Loser Hippies need love too

Guess what, SVH administrators have found a way for students to spend even less time in classes; each period is shortened by 5 minutes so they can have a special two-week workshops. The big thing on everyone’s mind is which class should they take? Lila’s doing dressmaking, and Elizabeth is taking painting, so Enid bribed the principal to also put her in painting. And Olivia decides to take painting because she appreciates art but never really took the time to create it. WHAT? This is blowing my mind! Isn’t Olivia’s whole identity based on her being artsy fartsy and folksy? Really? I’m not going to let this bother me, because barely through Chapter One and Olivia is whining to Liz that she really wishes she had a boyfriend and how her life would be better if she had someone.

Liz takes this opportunity to pity Olivia while simultaneously being smug about how awesome it is that she has a boyfriend like Jeffrey. Liz iof course is preoccupied with Olivia’s need for a boyfriend, and talks about it with whomever would listen. Because she’s such a good friend and cares about her well-being. Excuse me, I meant HAS TO PITY THOSE THAT ARE NOT HER.

Enter Stuart Bachman, the art teacher for the workshop. He’s a local artist. Hold up here- is Sweet Valley REALLY where he wants to live? If he’s such an up and coming artist, why doesn’t he move to LA? He probably is hypnotized by the perfect beaches and the existence of one mall and the five restaurants, and two nightclubs in Sweet Valley. Olivia goes bananas over Stuart. Batshit insane. Really. She drools when she looks at him, always offers to clean up and set up, and constantly asks him to critique her work. She also manages to snag his address from the alumni origination from where he went to school (well done for a pre-google world) and stops by his house. Yikes! He is really patient with her and even lets her hang around in his house for a bit. He asks her to come to his gallery opening on Friday and says he has a big surprise for her. It’s also Olivia’s birthday on Friday, so she is stoked, and thinks his surprise is either (a) his dick (b) a date to the Box Tree Cafe (c) his declaration of his love for her and (d) all of the above.

Elizabeth is…wait for it….concerned about Olivia. She thinks Olivia is acting way crazy, and that she should know that Stuart is out of her league…woops, she means too old for Olivia. At first Enid doesn’t believe Liz and thinks she’s overreacting. Then Liz pulls Enid into her plan to spy on them, and Enid sees what a douche Olivia is being, and swears she’ll never doubt Liz again. And then goes home and shoves bamboo strips under her fingernails.

Stuart Bachman

Olivia goes to the gallery opening all a-flutter. She even bought a new purple silk jumpsuit for the occasion (Cameltoe city). She sees Stuart with his fiance, and freaks out and runs out of the room. There she sees that Stuart included one of her paintings in the gallery, which was his surprise. Luckily Olivia bucks up, and realizes what a shithead she’s been. In a split second, she gets over her lust for Stuart and thanks him for including her. He tells her she has “promise” as an artist. Except until she gets crushed by a fridge. Oops, did I spoil that for you? Too bad.

Let’s go back to this workshop thing for a quick sec, mmkay? Jessica gets STUCK in an electronics workshop. Mind you, she put that as her second choice, because she assumed it would be mostly boys. Well, it is, but it’s nerds like Winston (natch) and computer geek Randy Mason. Oh the horror! Jessica is trying hard not to cry. Poor Jessica. This may actually be worse than the time she was almost killed several times and all her boyfriends were murdered. However, the thing that is most horrid about this whole thing is that it is an ELECTRONICS workshop. What does that even MEAN? Each student has to work on their own project. Jeffrey is designing a computer game, Winston is building a singing toaster, and Randy is making a spaceship or something. How are those even related? Are these students just supposed to know how to do this? With no prior experience? Or even a concept of how circuits work” Christ, this irks me. One of my per peeves (are you keeping count?) is when in movies are shows, technology, computers and electronics are oversimplified. The first Mission Impossible movie is the worst offender. The Ving Rhames character is at a computer to help Tom Cruise, break into the supercomputer, and he types in “overide security system” and presses “ENTER”. THE FUCK? Did he design that program? How did he format it to make sure it worked? That drives me crazy!

