Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Rumors

Here we are then! I'm not sure how this got written at all to be honest, as I've been massively preoccupied with chasing Pokémon around the place for about ten days now and my obsession shows no sign of abating. (TEAM MYSTIC, btw) In any case, let's get cracking on to book 37, ever ever closer to the fateful book 40. There's actually two Super Editions that should have been covered by now, but I only got them for my birthday a few weeks ago and I'm as impatient as the rest of you to get to the Regina cocaine fiasco, so I'll go back to them after that point. In the meantime. Lezgo.

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Sweet Valley High #37: Rumors


Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are in the kitchen with their mother Alice (who looks both young and hot enough to be their older sister, you know) each reading different sections of the newspaper, having breakfast and generally being the picture of perfect West Coast whiteness.

There was no way to miss the fact that the twins were California girls.

Gas.

Jessica is reading the comics while Elizabeth is reading an article about working mothers and admiring the journalist's writing style.

The story was clear, informative, and fair, she decided with a nod of her blonde head. Good reporting.

Oh my god, she needs to go down to that newspaper office and tell the writer IMMEDIATELY because surely praise from Elizabeth Wakefield is better than any award or accolades. Elizabeth reads aloud that more women are choosing not to have children in order to focus on their careers and Alice thinks it's a shame and says how important her family is to her, when Jessica makes a very valid point.

"It must be so much easier to be a man," she said. "You wouldn't have any of those really hard decisions we women have to make all the time."
"Yeah," Elizabeth said wryly. "I know what you mean. Like which blouse to wear with your new skirt. One of yours or one of mine."

Shut up, Liz.

All three then briefly chat about the upcoming Bridgewater Ball, a super fancy event that takes place in the nearby town of Bridgewater, which is full of wealthy people. I've previously called Palisades the Pawnee to Sweet Valley's Eagleton, but it sounds like Bridgewater is the real Eagleton in this game. Last year's ball had a Mississippi Riverboat theme, complete with a giant ice sculpture in the shape of a steamboat with jumbo shrimp all over it, which, to me, sounds like the stuff of actual nightmares, but I'm not a rich person in the Eighties so what do I know. This year's theme is "Tales from the Vienna Woods" and Jessica asks if that means they'll have "gondolas and things" at it. Aww! Before heading off for school, Elizabeth notices her mother wincing and putting her hand on her stomach. Alice says she's fine, she's just been feeling under the weather and has a doctor's appointment after work.

At school, Jessica and Lila are talking about the Bridgewater Ball and Lila insists that she's going but apparently no one has asked her yet. Jessica reckons that Susan Stewart will be going with her rich boyfriend Gordon, which riles Lila up, because she's jealous of Susan for being pretty and having fancy outfits, and partly because she dated Gordon a few times herself, but mostly for the air of mystery that surrounds her. You see, Susan lives with her guardian, a lady named Helen, and nobody knows who her real mother is, but apparently she sends loads of money because Susan always has the "most incredible clothes". And lots of people in school have gone out of their way to be friendly to Susan, in case it turns out that her mother is someone famous or important, because they're a bunch of shallow assholes.

Susan goes golfing at the Sweet Valley Country Club with Gordon and his parents, who are the kind of rich people that are named Farley and Binky and complain about how the membership of the club has gone downhill lately and that Sweet Valley used to only be populated by the right kind of people. Susan anxiously wonders whether she's the right kind of people, seeing as she has no idea who her mother is, and tells Gordon that she knows he'd still like her even she she wasn't.

For a moment he hesitated and dropped his eyes from hers while a slight flush showed through his tan. Then he laughed hollowly.

Hey Susan, I've got this MASSIVE RED FLAG for you, would you like it? Susan? TAKE THE DAMN FLAG, SUSAN.

Afterwards when Susan goes home, she tells "Aunt Helen" about her day and how Binky thinks she should wear a pale gold dress to the Bridgewater Ball. Helen works her ass off as a waitress and also works as a seamstress from home to make extra money, and she offers to make a dress for Susan, showing her a sketch she's drawn up. Susan loves it and thinks about how hard Helen works and wonders what life would be like if she was her mother. Also, we learn that Helen has agreed to tell Susan who her real mother is on her eighteenth birthday, but not a day sooner.

Meanwhile, Jessica's health class at school is covering fertility and she was shocked and appalled at the thought of women having babies in their forties, because that's how old her mother is. While she's at home doing homework for it, she reads about how some pregnant women get unusual cravings, when Alice suddenly announces that she really wants pistachio ice cream, gets mad at Ned when he says he's too tired to go out and buy some and storms off to go to the shop herself. After that and Alice mentioning how she liked the name Andrea earlier, along with the doctor's appointment, Jessica is now convinced that her mother is knocked up.

