“Bruce Patman’s Advice for Dating”

Actual product sold at the fund raiser*.

I find it interesting, since the last post about Lila’s Story, all the love for Lila coming through. I’m not excluding myself from this, you all know my love for Lila. In fact, so much that I role play Lila (halp!) I also know a good chunk of us would consider giving it up for Bruce Patman in the backseat of 1BruCE1 (again, myself included, god help me).

The question is, even today, as adult, smart, strong, independent women, we still find Lila and Bruce to be the “favorites.” Why is that? Shouldn’t we, looking back, realize that the characters we should like the most are, say, Olivia Davidson? She’s smart, artsy, independent and likes to go against the crowd? What about Liz, who is loyal to her friends, likes to write, and is passionate about issues? We still find them irritating. Yet we find a gal who is essentially a spoiled brat who gets her rocks off putting down others. (Sorry Lila, you know it’s true girl)

It makes sense for us as pre-teens to love them because as pre-teens we are told through peers and media that money and looks are what matters. True, that message is still around us all the time, but as adults, shouldn’t we have a better time seeing through that? I think it is that Francine (aka ghostwriters) did such a good job of consciously AND unconsciously validating the characteristics of the rich, good looking characters and making them the protagonists, and having the other characters always ruining their fun. So much to the point that even today, we as adults rereading them root for the Bruces and the Lilas of the story.

I’m not calling anyone else about that, because I consider myself one of these people. I find myself cheering when Lila makes a snarky comment or devises an evil plan and rolling my eyes whenever Liz brings up some issue about basic human goodwill. If all of us smart women of today are buying into that, what hope was there for us as awkward tweens?

Anyway, moving on to Bruce. I gotta say, I wanted more insight into Bruce’s mind. How does he feel about all the women he’s (supposedly) conquested? Does he keep a Barney Stinson-esque list? What are his techniques? How often does he look at himself naked in the mirror and talk to his cock? Does he even have any male friends? Does he actually talk to anyone in the senior class? Sorry, none of that. We get a watered down narrative about Bruce’s temper tantrums and his rich white man problems.

I want to take a swim in his chin cleft.

Furthermore, Bruce doesn’t even get the point of view narrative through the whole thing! The twins even get some screentime! And, as we are reminded for the gazillionth time, Roger has just moved in after he found out he is a Patman, and he is having a hard time adjusting to the new lifestyle. Ok, we get it. Just eat some caviar and enjoy it already. He is happy that Bruce is finally acting like a friend. The ice queen Marie Patman still hates him. Man, she is a piece of work.

Strangley, we get a Claudia Kishi-esque description of Bruce’s outfit:

Bruce was wearing a navy linen sports coat and an imported silk tie. The creases in his gray trousers looked as if they’d been cut with a knife. He had even slicked his hair back with a dab of gel. Bruce looked fantastic- his dark, chiseled good looks shown off to their best advantage.

Grandpa Patman is paying them all a visit, who started the big Patman fortune (I thought they were old money?) Gramps prides Bruce in being Bruce, and chides Roger for having his shirt untucked and not caring about the family business. Like Bruce does? He spends most of his time stroking 1BRUCE1, pressing pleats into his chinos and lightly brushing girls’ breasts.

A typical Friday night for Bruce.

Gramps proposes a contest between the two boys- he gives them two thousand dollars each, and gives them four weeks to see who can make the most profit off of it. What then ensues is some of the dumbest hijinks ever. Hold that thought.

Meanwhile, SVH has dopted project SAVE, and one member of each of the grades is selected to the committee. I’ll give you three guesses who the junior class rep is. Tracy Atkins is the senior class rep, and Bruce is getting a hard on for her because she just got a new haircut that according to him, makes her look like “a supermodel”. Bruce is obsessed with her, despite her disinterest in him. She’s got no personality, kind of a hybrid of Liz and pe-makeover Lynne Henry. Oh no wait, her “special needs” little brother goes to the Nicholson school that project SAVE is fund raising for. Apparently, the school needs five thousand dollars to stay open another year. Jeez. What sort of crap school is this? Taught out of a cardboard box? That pays for crayons, maybe.

Also, Regina is never mentioned by Bruce, nor is Bruce’s feelings about her death. Supposedly it happened during that school year, but either he is totally over it or the ghostwriters didn’t want to bother with that extremely important plot point. Also, he interacts with Liz, who finds him slightly annoying. Did he not remember the coma-date-rape incident? Tracy Atkins asks Liz for advice about Bruce, and Liz is all, “if you like him go for it!” What a friend.