Little known fact: the character of Don Draper is based on George Fowler.

Jessica has no idea what to make because electronics are for nerds and she’s just a GIRL. Meanwhile, Lila is flapping at the mouth about how her father is currently dating a famous movie star. Jessica doesn’t believe her and thinks Lila is doing it for attention. Wow, George Fowler gets around. I’ll bet he met her at a party celebrating a new microchip he just invented. So, with about three days left of the workshop, Jess decides to build a lie detector. Because it’s just that easy! Well, our Jess has a plan. She’ll flirt with Randy Mason and convince him to do it for her. Did I just eat a brain tumor for breakfast, or was this a plot line from another book? Where she convinces Randy to do her schoolwork for her? Oh, Randy.

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White Teen’s Burden

I take back everything I’ve ever said about others being the worst SVH ever. This one is beyond infuriatingly awful. Let me also say right up front the the strong upchuck reaction I had from this book are from my own personal thoughts on racism. So I’m totally using “I” statements here. I can imagine many will disagree, but let’s me respectful, eh? I’m taking about with each other. Feel free to belittle, insult, and rip all the characters to shreds. Photobucket The really really sad thing here is that some ghostwriter perhaps really thought they were doing a good thing. That in one book, they would nip the moral problem of racism in the bud. Some editor probably told Francine that she needed to address the race issue again, she argued that she already had an interracial romance and a Mexican Festivals, and some compromise was reached where they would release a book that would solve racism.

Some of you may say “but at least it was addressed, and may have got some people who read this thinking about it”. I argue that this makes it worse. This book includes some of my major pet peeves about how white people deal with racism. Look, as a white person, I am FAR from perfect in this arena. I do not claim to have the answers, but I know what this book shows ain’t the answers either.”But they are only teenagers!” you night say. Yea, well, for teenagers that solve crimes, and generally in other instances act like they think they’re 30, I’d expect more. And if the author(s) were seriously really trying to send a message about overcoming racism, they did a piss poor job.

Enough of my soap box (sorry I got all Liz on you) let’s get into it.

Pet Peeve #1: White people think that racism doesn’t exist if they don’t directly seeing it play out in their own lives.

We know trouble is brewing because Liz decides to do a survey for the Oracle on what people would change about Sweet Valley High….Liz is all stoked to write about how people would prefer  “more soft drink machines in the cafeteria and shorter classes”  but is all taken aback that some people at SVH think the school has issues. Liz gets all pissy when Penny suggests that the school get rid of Pi Beta Alpha. I hope that Lois Walker knows about this survey and that she goes to town with it. Also, shut up Liz.

Pet Peeve #2 White people pat themselves on the back when they have a friend of a different race.

Neil Fremount (who used to dry hump Jessica at the drive-in, and is now dating Penny Ayala) has a bff Andy Jenkins. Andy is really good at science, and is just like a regular guy! Neil loves talking to him! And it doesn’t even bother him that Andy is black! isn’t Neil so progressive? He has a black friend! He can’t be racist! And, Andy is just a “regular” guy, and is just like all the other white people!

Meanwhile, Neil’s dad works for Andy Jenkins’ Dad at some power plant or something. Mr. Freemount insinuates that Mr. Jenkins got the job because he’s black. Mr. F also works with Mr. Cashman, who is lucky enough to have that outstanding Charlie Cashman as a son. Mr. C is totally spouting off to everyone, and Charlie also gets these ideas from his dad and decides to give Andy a hard time because their dads are having a work feud.

Pet Peeve #3 White people get annoyed when people of color won’t accept their help.

Neil is pissed that Charlie’s crowd is giving Andy a hard time, and what makes him even madder is that Andy doesn’t want to do anything about it. Andy’s locker gets defaced and his tires slashed and wants to just ignore it.

