I’ve taken the time in quarantine not spent trying to keep my three year old from systematically dismantling our house to go through not just my unread pile of books, but taking a critical eye to the shelf standbys. I have seven and a half full bookshelves, not counting my small one for cookbooks and food-themed books or the kid’s books, and even for a book lover that’s just too damn many (read: I wish to buy more books and cannot justify it without creating space). Anyway, since I seem to have a knack for buying books too close to the current situation, now seemed like a good time to revisit Larry Doyle’s
screenplay book about the nerdy Denis Cooverman’s declaration of love to cheerleader Beth Cooper in his Valedictorian graduation speech.
Was 2007 so very long ago?
There’s a lot about this that still works – an acknowledgement that Denis is kind of creepy in his adoration, Beth being a fully realized character and a pretty flawed one, a lack of reliance on heteronormativity in multiple characters, the friendships being true to life (for instance, Beth’s two best friends have nearly nothing in common and the text even explicitly states that without her, they probably wouldn’t associate; a LOT of my friendships in my twenties were like that) ….
But man, what doesn’t work is painful. There’s a lot of cliche here that doesn’t get subverted. The insistence that Rich, Denis’ best friend isn’t straight is largely played for laughs and caricature. There’s a lot of mileage in Beth’s friend Treese being dumb and slutty, and it’s not played as empowering. The adults acting like NO ADULT EVER HAS OR WOULD (a kid drives a car through my house, I’m not gonna blow it off because underage drinking was happening under the roof they collapsed) idea that the popular girl would give the nerd a chance if she just got to know him… it’s a lot of male fantasy made only slightly more palatable by the presence of one realistic female character.
To the used bookstore with thee, no place on my shelf for it.