THE PHANTOM MENACE
<<Am I butterfly dreaming I’m a man?
Or a bowling ball dreaming I’m a plate of sashimi? Never assume what you see and
feel is real!>>
- Doreen, from Chrono Trigger
Well, summer vacations have started and one of the channels over here in the
Netherlands has decided to do some Popular reruns. Now I know that Angelina has
already done this with a couple of these, but I don’t have anything better to
do, so I decided to go searching for subtext in the episodes.
I am planning to go looking for S/B subtext since (let’s face it) they have the more blatant subtext, though I promise I won’t leave out anything else I happen to notice. If there’s any interest in me doing this stuff on a sort of weekly basis (until the network decides to stop again. Which they can do suddenly and without warning. I know this from experience) please let me know.
We start, of course, with episode one.
We start with a small prologue. It’s the last day of the summer holidays and Sam
and Harrison are sitting in a diner together. Sam is complaining about how the
popular media forces girls to try and adhere to an unreachable image of beauty.
Odd, since Sam is the one girl who doesn’t care about her appearance. Anyway,
Brooke swoops into view in slow-motion. Enter the pretty girl and all that. Both
Sam and Harrison are speechless for a few moments. Sam then asks Harrison which
one of them is sexier. Sam is disappointed when his non-answer indicates that
Personally, I wonder why Sam would be disappointed. As we find out not all that later, Sam does NOT want to be what the popular media says everybody has to be. So why be so concerned about wanting to be as pretty as Brooke?
The scene in Sam’s room doesn’t allow for much subtext. It’s just Sam and Jane
talking about how Jane should go on a cruise. There is, however, one small
sentence that stands out. Sam wants a tattoo, but Jane won’t allow it. She says
“No tattoos, no bikers named Satan showing up on the doorstep.”
Well, it’s a bit of stretch, I know. Nicole is certainly no biker. But I liked it all the same.
From Sam’s small, warm, messy and comfortable room we warp towards another room.
This room is large, bright, cold, sterile. Brooke truly looks alone when she’s
sitting in front of her mirror applying tons of make-up. And yet she wonders why
she’s not happy. We also get extremely obvious hints that Brooke has an eating
Brooke has everything she wants (or so she says), but she’s not happy. Maybe this ‘Josh’ character isn’t the right guy for her. Maybe what she really needs is someone who doesn’t care about how Brooke looks or how much she weighs.
Also noteworthy is Mike’s adorable, yet ineffectual, attempts to be a good father. He can be so cute when he tries the ‘good father’ thing.
We skip a few scenes where nothing much happens. Oh, Josh is introduced as well
and he and Brooke kiss near her locker. Big deal.
Anyway, Brooke and Nicole are walking down the corridor when they bump into Lily and Sam. Lily and Nicole instantly start glaring at each. Nicole insults Lily a few times, but I never really manage to pick up what she actually says, because Brooke is totally distracting me. The girl who stands there is not the confident girl she appears to be near Josh and Nicole. Instead she sort of glances at Sam, while being all nervous. Why? Brooke was obviously in love with Josh, right? Why be so nervous when you bump into a girl you don’t even know the name of? I also noticed that Brooke does not look straight at Sam. Her eyes wander up and down a few times. Is she checking Sam out?
Lily and Sam talk. While Lily tries to enrol Sam for her latest endeavour, Sam
starts talking about sheep mentality. About how everybody wants to be like
everybody else. Sam announces that she’s tired of being stuffed into a crowded
pen. She decided that she is not going to take it any longer and be who she
I’ll leave the interpretation of this up to you.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Nicole and Brooke have arranged a party at
Brooke’s house since Mike’s going to be gone. Harrison now brings this party
under the attention of Lily, Carmen and Sam and says that he wants to be
invited. Sam suddenly snaps:
“You know, when did Brooke McQueen become the centre around which all of us revolve?”
Newsflash: She didn’t. Harrison has a crush on Brooke, yeah, but that’s it. Brooke’s hardly the centre of the universe, right? Well, unless you’re Sam that is. Lily, Carmen and Harrison pick up on this and stare at Sam, who’s saved by the bell.
Lunch time has arrived. There is actually a pretty cute Brooke/Josh scene. Sam,
however, is utterly disgusted by the display. Has the girl no romance? Or is she
just jealous? And why is Sam staring at the popular table in the first place?
She didn’t like Brooke, remember?
Anyway, the conversation at the popular table veers towards Carmen’s cheerleading aspirations. During this conversation Sam mentions Brooke’s name ONCE. Sam also briefly glances at Brooke ONCE. Brooke sees this, even though the only way for Brooke to notice this is if she had been staring at the unpopular table for quite some time. And the way we see Brooke looking at the unpopular table there really can be no other conclusion than that she had, indeed, been staring. Now why would she do that?