Bruce has a 1BRUCE1 fender-bender and needs it fixed, so that’s $500. Then he decides to buy $100 concert tix to surprise Tracy with. Who declines him after Bruce shows up at her house unannounced expecting her to drop everything and go with him. The nerve of that girl! Bruce can hardly believe it either. Then Bruce plays poker with some guys from the country club, and loses seven hundred dollars. Roger meanwhile, is unsuccessfully at the stock market. Yes, this sounds riveting, doesn’t it?

Liz and her saint-in-training Tracy think of the perfect fund raising idea: Harbor Days! For two Saturdays, vendors will set up booths in the park and give half the profits to the charity. Any SVH student can also set up a booth. That is….not really a good fund raising idea. Plus, the four students seem to pull this together in about three days with no adult help. Chya right. Bruce first decides that he wants to sell copies of his black book of all hot girls’ phone numbers. For real, he really thinks this is a good idea. Luckily Tracy come up with the idea that Bruce should sell “Bruce Patman’s advice for Dating” books. So, he writes the book in like a day and they create copies and are ready to go. Here’s a sample:

What do you say to a girl you’ve just met who you want to go out with? A. You’re gorgeous, B. I dive a Porsche. Want a Ride? C. You’re in for the best night of your life now that you’ve met me. D. All of the above.

Roger decides to sell white caps that he will custom make for people. What? Who will buy those? Since when is he a good artist? Oh, it was the eighties. Bruce, being Bruce, sabotages his paint and trades the waterproof paint for water soluble paint and gets a kid to start throwing water balloons on them. Ruh-roh! For the second Harbor Days, Roger sells enlarged photographs taken by Jim, that guy who started the photography club. Bruce decides to sell homeade ice cream. Yes, it is that ridiculous. Bruce has a plan to once again sabotage Roger’s photo paper, but doesn’t at the last minute. That makes him think he is a hero.

Tracy finds out about Bruce’s antics and breaks it off with him, and Bruce gets a bit of a guilt complex and ends up just giving all his money to the SAVE charity. And, fior that matter, why is SAVE always capitalized? Is it an acronym? So, at his parents coming-home-from-vacation-surprise-party-that-for-some-reason-SVH-students-were-invited-to, Grandpa Patman wants to declare a winner of the contest. Turns out Roger also gave his profits to charity, so they are both broke. Grandpa Patman realizes the error of his ways and apologizes for the contest. Hank Patman also says that Patman industries will be the benefactor of the Nicholson school and it will never have to close. Seriously, he could have decided that sooner so the Project SAVE committee wouldn’t have to go through all the trouble. A tie is declared. Does that mean they will both run the company? Neither? Never really resolved. Are we surprised? Nope.

I wish this never existed. It didn’t do anything to redeem Bruce, and it didn’t to anything to make us hate Bruce, in a good way. Only when he is a secondary character in other books do we get his one-eyebrow-raised, smarmy remarks that we love so much. Here he seemed- developmentally challenged. And not just immature in the way he deals with girls, but seriously challenged socially and mentally. He is completely clueless on picking up the social cues of others, and not just because he was too confident. But because he just…couldn’t. And aside from a brief fling with Tracy and a poker game with someone he knew somewhat, no friends were mentioned. Really, Bruce? Is that why you try to fill that void in your soul with fast cars and innocent women? We can’t expect the ghostwriters to be that deep.

*Cover done by my amazing friend John who has an uncanny talent for creating fake album/book covers.

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The Fresh Prince of Sweet Valley, or #16 Rags to Riches

Just a warning, this one is so beyond ridiculous. Everyone’s annoying personality traits are magnified by about a thousand. And I want to fucking kill them all.

Jessica’s boobs look really weird. And Roger looks…not right. Like he has the smirk of an annoying sitcom little brother. On the body of a 35 year old. If his collar was popped anymore, it would turn into a display rack at Hollister.

If you remember, Roger is so poor that -gasp!- he has to work as a janitor after school to support his single mother. Apparently, at the end of the past book, Roger’s mother dies of cancer. After she dies he finds out he is part of the Patman family and heir to the Patman inheritance- his father was actually Bruce’s dad’s brother. So now he is living in the Patman estate. And the patmans are planning on throwing a big party at the Sweet Valley country club to instroduce Roger as a patman into a society. Almost like a debutante coming out thing, I guess.

How convenient that at the beginning of the book Roger is recapping the last few weeks’ events to his girlfriend Olivia. Ok,so his mother worked for Henry (Bruce’s dad) and Paul, his brother. Paul had an affair with Mama Barrett, got her knocked up and then died in a fiery crash. Unbeknownst to everyone, he left his inheritance to Rog. As he tells it,

“I guess my mother fell in love with Paul Patman, and they spent more and more time together, and-” Roger stopped, his face turning red. “I understand, Roger” Olivia said softly.

Mama Barrett was fooling around with Patman and gets knocked up. AND ROGER IS TOO EMBARASSED TO TALK ABOUT IT. Like 16 year old boys are embarassed to talk about sex. I swear, everyone in Sweet Valley has no genitals, like Alan Rickman in Dogma.