At school, while in the cafeteria queue, Liz gets talking to Allen Walters, who takes photos for The Oracle and used to date Robin Wilson, I think? Or at least, he was around and nice to her back when she was being mercilessly bullied for being fat. Anyway, Liz realises that Allen fancies Susan and encourages him to be friends with her. Susan comes over and chats to them for a bit and Elizabeth sees that while she's friendly and open, Susan clearly doesn't see Allen as anything other than a friend.

She doesn't know what she's missing, she told herself silently.

This is such classic judgmental nonsense from Liz. As far as she knows, Susan and Gordon are super fucking happy together, but Susan apparently "doesn't know what she's missing" because Elizabeth has decided that Allen deserves all her attention just because she gives him a boner and how she feels about him or the fact that she doesn't even know him that well obviously doesn't really matter because she doesn't know what's good for her. SHUT UP LIZ.

Anyway, Lila is sitting with Cara Walker and Caroline Pearce, sipping her Diet Coke and eyeballing Susan from a few tables away. For some reason, Lila has decided that Susan needs to be taught a lesson and makes up a rumour that her mother is in a "hospital for the criminally insane", knowing full well that telling Cara and Caroline means it'll be all over the school by the end of the day. Classic villainess scheming, Lila.

Back at the tastefully-decorated Wakefield house, Jessica has convinced Elizabeth that their mother is pregnant, and Jessica goes snooping in their parents bedroom looking for clues. She freaks out when she finds baby clothes in the back of their wardrobe and the twins decide to start casually mentioning babies and large families the whole time, to let their parents know they're ok with the idea of a new sibling. However, all this does is cause their mother to take them aside after dinner and very seriously ask "Which one of you is in trouble?" which I can't help finding hilarious. Sweet Valley is NOT READY for teen pregnancy. However, even after all that, they still don't just ask their mother outright if she's preggo so this dumb subplot lumbers on.

Meanwhile, poor Susan is having plans cancelled on her by her rich so-called friends and feels like everyone is looking at her weirdly in the corridors at school. Then Gordon shows up and says he can't take her to the ball after all, that his parents don't want him to bring her and when Susan doesn't understand why, he blows up at her, accusing her of lying to everyone and going around saying she was important (which she never actually did), and in the process reveals that the rumour doing the rounds is that her real mother killed someone and is locked away in an asylum. Susan runs off crying and bumps into Allen Walters, who comforts her and tells her he doesn't believe the rumour. Susan goes home and tearfully begs Helen to tell her who her mother is, but Helen won't, even though Susan is clearly extremely upset, so Susan figures the rumour must be true and ends up even more distressed. NICE ONE, HELEN.

Aww Susan :( Her blouse seems suitably fancy, all silky-lookin' with pearly buttons. Also, is it just me or is she the image of a young, red-haired Parker Posey?

The next day, everyone finds out that Jackson Croft, a big-time movie director guy is coming to Sweet Valley to hold an open casting for his next film. Jessica is immediately picturing herself starring in romantic comedies before moving on to hard-hitting drama roles and Elizabeth reads up on him in the paper, discovering that his son died the previous year when their car was hit by a drunk driver. She also reads that his earnings from this upcoming film are all going to some group called Students Against Drunk Driving and Elizabeth decides that she should interview him for the Oracle, because he has "a real message", so she's going to head along to the casting call too and try to spring an interview on him about his dead son, because he'll surely be down with that.

Lila calls up Jessica, telling her that she's heard that Gordon has broken up with Susan over the rumours about her mother so now he's going to need a date for the Bridgewater Ball and acts like she doesn't care if he asks her even though she's clearly dying to go. Jessica decides that she's going to try to bag him as a date herself so she'll get to go. Jessica borrows one of Elizabeth's dresses so she can look all classy and demure when she launches her charm assault on Gordon at school. Her attempt doesn't go over as well as it should have though, as he was sitting with Lila in the cafeteria, and all her lustrous eye action and tinkling laughs couldn't stop Lila from essentially marching a slightly bewildered Gordon out of there under the pretext of getting history notes for her.

Meanwhile in the library, Liz runs into a mournful Susan staring out the window and tries to assure her that not everyone believes the rumour and her real friends still believe in her.

A hollow, dry laugh, almost a sob, sounded in Susan's throat. "But they don't," she moaned.  "Everyone's treating me like I've got the plague."
"I'm not!"

