. She’s the exact opposite of Sam: rich, popular, and powerful.
Her only purpose is to be Sam’s foil, and that’s the problem. When we look at Shelby, we see all the reasons that Austin should date Sam. Because she’s nice, and she’s pretty but she doesn’t try too hard, and goddamn it she needs him. But who is Shelby when she’s not tormenting Sam? There must have been something that Austin saw in her when they first started dating, else why would he have stayed with her so long? The only reason she’s the villain in this story is because she once dated Austin, and therefore stands for everything that Sam hates. Sure, she’s a bitch, but so are a lot of girls. Does that make them evil? It makes them human, which Sam (although I love her), with all of her self-effacing modesty and effortless beauty, never seems to be.
Next, let’s look at Sydney White. Another take on the fairy tale, except this time it’s Snow White, who in my opinion is such a shitty princess. I mean, come on, she convinces the huntsman not to kill her with her BEAUTY? God no. And the only reason she doesn’t die in the woods is because she agrees to do housework, which she is obsessed with, for a bunch of weird dwarves, and then dies from the poison apple even though the dwarves TOLD HER TO NEVER OPEN THE DOOR TO STRANGERS! And while she’s dead all the dwarves are like “man what a pity that such a beautiful girl died, not like we can dislodge the apple without a prince to help us. Oh well, let’s just leave her in the forest in a glass casket where any rando can find her.”
Anyway, Sydney White is another one of those goody goody teen characters. Her last name is White, for godsakes. Can the purity metaphor be any more obvious? She has to rush a sorority where there’s a tyrannical president named Rachel Witchburn ( yeah no subtlety), but gets kicked out because Rachel finds out that her boyfriend Tyler Prince (enuff said) is jonesin for Sydney. Why is he jonesin for her? No reason except that she’s the exact opposite of Rachel, his current girlfriend.
Sydney has dark hair ( and really tanned skin for some reason), while Rachel’s a blonde. Sydney’s a “tomboy”, which means she can get down and dirty (her dad’s a plumber, natch) and wears sneakers with her dresses, while Rachel likes to wear girly clothing. God, I hate those bitches. They dress like girls or something. And Sydney is a self proclaimed “dork”, while all Rachel cares about is being the hottest girl in school.
I don’t have a problem with the movie’s message, which is all about accepting yourself and others for their quirkiness and yada yada self help bullshit. I just hate that Sydney is the epitome of a “nice girl” because she sets herself apart from all the fake sorority crap. Being a tomboy, or having dark hair, doesn’t make you a good person, just as being blond and being in a sorority doesn’t make you a heinous bitch. Rachel is a bitch, just like Shelby in A Cinderella Story, but that’s all she is. We’re forced to hate her even though she has no character development and her personality is paper thin. And therefore, Sydney deserves to win Tyler away from Rachel because she’s a nice girl and Rachel isn’t. The movie tells us impressionable younguns to reject stereotypes, while at the same time promoting them. Crazy, huh? So why are so many teen movies like this?
Basically as deep as this music video
To name a few more that I believe fit this category: Hairspray, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Mean Girls (all though it’s a lot more self-aware then the other ones) Aquamarine, Another Cinderella Story, Angus,Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and Heathers ( even though I adore this movie).
Not an extensive list because I haven’t seen many 80s or 90s teen movies, but still I believe that this is a problem. Maybe I’m crazy, but I want to see a movie where if the conflict is getting the guy, which it so often is, then the two opposing characters are not polar opposites. Why does it always have to be the bitchy popular person vs. the tomboy? I’m still in high school, and the “popular” people in my school are not evil. Sure, they tend to be conformists and I wouldn’t want to hang out with them, but they’re not bad girls. It doesn’t really make sense for the popular girl to make an enemy of someone who realistically wouldn’t run in the same circles as her. The tomboy girl also wouldn’t be hanging out with the super athletic popular guy, because if we stay in line with her anti-coolness attitude, she wouldn’t be attracted to him. I just want a movie between two people who are actually alike, and have common interests, and all that real life bullshit.
I think the 2010s have brought us better offerings. I really enjoyed the Spectacular Now, even though it sort of follows that popular guy- nerdy girl formula, because I thought they made a believable couple and they had real conversations. I also liked Easy A for the same reasons.
Anyways, to end the post on a non-sequitor, here’s some more gifs of Hilary Duff crying. Enjoy!