Jessica feels she lost her chance to hang around the Patman family when she struck out with Bruce, so she decides she wants to be Roger’s date to the big party, not Olivia. So they are at a BBQ at the patman’s and she sucks up to Mrs. Patman, Bruce’s mom and Roger’s aunt. Mama Patman likes Jessica’s je ne sais quoi (i.e., her Aryan good looks) and helps Jessica plot to get Olivia out of the picture. See, the Patmans don’t approve of Olivia, because-gasp!- she has frizzy hair! And wears flowy skirts and sandals! And likes poetry! How is she not stoned on the streets of Sweet Valley?

Meanwhile, Roger is having a hard time living at the Patman’s. Bruce is being a big dick to him, and Mama Patman hates him. Because he likes to run and not play tennis. Or some other dumb reason. He feels out of place at the Patman estate. His bedroom is large and wooden and has a large four poster bed. What? They don’t let him decorate? He has to live in a replica of a Tudor’s bedroom? He is at a dinner party for the Patman’s friends and he spills wine or something and Bruce and mama P act as if he killed someone. Papa Patman (who we are told is called Henry Wilson Patman) is the only one that is nice to Roger and tried to make him feel welcome. How is he not aware that his wife is a wicked old harpy and his son is a date rapist?

Meanwhile, Jess starts sucking up to Olivia and pretends to help her become someone the patmans would approve of. Liv continually feels like an ass and assumes she is embarassing Roger. For one, at a BBQ she feels like an ass because…she has a full plate of food. Yup, that makes her an ass because she eats more than 400 calories a day.

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE.

This is incredibly infuriating. If Olivia is supposed to be all independent and free spiritied, why should she care about changing her image and fall for Jessica’s manipulations? And if she and Rog are supposed to be so close, WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST TALK TO HIM ABOUT IT? Ugh. Way to make your semi-respectable characters act like shitheads.

Oh wait, it gets worse. Olivia is supposedly one of Elizabeth’s bffs, so you would think she would get suspicious of Jessica’s interest and I don’t know, maybe defend Olivia? But no, Liz decides she should just mind her own business and let Olivia suffer alone. What an asshole.

Jessica takes Olivia shopping at a trendy boutique, and Olivia remarks that she can’t tell which are the salesgirls and which are the mannequins. Apparently, she’s retarded.

Liz is busy being a total douche to another friend- Reginia Morrow, the rich deaf girl, has been leaving early from school. So, instead of just, oh, I don’t know, asking her friend if she is okay, she and Todd gossip like little girls about it and sneak around and follow her when she leaves after school. They see her with an older ma downtown. Lila is totes jealz of Regina because Regina usurped her position as the only rich brunette teenager in Sweet Valley, and also sees Regina with the older guy and spreads the rumor round that Regina has a sugar daddy. Obvs, this is juicy news over in SVH because they give a shit about the dumbest things.

Oh, so it turns out the older guy is the editor of Ingenue magazine (I guess it is like Cosmo?) and his job is to scout out young teenage girls to profile and model for the cover. Yup, that’s his job. Also, how convenient that the headquarters of a major mag is in SVH.

Reginia is profiled because of her ability to overcome the struggle of being deaf. Okay, no disrespect to the deaf community, but….has Reginia really struggled? her parents are loaded and therefore have been able to get her every treatment available and even had her in a special private school for the deaf her whole life. Not everyone deaf child has that luxury. Also, she is lauded for being able to lip-read perfectly and speak “perfectly”. Again, isn’t that conforming to dominant society and seeing her deafness as abnormal?

In reading this I was already up to my armpits in ridiculousness, but here is the kicker. We learn why Regina is deaf. Her mother used to be a famous model, and when she got preggers with Regina, she was going to quit, but she got one more offer to do a swimsuit shoot, but was told she needed to lose ten ponds, so she took a lot of diet pills which ruined Regina’s ears in the womb. THE FUCK? This made mama Morrow have to give up modeling, and ever since Regina was born, she also had hoped that Regina could model omeday. EVER SINCE SHE WAS BORN? Isn’t that the most awful expectation for a child? Francine thought she was making a tragic background story, I guess.

So back to the Patmans. Jessica tells Olivia the dress she made for herself is fugly, and embarasses her while playing tennis with Bruce and Roger, and other stuid manipulative stuff. Olivia finally breaks up with Roger over it. Both of them are so fucking stupid about it. Jessica convnces doormat Roger to take her to the country club. When they are there he realizes his mistake and declares his love for Olivia in front of everyone, much to Mama Patman’s chagrin. Papa Patman sets her straight and says that Roger is part of the family, so fucking deal with it. Papa patman is the only bearable person in the story.

