The 1999 film She's All That was many things. It was the peak of Y2K's Jimmy Stewart, Freddie Prinze Jr.'s career. It was the crest of the wave of 90s teen movies that taught a teenage me that there was a magic party waiting for me somewhere over my adolescent horizons that I'm still hoping to attend. It was the launching point for SixPence None The Richer's "Kiss Me." It was an adaption of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, which is some dinner party trivia that goes down surprisingly smooth. But more than all of these things, She's All That, is a hauntingly accurate portrayal of why liberals fail and why Justin Trudeau is going to break all our damn hearts.
For those who weren't feverish teens in 1999, She's All That stars Freddie Prinze Jr. as Zach Silar, the king of his high school, who on the eve of prom is left by his girlfriend Taylor (Jodi Lyn O' Keefe) for a reality TV star named Brock Hudson, played by Matthew Lillard. In response Zach bets his friend Dean Sampson (Paul Walker. Damn you fast cars!) that he could turn any girl into a prom queen. For his mark, he selects Laney Boggs, an artsy, nerdy, wallflower played by Rachel Leigh Cook (who is currently missing from Hollywood and if you have any information please call an authority because her friends and family are very worried). Zach begins wooing a skeptical Laney but, as is always the way, finds himself to be the wooed.
Laney Boggs is Canada before the 2015 election, specifically all the people left out to dry by our then prime minister, whose name I refuse to remember but he's the one who looked like a bloated corpse that someone tried to hide in a swamp. We, the youth, First Nations, environmentalists, were like Laney at her high school: ignored, bullied, and unwanted. Our weirdness did not seem to have a place in Canada for nine long years.
Then Freddie Trudeau Jr. came along.
Trudeau has always reminded me of that worst kind of popular kid in high school, the one who was nice to the losers and undesirables. The kind of guy who would hang out with the jocks but then would also slum it with all the music nerds and play Jack Johnson songs at school concerts with his eyes closed. The kind of magnanimous popular guy who would occasionally show up at a geek party, only to grow more withdrawn and panicky when he realized that, "Oh no, only the losers are coming to this party," and then ghost. The kind of Ottawa royalty who learned his manners and taught poor kids to canoe (probably, rich people in Canada always know how to canoe) and whose only obstacle and struggle that stopped him from being the best snowboarding instructor he can be is worrying if his dad will be proud of him.
Like our initial sense of Trudeau, Laney was wary of Zach. How could you not be? When the beautiful ones come there is always a cost. However he wins her over by, after getting tricked into a performance art show, playing hackey sac on stage and lamenting the pressure he is under, revealing once-hidden depths to a suddenly intrigued Laney. And really was Trudeau's campaign and his current photobombing leadership anything more than an elaborate hacky sac trick? Every promise to cut emissions, get drinkable water on reserves, and have more open immigration was another sick jester. A cool move just meant to garner our attention, nothing more.
Look at how he is in the process of walking back, waffling, or ignoring every promise he has made. He has kept Harper's emissions targets. He has left billions of dollars in First Nations funds unspent. Meanwhile he and his popular kid friend Bill Morneau cook up a privately funded investment bank that I'm sure will be very pumped to shill out for all the unprofitable infrastructure this country needs. The last two months has been the moment in the film when Laney is sure Zach will invite her to the prom and instead he chickens out, afraid to commit to the con he thought would be harmless. It's one thing to hang out with and be nice to artists and weirdos because you want everyone to like you, it's quite another, and takes a lot more courage, to do things (calling your popular friends out on their bullying, not approving natural gas pipelines) that will make the cool kids leave you off the guestlist to their parties in Davos.
Wait, you say, but Laney and Zach fall in love, and he becomes an artist like her. If my strained metaphor holds true doesn't that mean Trudeau is merely in the process of figuring himself out? It's important to remember though that Laney was given a makeover. She became beautiful, she became popular. The moment that truly makes her fall for Zach was when he defends her little brother from bullies by making those bullies eat a piece of pizza with their own pubes on it. Then he says, "You think that's bad, wait until you see what happens if I catch you bothering him again," which is a very obtuse way to say, "If you do this again I will make you eat even more pubes!"
This is the moment not when the jock falls for the artist but when the artist falls for the jock. When the powers that be, and all their harsh violence, suddenly becomes appealing because for the first time they are working on your behalf. This is when you start to think that Bill C-51 isn't so scary and becoming the second biggest arms dealer to Saudi Arabia is OK because the man doing it has great pecs, luscious hair, and is a proud feminist.
When I said we were Laney Boggs I didn't mean it as a praise. Laney Boggs is what happens when the nerds get noticed. We don't demand the system changes, the system changes us. In the movie, once Laney gets her makeover, she never goes back. She stays beautiful and popular and really hopes that she will win prom queen. We enjoy the attention and we start to believe hey maybe the system works because it's finally noticing us. But in that way we forget all the people who aren't fortunate enough to be hiding their beauty behind a tangle of wallflower hair, or have a talent that just hasn't been noticed yet. And when we get noticed and get swept up into the halls of power and hot people, we will leave the unfortunates behind just like the jocks did.
This is why we cannot allow Trudeau to take us for granted and accept his broken promises and be tempted to fall in love with his hollow liberalism. We have to demand more now that we know the horror that incremental liberalism brings us. We need to stand up to Freddie Trudeau Jr. and demand to know, "Am I a bet?"
And what of those jocks? Who do those characters represent? Let's start with Matthew Lillard's reality TV show star Brock, who I used to think was hilarious in the same way that I thought Chocolate Startfish and The Hot Dog Flavored Water was challenging. Considering that his character leaves the plot unscathed and unchanged because he was rich and famous, Lillard (as I've been saying for years) is the deep state, the collection of entrenched financial, military, and other powerful interests that pull the strings and influence leaders no matter who is nominally in charge.
And as for Zach's ex-girlfriend Taylor and best friend Dean, they're the scariest of all. They are both vain and selfish characters who can't recognize how lucky they are to be born on top of the heap and react with vitriol and hatred when, because the system doesn't give a shit about anybody, they are replaced at the top with someone new. These two, well, they are prospective Kellie Leitch voters.
Jordan Foisy is a comedian in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter and check him out on his tour and album recording:
November 26: Hamilton @ Strangewave
November 28: Montreal (with Brunch Club) @ Casa Del Popolo
November 29: Ottawa @ Pour Boy Pub
November 30: Peterborough, Ontario @ The Garnet
December 1: Waterloo, Ontario @ Princess Cafe
December 6 and 9: Toronto @ Comedy Bar