In any case, Brooke immediately grabs hold of this opportunity by stating that Sam has been staring at her for quite some time. She claims this freaks her out and she asks the others at the table for the name of this unknown, mysterious and drop-dead gorgeous girl.
Brooke and Sam continue to stare into each other’s eyes for ten minutes at the very least. During this time they are saying the same thing about the other (how pathetic and trapped and fake the other is and so on). It would be reasonable to assume that they’re also thinking about the same thing. Well… sort of. The thing Sam is thinking of is a blonde, the thing Brooke is thinking of is a brunette.
Biology class has arrived. Conveniently enough, Miss Glass has decided to put the students next to each other in alphabetical order. And gee, what a surprise, Sam and Brooke get to sit next to each other. Both girls’ mouths fall completely open in shock. Brooke recovers first and tries to look disgusted. She fails.
Carmen hops up to Sam and asks her to put in a good word for her with Brooke. Why Carmen would think Sam has any influence on Brooke is beyond me. Unless, of course, Carmen also managed to look through that transparent speech Sam held at lunch yesterday.
It is around this time that the writers decide that they are being too obvious.
So cue standard heterosexual scene in order to appease the censors. The object
of Sam’s affection is a teacher named Mr. Grant. Admittedly, Sam has been
swooning over him earlier in the episode but it is my firm belief that those
scenes has been quickly written in between the other, older, scenes. So Sam sits
in the office of this teacher and fantasises a bit about him. But we all know
where her heart truly lies (or is going to lie anyway), so when reality strikes
it sucks enormously. Grant has promoted Sam to editor-in-chief of the Zapruder
Reporter. And as her first duty as editor-in-chief she will have to go to
Brooke’s party to do a report on what’s popular amongst today’s teenagers. Or
something. It’s obvious that Mr. Grant is little more than a plot device to
appease the censors and to get Sam closer to Brooke.
Sam’s enthusiasm about having to crash the party is non-existent. Which is odd, in a way. It is practically the duty of reporters to go out and find the truth. And to do that, they often have to go to places where they are not wanted. This can be small dictatorial countries, or the house of Brooke McQueen. Sam should be thrilled about this, her very first shot at something that resembles real journalism. She is not. We can only wonder why. Maybe it’s because she fears that Brooke won’t like her if she shows up at said party uninvited. Yep, Sam’s trying to make a positive impression on Brooke.
The next biology class arrives and Sam continues to try and make a good
impression on Brooke. The censors are led to believe this is because Sam wants
to help out Carmen. We, of course, know better. Sam starts off badly by laughing
way too loud about a bad joke of Brooke. Sam quickly realises this and gives up.
Then, Brooke and Josh exchange notes. Josh, ever the romantic, wants to know if
they are going to have sex tonight. Brooke actually answers the affirmative.
During this small note-exchange Sam follows the note with her eyes. She actually
looks mildly distressed. She really has to work on that jealousy issue, I guess.
Some time passes and Sam and Brooke strike up a conversation. Here is where the writers reveal their true intentions. Sam hesitates between helping out Carmen like she promised or to get an invite to the party (and to be with Brooke). She tries to do the latter. I suppose in matters of the heart VS the mind, the heart always comes first.
The scene shifts to the mall where Sam has enlisted Harrison to help out with a
few interviews. Sam, trying to be subtle, but failing, asks Harrison how he is
planning to go to Brooke’s party. I guess Harrison isn’t as dense as we all
expected, because he says:
“What’s your deal with Brooke McQueen? You’re totally obsessed.”
Sam realises she’s been found out. However, she (and the writers, of course) doesn’t want to be outed, so she becomes defensive and insults Harrison about how HE is obsessing over Brooke. Harrison actually admits that Sam is right and goes on to tell how much torture he has to go through because Brooke is ignoring him. Sam has a kind of ‘know-the-feeling’-look about her. Which is odd, because if there’s one person Brooke is currently NOT ignoring, it’s Sam.
Brooke and Nicole are shopping for clothes. We again get a hint that Brooke has (or has had) an eating disorder. Brooke tries to cover this up by saying that she wasn’t thinking about how fat she is, but that she was thinking about girls. Well, OK, she was thinking about the cheerleader try-outs earlier today.
The interviews in the mall are taking place. Again, the writers try to convince
the censors that Sam really is straight by having her flirt with some random guy
we’re probably never going to see again. What happened to Mr. Grant by the way?
Is he forgotten so soon? Must not’ve been the enormous crush the censors are led
to believe it was. Anyway, the interviews are over and Sam and Harrison are
packing, when, all of the sudden three things happen:
1) The music reaches a climactic high.