#notallwakefields

Elizabeth doesn't succeed in cheering Susan up and when she's leaving the library, meets Allen Walters and sends him in to talk to Susan. So far all we really know about Allen is that he's a lanky and shy photographer who nevertheless seems to have a suspicious knack for picking up girls who are sad and vulnerable. Anyway, he goes in and apparently he really likes Susan so he's nervous, but ends up asking her out for coffee on Saturday. Susan hesitates because it's the night of the Bridgewater Ball, but then figures she's not going now and agrees to the date.

Helen Reister is at home, kicking it Sunset Beach style, i.e. talking to herself in the mirror and saying dramatic things like "Oh Susan! Susan, my baby!" and "Susan, will you ever understand?" because, in a twist that will shock absolutely no one, it turns out that SHE'S Susan's mother. We discover that Helen wasn't married to Susan's father, that he was at the start of a career that would "consume every ounce of his strength and commitment" and couldn't offer her marriage. Because being pregnant followed by raising a child alone and with no support is such a fucking doddle I suppose, but yes, this dude's fancy job was more important than having any involvement with his child. Helen writes a letter to Susan, explaining all of this and how she moved to Sweet Valley after Susan was born but called herself Susan's guardian because an unmarried woman with a baby would be "shunned or scorned". Well well, maybe Sweet Valley isn't so perfect after all. Also, (and I know this isn't exactly a good solution either, BUT) couldn't she have told people that Susan's dad died or something? At least that way she could still be Susan's mother, it's a somewhat smaller and less ridiculous web of lies to weave and Helen would have been well within her rights considering the bullshit that guy pulled. Anyway, she ends up tearing up the letter, before a knock comes on the door and who is it only big-time movie director Jackson Croft. WELL LOOK AT THIS ASSHOLE.

He and Helen haven't seen each other in seventeen years and we find out that Helen wrote to him when she moved to Sweet Valley with Susan, in the hope that he'd come for the two of them but then saw in the papers that he'd gotten married. This fucking guy. (I feel like I say that a lot about male characters in this series, but seriously, THIS FUCKING GUY) Jackson wants to see Susan, as he suddenly feels bad about abandoning her and her mother now that his son is dead.

"I'm sorry." He drew a deep breath. "Another woman might have come to be by now for help. I-I have a lot of money you, know." He looked sheepish, as though he were embarrassed to have been so successful at his work.

And what exactly was stopping you from sending some of that fucking money her way regardless of whether she came looking for it or not, WHICH SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN 100% ENTITLED TO DO. Hmm, Scrooge McDuck? You dick.

Helen explains to him that Susan doesn't know anything about him and that she'd prefer to be the one to tell her and then he can see her. However, Susan arrives home unexpectedly, sees that Helen is upset and asks what this fucking guy is doing here, Helen runs off crying and Jackson tells her he's her father. AGAIN. THIS FUCKING GUY. He also ends up telling her that Helen is actually her mother, but in fairness, he didn't realise that Susan didn't know that. Anyway, Susan is mad at everyone briefly, but then has a tearful reunion with Helen and everything is cool, although Jackson says he wants Susan to come live with him in LA, if she wants to, which is very fucking presumptuous of him.

It's the day of the open casting for Jackson's film, so the twins turn up, along with most of the kids from school. Jessica is mad at Lila, because she and Gordon are there together and he's taking Lila to the Bridgewater Ball. Elizabeth, Jessica and Enid see Jackson behind some vans and just walk right up to him because there's no security at this thing and Elizabeth asks him if she can interview him for the school paper. He's all interested in Sweet Valley High, because he knows it's where Susan goes to school and agrees to do an interview on the spot, because this is what Wakefield life is like. However, Susan suddenly arrives on the scene, saying she had to talk to him and that she can't come stay with him in LA right now, but maybe she'll visit him soon. Jackson is then called away and the whole story about him being her dad comes out, to an astonished Enid, Jessica and Elizabeth.

Back at the Wakefield house, Steven and the twins have decided that enough is enough and confront their parents about the suspected pregnancy. Ned and Alice are shocked and explain through laughs and gasps that the baby clothes in their wardrobe are for a baby shower next week and that a conversation the twins overheard, in which Ned and Alice were agreeing not to tell them something until it was definite was about them taking a month-long holiday and leaving the girls by themselves. So that was all a massive waste of time and energy, THANKS GHOSTWRITER.

Everyone is out at the Beach Disco, including Susan, who's just been dancing with Gordon. She joins the twins, Lila, Cara and Steve and announces that Gordon has said he made a terrible mistake and wants her to come with him to the ball after all, i.e. now that she's not white trash anymore and the daughter of a famous director. Lila is raging and Elizabeth reminds Susan that she's agreed to go out with Allen that night. Allen then turns up and tells Susan that he understands if she's too busy now to meet him, but she tells him shush, that she knows who her true friends are now and when Gordon joins them, she tells him to jump in the ocean. She and Allen head off to the dancefloor, leaving Gordon with a furious Lila, who dumps her soda over his head and all over his fancy cashmere sweater. IN YO FACE GORDON.