“Listen,” Neil began hesitantly. “Try not to let it get yo you.” He groped for the right words but couldn’t find them. “Think-think of how Martin Luther King Jr would react to a situation like this.”

Yes, yes, Andy does give him shit for saying that, and explains how when something like this has happened before, a teacher told Andy just to ignore it. Neil, however, is pissed that Andy is pissed at him for trying to help. This makes Neil so pissed off!  He is trying to help out his black friend, don’t you see? He’s such a good guy! And Andy is making it so hard for him to be the progressive white guy! And it is just so hard for him! And we have to hear how hard it is for him for several chapters! You know who’s perspective I’d like to hear on this? Andy’s. But he is really just a contrived plot device so the school can learn about racism. We don’t have opne single chapter or paragraph told from Andy’s point of view. He’s not a character, he’s a plot device.

One day in the parking lot of the movie theater, Charlie and his gang  jump Andy and beat the crap out of him. Neil comes out and tries to stop them, but Charlie offers to let Neil have a swing at Andy. Neil looks at him and suddenly realizes how AWFUL Andy has been to him, and how Andy won’t take his sage white advice all the time, and decides he needs to take his advice out on Andy, and TAKES A SWING. Neil is all shocked at himself and calls the police after Charlie and his gang flee the scene.

So now Neil is the big hero, and the halls of SVH are buzzing because the school just had their first hate crime! Yay! Where’s the cheerleaders and the band? maybe Winston can do some stand-up to commemorate the occasion. Neil goes on for a while and lets people think he saved Andy, but is ALL TORN UP INSIDE about his secret. Yea, because NEIL is the true victim here, folks. Finally he goes over to Andy’s to tell him what he did (apparently Andy was beaten unconscious and didn’t know it was Neil that hit him) and Andy apologizes to him for being distant to him and not taking his advice and Andy tells Neil that HE’S THE RACIST FOR NOT LISTENING TO HIS WHITE FRIEND. And Neil still doesn’t tell him about what he did. God, this is sooooo hard for NEIL!

The twins get their airtime by having a serious discussion about inequity and privilege.  Liz is all torn up because she keeps getting answers to her “what would you change about SVH” survey and not every answer coming back is “Nothing! SVH is perfect! Except that we should have more dances!” and tries to engage Jessica in a powerful dialogue about privilege and system of oppression in America.

“So in other words, people who are good-looking and rich get extra, is that what you’re saying?” Elizabeth demanded hotly. “I know it’s not fair” Jessica said. “But hey, I don’t make the rules.” Elizabeth stood up, threw the pillow on the bed, and began to pace. “Then I want to talk to the person who made the rules,” she said fiercely. “We need some new ones.”

Ah, Jess, our very own Social Darwinist. And watch out entire system and history of oppression, Liz Wakefield wants to talk to you.

Pet Peeve #4 White people claim to know what discrimination and hate is like because of (what they think) are similar instances. AND Pet Peeve #5 Teachers/facilitators use trite and insulting exercises to simulate discrimination (see also: making people walk around with a blindfold all day so they can understand the plight of blind people)

After Andy’s beating, Jessica does get a bit pissed about inequities. So she decides to START A PETITION! Yea, that will show ’em. Meanwhile, in her sociology class (they take sociology in high school? as if that’s the most messed up thing in this book) and Mr. Jacobi tries to teach them a lesson about discrimination by dividing them into Light-Eyes and Dark-Eyes. And the Dark-Eyes get to treat the Light-Eyes like crap and there is nothing they can do about it. Oooooo, burn! Jessica gets all upset.

This is what is feels like, she told herself. This is what is feels like to be discriminated against.

Wow! In a 30 minute period Jessica is transformed and feels the entire plight of people of color! Thanks trivial exercise.  I also want to mention that people are talking about discrimination, but Andy’s situation is beyond discrimination. He was flat-out almost KILLED.