Other thoughts:

Roger really doesn’t ever mention his grief over his dead mother…

Mama Patman walks around is silk loungewear holding a martini glass. What is this, Falcon Crest?

The SVH cafeteria serves Hungarian ghoulash, in case you cared. Why is Lila eating school lunch anyway?

In his free time, Bruce heads up to the university to cruise on college girls. Do they really want to hang around with a high school boy?

Also, Bruce apparently wears a teeny tiny speedo. Todd says it looks like a band-aid. Gay much?

Contiuity error: is this really the first time Jessica is meeting the Patmans? When she was dating Bruce, didn’t she hang around with them at the country club?

Do these kids ever go to a class?

In every book, one of the twins thinks about how lucky they are to live in Sweet Valley and how they couldn’t believe anyone would want to live anywhere else. Except for the racism, close-mindedness and lack of bars, it sounds like a dream.

Starting a new tradition: a poll with each entry. Today’s question:

Who is more of a DILF?

a. Ned Wakefield
b. Henry Wilson Patman
c. George Fowler
d. Roger Collins

The one with the socioeconomic issues, or #9 Racing Hearts

When I read these the first time around, Lila Fowler was my favorite. Probably because she was rich, pretty, and popualar (supposedly). Criminy, her house actually had a name- Fowler Crest. I totally got a Sarah Michelle Gellar circa Cruel Intentions as my picture of her. I would say I still do like Lila. She is a total beast. but at least she is honest and not manipulative and borderline like Jessica. Plus, she’s got MAJOR daddy issues, so cut her a break.

Roger Barrett is sooooo poooor. Bruce Patman is soooooooo rich. In case you didnt already know, Francine, has to mention it about a thousand times. And she only thinks in extreme binaries. Roger is totes channeling Edward Norton. And ick! He has to wear a sweatshirt. Cuz he’s so poooor!

Ok, so there is this big annual race happening at SVH. It has never been mentioned before this book, so I am pretty certain it will never be mentioned again. The winner get some cash plus a scholarship to Sweet Valley College. Uh, okay. A track scholarship? They don’t mention it. Also, there is a big dance that follows the race. Because Sweet Valley can’t go five fucking minutes without having a dance. Lila suddenly shows interest in Roger once he becomes a strong contender for the title, because she “wants to be seen at the dance with the winner”. See, she’s a cold-hearted beast, but at least she’s straightfforward. But uh oh! Roger actually can’t make the race because on Saturday afternoons he is at his job as a janitor in an office building. BECAUSE HE’S POOR! God forbid a teenager has an afterschool job in Sweet Valley. And he couldn’t work at the mall?

Oh wait, Jessica decides she is totally mature and wants to go work at her father’s law office. Seemingly because she wants to learn more about it. But she delivers this gem, probably influences tons of preteen girls to apply to law school.:

It was one thing to defend lost causes but quite another to have to defend really grizzly, dangerous criminals. Civil law, something more along with the lines of her father’s practice , was much more better, she concluded. Conferring with other lawyers-including lots of handsome men- certainly had to be exciting , and a lot less dangerous

But about eight books ago, she was okay with giving it up to the town criminal when he picked her up on the walk home from school. Anyhoo, about five minutes into the job, she got annoyed that she actually has to make copies. What is this, Heidi from The Hills? But, she sneaks out and meets another guy working at the law office across the way. Because she is soooooo pretty and soooooooo popular (as we are constantly reminded) he asks her out. Except that he never wants to go out. They meet in the copy room after everyone goes home. Well, what is the purpose of this subplot? Well, I love when Jessica gets embarassed. Turns out the guy doesn’t take Jessica out of the building because he can;t drive because he’s really fifteen. Oh! The horror! Jessica’s a shallow cunt so breaks it off. But during her late night rendezvous, she sees Roger working as a janitor in the building.

Ok, so of course Liz always has to be so condescendingly moral, she asks her father to ask Roger’s boss to give him the time off work so he can run the race. Oh, because his boss is making him work on Saturdays because he’s just a mean bitter guy. Not because he actually needs to get the office clean because the big shot lawyers like Ted Wakefield will complain. No, he’s just mean. I can’t wait til the class riots overtake Sweet Valley and loot the Dairi Burger.

Yes, Roger wins big shock and realized Lila is not the girl he wants, so he gets together with his friend Olivia. You know, the weird girl who eats alfalfa srouts and wears peasant skirts.

Snore.

Oh wait, Lila may be mentally retarded. Check out the poem she wrote for Roger:

Roger Barrett, a boy so fine

His speeding runner is so divine

In school, too, he is very smart.

He’ll walk away with the trophy from the Bart

In everything he operates in the highest stratum.

We at Sweet Valley are so proud we have him.

Wow Lila, great use of active voice.

My grade: D +