Notable outfit:
Susan's outfits are supposed to be totally amazing and enough to send Lila Fowler into a jealous frenzy, but the only outfit description of hers we get is...


At the moment she was wearing a simple, khaki-coloured skirt and a creamy silk blouse that set off her tanned skin and coppery hair beautifully.

...sooo beige librarian, then.

As such, this accolade goes to Dana Larson, who only makes the briefest of appearances, so Jesica can describe her pants in awe.

She was wearing skintight, leopard-spotted jeans.

YES DANA.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 168

References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 3


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Safety Lights Are For Dudes

I went to see Ghostbusters last night. I have a lot of excitable thoughts about it. Also, while this post doesn't contain any spoilers as such, I am talking about a good few details, so if you'd rather go into the film knowing as little as possible, then maybe come back to this afterwards.


So. I loved this film. At various points, the Bear looked over at me in the cinema and started laughing because I had such a massive stupid smile on my face, right from the get-go. We've recently blitzed through all three seasons of Silicon Valley and my favourite character is the nervous, kind and consistently hopeful Jared, so when the film immediately opens on Zach Woods and his porcelain, slightly haunted-looking face giving a tour of a spooky old mansion, I could not have been more immediately sold. I'm certain that I gasped in delight, which is a pretty great way to start a film.

And where to start with how much fun it was. The four leads make a tremendous team, Kristen Wiig as the buttoned-down Erin Gilbert and Melissa McCarthy as her formerly spurned friend Abby rekindle their friendship when ghosts are being set loose around New York, and when joined by transit worker and amateur history expert Patty and mad scientist Holtzmann, it's four women looking out for each other, busting ghosts and in Erin's case, ogling Kevin, the gender-flipped sexy secretary. There's no jealousy, no falling out over dudes, just capable women getting on with it and being really fucking funny.


After disappointing blockbusters like Jurassic World screwed us out of a decent female character and sent Bryce Dallas Howard running around an actual jungle in her heels, a trailer for The Magnificent Seven that was played in the cinema last night and had one single woman in it crying, followed by seven lads blowing stuff up and having all the fun and what will be nine entire years with no female-led superhero film until Wonder Woman next year after Iron Man kicked off the frenzy in 2008, FOUR female leads in a film is so ridiculously refreshing. It shouldn't be unusual, but it is. Any big, blockbuster type film featuring an ensemble cast tends to have just the one, maybe two women on the team if they've completely lost the run of themselves. And when it's an utterly horrible film like The Hateful Eight, then why even bother. Between Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and now Ghostbusters, Paul Feig is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in Hollywood in terms of the comedies I've enjoyed the most over the last few years.


Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are excellent as usual and everyone gets an equal chance to shine, but Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon are breakout stars. And just to dwell on McKinnon for a bit (because it's pretty much what I've been doing since I left the cinema), in the trailers, I thought her turns as Holtzmann were cute and funny, but I wasn't ready for the incandescent, magnetic sex appeal that truly knocked me for six throughout the film. I couldn't stop staring at her, even when she was just chilling in the background. The combination of enthusiastic nerd charm and outrageously flirtatious swagger was so powerful that I genuinely missed one or two plot points. When she licked her gun, all fired up during the climactic battle scene, it was hands down one of the sexiest things I've ever seen on film. (I hadn't watched any of the trailers after the very first one in an effort not to know too much going in and I WASN'T READY FOR THAT.) I'm not sure where I figured on the Kinsey scale before all this, but Holtzmann kicked it over and used it for parts so it's all the one now. And when she makes a nervously rushed but heartfelt speech about friendship towards the end, giving a glimpse of what's behind all the swashbuckling live-wire silliness, I fell HARD. (And as for dancing around the lab with her blow torches? MADAM. I CAN NOT.)

When we were standing at the Luas stop in the rain afterwards, waiting to get home, I was still smiling. I still had a buzzy, excited feeling and an urge to watch it all over again as soon as I can. It's got four excellent heroines, a range of delightfully old-timey ghosts, fun cameos, a villain who could basically be named Neckbeard McEntitledGuy, Chris Hemsworth being an adorable dope, a shoutout for Roadhouse and rock-solid jokes. At the end of the film (we all clapped), as the credits rolled alongside Hemsworth doing a massive silly dance routine, a little girl got up and started dancing around in front of the screen, copying his moves where she could and quite clearly having an absolute blast of an evening, finishing with a round of applause from those of us still seated and I wasn't crying, YOU WERE CRYING.

 
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