I've spent a lot of time imagining a sequel to She's All That. My latest part two fantasy is one in which the still-happy couple relocate to London, Laney Boggs, now just Laney, follows her art career to East London. She digs out her old dungarees while Zack attempts to set up the English arm of whatever generic American company his Dad owned. As her Instagram soars, he nurses a cocaine habit. Eventually Laney falls in love with the girl who knits feminist protest vaginas in their shared studio space, while Zack slopes home, wishing he'd never taken that year out before Yale.
Oddly though, I'd not actually seen She's All That for a decade at least. Other releases from 1999 – the 12 golden months of perfect teen movies – I more or less watch on a monthly basis: the magical, curative qualities of 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions and even Never Been Kissed have seen me through countless hangovers and heartbreaks. So when it was announced a couple of days ago that the Freddie Prinze Jnr classic had been green lit for a remake, I immediately stopped what I was doing (work) and settled into a revisit. Thanks, Internet hedonism. While I've considered what direction Brock Hudson's career might have taken, a brand new version of She's All That had never really crossed my mind. But, of course, it's the contemporary virus: if it worked once, it will surely work again. Teenagers can't have changed that much, can they? If it ain't broke don't fix it!
I was 13 in 1999, and it's the only year I remember what it was like to be a teen - my dizzyingly complex emotional states were benchmarked against those couples I watched on the big screen. I wanted their dramas to be my dramas. After another school trip out to see some Victorian classroom or example of limestone paving, I'd skulk back to my room and dream of escaping to AMERICA where love was big, important and attractive, a world away from the discos where stale wine punch was limited to half a sip each and boys kissed like washing machines. I owned every soundtrack, could mouth the words to the songs that wove around the kisses and the fights, fresh from college alt-rock playlists. My life would definitely be better if I was a teenager in America! America! Where my life would be converted into something cute or hot! Hopefully a bit of both!
Thanks to Heath, Julia, Rachel, Freddie and Drew, I'm pretty sure I didn't have an original feeling until last year, at the age of 28, when I finally stopped channelling the idea that epic japes were a prerequisite for romance. If dating didn't involve some grandiose Shakespearian twist I wasn't interested. (My life has been complicated.) Understandably I take the idea of a remake very seriously. On a personal level, re-watching She's All That was a regressive experience. I was reminded that when you're a teen, transformation is transcendence. We, or at least I, fantasised largely about being somebody else. It was the only feasible solution to the dark, hormonal mysteries of my changing body and exponential social anxiety. That's why the Pygmalion She's All That seemed so glorious: you just needed Freddie to show up with a red dress and Anna Paquin for life to be infinitely easier. Hollywood, whether accidentally or on purpose, managed a couple of years where it preyed on this glowering component of the adolescent psyche. But we know so much better now. The makeover rescue obviously isn't the message we should be sending out to already inaccessible teenage kingdoms, especially when the makeover king and all his mates are enormous arseholes. The world, thankfully, is doing its best to move on from misogyny disguised as handsome, 27 year olds squeezing their biceps into high school football jackets.
By the end of She's All That opening scene, both Dean (RIP Paul Walker) and our 'hero' Zack have already wandered around the school yard, casually tossing about insults that cut right to the core of every single teen girl insecurity you could imagine: fat, weird boobs, gross hair. (I still lose sleep over whether or not I've got wonky breasts, and I'm supposed to be some version of an adult.) Then Laney Boggs stumbles onto the scene, caring about riots in Mogadishu, touched by the feather of her art teacher and wearing GLASSES. Not glasses! Eugh. Gross. And she's got paint everywhere! That stuff is impossible to wash off! THIS BET WILL BE SO HARD.
Don't get me wrong, the film has some excellent qualities. Brock Hudson, perfectly played by Matthew Lillard, was a reality TV star ahead of his time. I'm nervous about what 2015 show could possibly replace The Real World, but I'm hoping producers go with something belonging to Bravo. Call me crazy, but I could see a Vanderpump starting a house party conga line. The dialogue is sharp (thanks M. Night Shyamalan) and peppered with poetic teen tautologies, my favourite being Zack's announcement that 'suddenly tomorrow is not just tomorrow, it's the future' a quote I'm pretty sure I've seen misappropriated across countless Tinder profiles. Zack's Hacky Sack moment is still one of my preferred pop culture litmus tests for potential new girlfriends, because "sooner or later, it has to drop." Quite right.
But these great cinematic moments should remain perfectly preserved by the passing of time. As hard as it is, we really should let some things be sacred: we can enjoy She's All That from behind a velvet rope, pleased that there once was a simpler time when shiny teeth, Sixpence None the Richer and Paul Walker's arms were enough to make us feel momentarily hopeful. There's a reason there's not been another year of teen movie excellence like 1999. We're now in the midst of our on-going feminist revolution, reconfiguring what it is to be a woman and what it is to be a teenager. The world just doesn't need another She's All That, thanks. The original will do just fine.
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