2) The camera zooms in on Sam’s face.
3) Sam notices Brooke.
So Sam decides to do one more interview, much to Harrison’s dismay. Which is odd, Harrison was depicted earlier as following Brooke around like a love-sick puppy. And now he just seems to dislike her. Ah well.
Anyway, Sam goes to meet Brooke. They exchange greetings. They both smile, but there is a kind of awkwardness to the scene. Are these the girls who were trash talking each other earlier? That’s pretty hard to believe.
Then Sam points out that Harrison is existing somewhere around here as well. Brooke’s smile disappears and she greets Harrison out of force of habit and with no enthusiasm whatsoever. Brooke’s smile appears again, however, when Sam starts talking to her and the interview starts.
During the interview Sam constantly says that Brooke belongs to the popular crowd. Which is entirely true, but Brooke still dislikes it. She sort of snaps at Sam for labelling her all the time. She even goes so far as to say that the whole popularity thing just sort of happened to her.
‘Happened’? What about the make-up? The clothes? The jock boyfriend? The bitch best friend? The eating disorder? She sought out popularity all right. But why would she want Sam to think that she didn’t? Maybe it’s because Sam just doesn’t like popular girls (or so Brooke thinks)?
The interview suddenly becomes a heart-to-heart talk about labels. Sam asks if Brooke would sometimes prefer a different label. Brooke admits to this and at the same time tries to find out if Sam is interested in label-swapping by saying:
Sam is unable to respond. Again, this is odd. Sam has been trying to get a different label all episode. Sam’s lack of an answer results in the girls staring at each other while being speechless. Brooke manages to break the spell first by stating that she has to go. She has become pretty uncomfortable. Sam too, has been thrown off-balance by the conversation.
Brooke and Josh try to have sex. They fail, because Josh is unable to perform.
Brooke thinks this is because she is fat. OK, we get it, the girl has an eating
disorder. Brooke then goes on to reveal that she dislikes herself. Strangely
enough, it’s not because she thinks she’s ugly, but because she has to live up
to an image of someone she’s not. She’s “living this big lie”.
Three guesses what she’s lying about.
So then Josh says that he has it hard too. He has done auditions for the school musical and doesn’t know what he’ll do if he gets accepted.
Brooke responds strangely. She snaps at Josh. She doesn’t want him to be a ‘drama geek’. She wants him to stick to his own label!
Err… wasn’t this the girl who wanted to try out different labels?
Then why is she all of the sudden clinging on to her popular label?
The one she’s not happy with?
After the fallout Brooke turns out to be confused, not really understanding why she just said that. The ever-observant Josh thinks she meant it all. We know she didn’t. Brooke now knows too.
She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t really want her popular label.
But at the least, it’s a safe label.
Safer than the ‘gay’ label, right?
Just one short scene here. Josh makes it to the lead role in the musical. Carmen
does not make it to the cheerleading team. This is strange, considering the fact
that Brooke really liked Carmen’s try-out and had pleaded with Nicole a few
times to put her on the team. Evidently Brooke has succumbed to the fear of
admitting she’s gay and has overcompensated by doing the typical popular thing
and not giving unpopular people any chance to become popular as well.
Carmen flees the scene and it is implied that Brooke and Sam end up looking at each other, even though it is also implied that they are well away from each other. Brooke looks at Sam apologetic. Sam looks mad.
How will this end?
Tune in next week… Or not.
Mary Cherry is introduced as a new student at Kennedy High and Nicole is instantly smitten with her, describing her as being really, very sweet. Yes, sweet. Nicole then proceeds to get in Mary Cherry’s good graces several times. First when Mary Cherry tries out for the cheerleading squad, later when they meet in the clothes store. It turns out that Nicole’s affection is in part fuelled by greed, since the Cherry family is loaded, but there is more attraction here than just the attraction of money.
Sam’s not the only one trying to get Brooke’s affection. Carmen turns out to be
a rival. During the try-outs Brooke is smiling like an idiot when Carmen dances
for her. There is slow-motion and fades from one face to the other. Carmen is
trying to turn Brooke on and it’s working too.
Later, in a different clothes store than the one Brooke and Nicole went to (obviously), Carmen confesses her attraction to Brooke to Lily by saying:
“Brooke even smiled at me, which she didn’t do with any of the other girls. It was the best moment of my life.”
Mary Cherry/Sugar Daddy
MC and SD have to sit next to each other in Biology. During the second Biology
class, Sugar Daddy graciously hands Mary Cherry the dead frog of her choice.
Mary Cherry is pleased, saying:
“Why thank you, Sugah.”
SD then proceeds to kiss MC on the cheek. You’d almost say these two are already dating.
|Section 2||Jos Mous||Popular||Main Index|