June 8th, 2005


She's All That

Internet is down so this will be my first time backdating an update.

I watched a movie tonight. Actually, I watched two: Kingdom of Heaven and She’s All That. KoH wasn’t very good and in any even there’s not a whole lot to say about it. There’s a surprising amount to talk about with She’s All That.

In case you don’t remember, SAT came out back when most of us were in high school. I was a junior or senior year – I can’t recall which – which means you were whatever year you were. The plot of the movie revolves around a bet Freddie Prince Jr. makes with the evil blond guy that he can turn geeky Rachel Leigh Cook into prom queen in six weeks. I was very offended by the movie when it came out. I’m openly geek the way Angel is openly gay, and having someone tell me that I was unhappy with this and really just wanted to fit in with the popular kids upset me. Naturally the in-dialogue claims that that wasn’t what was happening only angered me further, and Lord protect Hollywood from the wrath of an angsty high school student.

Despite this I watched it tonight because of my closet penchant for sappy romantic movies, but that’s a topic for another night (or possibly later in this post. I haven’t decided yet). I’m not quite sure what to make of it now. Oh the movie is still horribly done; it doesn’t need Not Another Teen Movie, it’s already a parody of itself. The dialogue is awful, the plot tenuous at best, and the production values sorely lacking. Throw in the fact that A) Freddie can’t act, and 4) there’s no way you’ll ever convince me that nobody realized Rachel Leigh Cook was attractive, and you have the recipe for one Hell of a bad movie. Nonetheless it continues to draw me in and keep me entertained. Redundant question: Why is that?

Redundant answer: When I first saw She’s All That I think I was thrown off by the title. The title – to say nothing of the superficial plot of the entire movie – implies that Rachel just wants to be accepted by the popular kids, that all her active rejection of them is just a preemptive strike so that she never has to risk being rejected by them. The title and the dénouement at the prom imply that she is happiest when the popular kids realize what a wonderful person she is. In this reading her climactic kiss with Freddie at the end is a mere afterthought, a recognition by the movie’s positive icon that she has achieved social success. What hope than for those who don’t achieve such mass social success? And do the writers really mean that anyone who does reject popularity as a goal is simply repressing?

The flaw with this reading is the implied sociality. It’s not that Rachel wants everyone to accept her, it’s that she wants someone to accept her. Yes she has the fat guy (why didn’t they make him gay? He is so fucking flaming!) but as he says, he’s known her since they were two. She wants someone new to accept her.

But I’m not cool with that either. External validation should never be a goal because it will never be enough. One will always be driven for constant validation of one’s worth and, when Rachel grows inured to Freddie as she has to the fat, should-have-been-gay guy, then she’ll be just as unhappy and need to seek someone else to validate her worth. This is exactly what’s happened to Taylor (Freddie’s ex-girlfriend. Get with the program).

But this reading still doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t explain why the movie’s ending feels happy if it’s really just a stop-gap. Well I was originally offended because of personal implications, so maybe personal introspection will have positive implications on the movie (that logic works, right?).

When I came to Beloit I made an active decision to be more socially involved. I was tired of being a hermit and I wanted to have friends, both close and casual. In a large way I feel like I’ve succeeded, particularly in the second half of this semester (but that’s a topic for another post). Socializing is fun. Having friends is fun. I enjoy it and am glad that many of my friendships have started to grow closer. But I don’t feel like I regard social acceptance as self-validation. That’s what my ego’s for.

So the question becomes: was Rachel happy because she had Freddie or because she had Freddie’s approval?

I was about to type that he movie tries to claim the former but provides no evidence to support such a statement, when I realized that it does. In the third act (almost all movies have three acts: a beginning, a middle, and an end) the evil blond guy starts pursuing Rachel Leigh Cook. He woos her, seems to be sincere, honest, sweet, and to genuinely care about her. Naturally he is just trying to get in her pants, but this is more so the audience doesn’t storm out in disgust when Rachel chooses questionable Freddie over the blond guy, but Rachel doesn’t know about this.

From her perspective she has two choices: Freddie, who she likes and possibly loves but has had a rocky history with, or a good looking, intelligent, sincere, popular boy who risked his prom on the chance he might take her. Blond guy could just as easily validate her. She chooses Freddie, not for any other reason than that she wants him. It is her choice.

That’s all for tonight. It’s 4:45 AM. Views on romantic movies in general will have to wait for another time.