When I was 16, I thought I knew everything. Or course I did. It’s the 16-year-old’s disease. I knew more than my teachers, I definitely knew more than my parents, and I knew more than all the smartass adults who, even though they weren’t even related to me, took it upon themselves to tell me “you know, you don’t know everything.”
Which I didn’t, but it wasn’t any of their business.
It’s been more than 10 years since I was 16, and sometimes I sit there and try to reconcile everything I thought I knew then with everything I actually know now. For example, back then I thought it was a capital idea to cut my own hair. Now, I know that not only was it a bad idea, but that all I would have to do is wait a few years for flatirons to be invented and I wouldn’t have to be frustrated enough to chop off a whole ponytail, leaving a missing chunk that looked like a shark had bitten me on the back of the head. Also back then, I saw little problem with dropping acid just before algebra class, but now I realize that, at least for me, hallucinogenic drugs are poor additions to a situation involving more than 9 people. Back then I liked bad movies. Now I still like them, but I find myself wondering how on earth I didn’t see what was really going on.
E! ran Never Been Kissed all weekend long. (It’s probably airing right now, but I’m too immersed in No Reservations re-runs to change the channel.) For anyone who wasn’t a teenage girl between 1995 and 2001, Never Been Kissed is a movie about Drew “Josie Grossie” Barrymore, a 25-year-old reporter who goes undercover as a high school student. Mr. Coulson, played by Michael Vartan (who is almost good-looking enough for me to not care about this issue altogether) is her English teacher who is, in true romantic comedy fashion, meant to fall in love with her at the very end.
Only it doesn’t happen at the very end. It happens during the movie, when Mr. Coulson is under the impression that Josie Grossie is a real high school student, and this makes his obvious boner for her really, really creepy. Also inappropriate is the high school itself, which requires metal detectors at the entrance but is just fine with Jessica Alba wearing a bikini top to school and her best friend wearing ass-hanging hot pants to prom. (I’m choosing to ignore the fact that girls who look like Jessica Alba should be the only ones allowed to wear bikini tops in public at all, because we’re still talking about high school and that would be wrong.)
I should mention that, like all Movies About High School, especially Movies About High School That Are Rip-Offs of the Original Movies About High School, nothing at all even remotely resembles reality. Real high school students don’t throw $1.2 billion-budget ragers on graduation weekend (because parents never go out of town on graduation weekend). Real high school students don’t go to reggae clubs on a school night (especially the white suburban kids who are the exclusive characters in Movies About High School). Real high school students don’t look like David Arquette.
Never Been Kissed is no exception. Here, students enjoy unlimited money, zero adult supervision, and the social hierarchy is more complex than it is on the top floor of a Fortune 500 company staffed by ex-Skull and Bones members and all the girls they roofied back at Haah-vahd. Perhaps the most unrealistic thing, however, is that Mr. Coulson overlooks students like bitchy Jessica Alba in favor of kind, 1990s-era Drew Barrymore. I mean, if you’re going to be a leering pervert teacher, at least set your sights on the most jailbaity of jailbait, right?
But he doesn’t. He gives Josie Grossie looks that linger a little too long, flirtatious gesture asides, and near the end, when her deception is revealed, asks her if everything she did was supposed to be okay because “now I’m allowed to be attracted to you?”
Ugh. Teenage Me didn’t notice how wrong this situation was, but Adult Me shudders at the thought. (Perhaps this is because my male teachers more closely resembled Jon Lovitz and not Michael Vartan; if they had looked at all like Mr. Coulson, I might have given a damn about my hair.) Not only because Mr. Coulson is attracted to a woman he believes to be a teenager, not only because he dances with her at prom and dusts off the old “you’re amazing, First Name Last Name” chestnut while doing so, but that he’s one of those classically good-looking guys who just can’t get his shit together, like he’s such a deep sexual deviant that no successful, pretty woman his own age will have anything to do with him.
If I’d truly known everything when I was 16, I would have seen this a mile away. Thankfully, though, I missed it completely, and can “hello, nurse” the Mr. Coulsons of the world now that I’m well over the age of consent.