Oh yea, so what’s going on with Andy? He’s back at school and up for a prestigious science award/scholarship. The school has an assembly for it, and everyone rushes to be the first into the auditorium to show their un-racism. When Andy accepts the award there is thunderous applause and a standing ovation. I think it is great to support him and he had been through a lot, but before the “incident” did anyone even know who he is or give a shit that he was good at science?

See Pet Peeve #2

Elizabeth falls all over herself and makes a big show of inviting Andy and his girlfriend over to sit with the gang at lunch.Because, you know, she likes black people! And she can’t be racist, because she hangs out with black students in the cafeteria! Except that she never talked to Andy before this incident!

Elizabeth felt a surge of warmth when she looked at her friends. They all wanted to reassure Andy that they liked him. And it wasn’t just because of his race. That would be reverse discrimination, which was just as bad. They all genuinely liked him because he was a likable guy, and he seemed to recognize their friendship for what it was.

Sure, Liz. Inviting someone to eat with you because you want to get to know them better is JUST AS BAD as beating them in the parking lot. Also, Liz stop patting yourself on the back for being so accepting.

Charlie Cashman and his gang taunt Andy as he is walking across the football field and Neil sees this and stands up for him. Andy thanks him but tells him it doesn’t mean they are even, and walks away. The only redeeming thing about this book is that Andy doesn’t automatically forgive him. But he does, however, walk off alone. So Andy still feels isolated and alone in in uber white Sweet Valley, loses his only friend, but Neil makes up with his girlfriend and gets his friends back SO ALL IS WELL!  He does some serious soul searching and groveling, and finally Penny forgives him, and things seem to be back on track for him. For NEIL.  Thank god. What about Andy? Oh, there wasn’t enough time on the book to do his epilogue because the pages were needed for the contrived lead-up to the next book.

Pet Peeve #5 when someone tries to shove resources down your throat.

This one applies to me! No, seriously, as you all know, I love pop culture, and one of the reasons I love it is because it reflects the dynamics of society. I find it interesting to dissect pop culture in terms of its depiction of the the non-white, non-hetero, non-rich, non-able-bodied. I wouldn’t say I ENJOY it, because I wish I didn’t have to point out how it represents some fucked up stuff. Anyway, some great blogs I read and recommend are Stuff White People Do, not to be confused with the blog Stuff White People Like, which although is a humor site, is still a social commentary. And, one of my very favorites, Racialicious: the intersection of race and pop culture.

And special thanks to my friend John for making the book cover graphic above.

The Long Lost Brother, as performed by the cast of True Blood

Photobucket

Cast:

Sara Eastbourne….Tara Thornton

Tim Eastbourne….Jason Stackhouse

Liz Wakefield…Sookie Stackhouse

Enid Rollins…Jessica Hamby

Amanda Hayes…Arlene

Todd Wilkins…Bill Compton

Jerry “Crunch” McAllistar…Sam Merlotte

Photobucket Hey Amanda, I am so glad my life has become so perfect after moving to Sweet Valley! I have you as a bff, and a popular boyfriend! We don’t have anything in common, and I have zero personality, but he’s popular, so who cares.

Photobucket I know! So what’s this about your twin brother moving to Sweet Valley!

Photobucket OMG! How did you find out???I’m so ashamed of him. He used to…DRINK ALCOHOL! AND STEAL CARS! When everyone finds out, it will be the TALK OF THE SCHOOL! MY LIFE IS RUINED!

—-

Photobucket Hey Sara, how’s it going?

Photobucket How dare you talk to me Tim! Since you’ve been in jail, been an alcoholic and in reform school, you can’t imagine how hard I have it. Please pretend that you are normal so that you will not ruin my reputation at Sweet Valley. I’m five steps away from being spoken to by a Wakefield, don’t you ruin it for me.

