Fine, Rachel Leigh Cook's career ended shortly after this with Josie and the Pussycats and Freddie Prinze's accomplishments amounted to no more than silly summer baseball romantic comedies like Summer Pitch, but please, let me be clear in saying that She's All That will always have a very special place in my heart. Not only because it did not suck, but also because it etched a specific high school memory that is important to me.
I saw it for the first time in the ninth grade with about 15 of my closest friends (since that's how social arrangements worked back then) on a Friday night. At Tinseltown, the mecca theater that had just been built in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We were all visibly excited to see it, just as most teenage girls get when they are together for this kind of movie. We said things like "I love Paul Walker" and "Did you hear that USHER is in it!?" to give the flick some kind of importance. All of us were wearing our Friday Outfits, which means boys were going to be there. Friday Outfits make Sunday's Best look like patches and sweatpants. The coolest, most flattering ordeal we could find in our closets always showed up for nights like this. Combinations like JNCO jeans and baby tees. Or the one A&F shirt we could afford with our cutest skirts. To impress as many as we could in the time we had before we got picked up by whoever's parent had volunteered their Dodge Caravan.
We sat in a row and had conversations that could only be heard to others as the s-sound and periodic bursts of laughter with a short-followed "shh". I was enchanted by the entire movie because there was a time when I felt like an ugly duck. High school was the beginnings of a blossoming and feminine person. However, I still had an attachment to the story because the girl whose passion was art could be popular and keep her passion. People still liked her personality and perspective on things even after her glasses were in the trash and she put on a pair of decent pants. Her awkward upbringing and the death of her Mother made her even more heroic - she survived trauma and managed to play normal and get her man.
So one could say I enjoyed Laney Boggs a lot. Her character did not lose sight of who she was all the while assimilating to popular culture. I decided I would jump on the bandwagon after that movie. I remember the first time I straightened my hair and woke up half an hour early to do my make-up and pick out a proper outfit. I started to let my babysitting money go into a jar for new clothes, and I put myself out on the front lines socially. While junior high had been a great experience and I established a good core of friends, it was a very awkward and uncool time. There were notebooks circulating about how "hot" girls were that could attest to this. Thirteen year old boys can be real assholes. But that's beside the point. I wanted to change so that high school could be better. And so that boys would notice me. And maybe, just maybe - even like me.
So, it turned out that I was on the right track. I let myself look like them. Sometimes, I even acted like them despite my understanding of the consequences. But they never came. I coasted through high school. My friendships and interactions were very positive and people really liked to be around me. Not because I changed my person but rather because I stayed who I was. I quickly learned that inside different social circles there are different personalities than in the public sphere. Girls that I saw snub others in school were really quite friendly out of it, and boys who were revered as too cool were actually the sons of doctors and collectors of Star Wars action figures. Then it dawned on me in true late-bloomer fashion: we were all nerds. We all had to throw in the towel at some point to be where we were. Some of us gave up more than others, but it made me feel better knowing that the coolest kids in school were also some of the highest ranked academically and most nerdishly involved. And had medals for science fairs.
I grew into popular nerd-dome. Those of us who were legitimately ourselves and still in the ranks had a great time being who we were. Wearing our Jansport backpacks and letter jackets.
If that isn't something you took from the movie She's All That, then you seriously missed the point.
I'm just about as smart as I look.