Photobucket ok fine. I’ll do it if that will make you accept me into your perfect little world.

———-

Photobucket Hi, I’m Tim, and I’m an alcoholic. What’s a pretty girl like you doing at an AA meeting?

PhotobucketI am actually just sitting in on all the self-help meetings here to get a sense of what it is like not to be perfect.

Photobucket Well, I hope all the girls in Sweet Valley are as pretty as you.

Photobucket Haha, you are such a tease. But actually, the answer is no.

—-

Later, at school

Photobucket Tim, it’s you! Nevermind that AA is supposed to be confidential! Welcome to Sweet Valley! I didn’t knoe you were a student here! Let me tell you how perfect and wonderful it is. I’m Liz.

Photobucket I love it already if all the girls look like you!

Photobucket Hey, lay off my woman, Tim. Wanna shoot hoopies later?

Photobucket Sure! I’m just a regular, nice high school guy who has never committed any crime!

Photobucket Wow, what a swell guy!

Photobucket I know! Now if only he had a deep, dark problem I could help him solve…oh wait, I’m late to meet Enid!

Photobucket Hey Liz, I am so glad we are volunteering for the battered women’s shelter. Not only will it make a good article for the newspaper, but you can brag that you did it.

Photobucket that’s not why I’m doing it, Enid.

Photobucket Oh, so why again are we doing this?

Photobucket So I can spend my time doing something good. And to remind all the readers that I come from a perfect home that would never consist of domestic violence. And also, as a convenient plot device.

Photobucket Oh, right. Can I touch your hair?

Photobucket Check out my sweeeet new van. It’s purple and has a lion on it.

Photobucket Wow that IS sweet. Can I take a look?

PhotobucketSure thing man.

5 minutes later

PhotobucketHey, someone stole my van!

PhotobucketIt’s TIM! Of course, I’ll never forgive him! Once a car thief, always a car thief!

Photobucket I can’t believe it! He seemed like such a nice guy! He shot hoops with me for the love of Pete!

Photobucket[tripping over cafeteria tables] Susan you look like you need help!

Photobucket Oh god, it’s awful. Tim is ruining my life! Everyone will hate me because Tim is such a loser! Everyone will be talking about it! Remember when Enid had a pen pal? That was all the school could talk about!

Photobucket I know what you need. I’m going over to the community center where the support groups are held so I can go touch people’s shoulders. You should come along!

Photobucket Wow, after one meeting, I’ve seen the error of my ways. I should support you Tim! I’ve been horrible! Good thing I caught you last minute before you were going to fly back to Connecticut!

Photobucket Hey, great. Despite your extreme selfishness and brattiness, I’ll accept your forgiveness and come live with you!

Photobucket Ah, another life saved. I am damn good.

Photobucket Too bad we’ll never hear about these two in any future books.

——

Some notes:

Sara Eastbourne is the biggest brat ever. She is super moody and makes Tim’s problems all about her. God knows why anyone likes her.

Why is everyone from Connecticut? Does it seem like such a foreign land compared to Sweet Valley? Probably.

Jessica is still committed to doing appearasnces as Miss Teen Sweet Valley, including doing promotions for auto dealers and shops at the mall. She complains incessantly until Liz fills in for her- AGAIN! Liz seems to secretly enjoy it.

When Liz learns that many battered women don’t leave their abusers, she gets really mad and upset. Shut up Liz. Liz also thinks she is all saintly because she goes to the shelter and throws a whiffle ball around with the kids. After she comes home and sighs loudly, Alice tells her: “You may not believe it, but your helping in your own way by writing responsible articles. As long as society ignores such problems, very little progress will be made. The more people are forced to think about domestic violence, to face the fact that it is really happening, the sooner we’ll find lasting solutions.” THAT’S RIGHT.  LIZ IS SAVING THE WORLD BY WRITING FOR A CRAPPY HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER.

Did I mention: shut up, Susan. Shut up, Liz.