All hail the lipstick feminist: SVH #86 “Jessica against Bruce”

25 Jul

This old favourite was a bit of a saviour this week, in a week where my feminist sensibility – and ego – copped a battering at the hands of my male, medical school counterparts.

Background – I’m in the final 6 months of medical school. And scared shitless, if you must know. I’m considering calling Project Youth for advice, and constantly berating my 18-year-old self about why I ignored journalism, or primary school teaching as suitable career choices.  [Maybe I could make a buck selling Tofu Glo? Who knows…]

This emotional state would probably be tolerable, were it not compounded by a soul-crushing breed of male medical student which I will refer to collectively as the BRUCE. The BRUCE male is typically showy, puts down women, brags about the number of hours he’s clocked up on the wards, and makes empty statements with a know-all air about everything ranging from to cardiogenic shock to brews of pale seed ale. I know about fifteen boys who meet this description, who for some reason regard the ending of a medical degree as something to get cocky about. Big fish in small pond syndrome? Who knows.

So this week, maddened to the core, I will live vicariously through Jessica Wakefield. In real life I do stupid things like hide out at my apartment in tears when they ridicule me, or just stand there, fuming, as an impressive comeback evades me. I bury my head in a textbook, making silly deals with God and begging that He won’t let me screw it up and asking why couldn’t He be a She after all?!

Jessica, for all her faults, wouldn’t do that. She’d simply grab the bull by the horns and kick a BRUCE squarely in the balls. So I guess that makes me more of an Enid, really. How pathetic.

Let’s take a look at the story:

Bruce [Patman] is being an all-around a-hole, convinced that he is way too cool for boring old Sweet Valley High. So to liven things up a bit, he starts an all-guy secret club – “Club X” – that does totally kick-ass dares like LET OFF THE SCHOOL FIRE ALARMS. In my experience, cool people don’t usually have to prove themselves like that, not that I would know, never having been one of them. But a secret club whose sole mission is to pull annoying pranks isn’t what I would expect from Sweet Valley’s social elite. He is Bruce Patman after all! Surely for kicks he can get his hands on some “good shit” and squander his family’s fortune at the Casino.

Several guys rally around Bruce to support his inflated ego, and they rile up the girls by calling it a “guys only” club, and going on about how a girl could never “have what it takes” to make it in Club X. Enter Jessica Wakefield, maybe the only girl who could look Brucey P in the eye and take him on, while still flashing her midriff and looking sensational.

And so an all out gender war erupts in the cafeteria. I find myself particularly enraged when Bruce Patman tells the girls they can “Cheer on Club X from the sidelines…in their shortest skirts.”. But I had to stifle a laugh when the cheergirls argued that “Girls can do anything….like Justice Sandra Day O’Connor..and Susan Butcher. She’s won the Idatarod, that incredible DOG SLED RACE IN ALASKA, several times.”

Thank you, Terri Adams. Nothing like a dog sled race to smash the glass ceiling for us.

Jessica stands up to the lions of injustice and joins Club X.

Meanwhile, several delegates from the “International Teacher’s Federation” are coming to visit Sweet Valley High, god knows why. And who better to show them around than Elizabeth Wakefield? She practically cracks a hernia when Chrome Dome announces at assembly that he will be choosing some exemplary students to show Mr Ociba and Madame Erlane around.

Get this:

“Guess who’ll get picked?” Enid said in Elizabeth’s ear.  “You.” [Fuck off, Enid.]

Elizabeth smiled. She thought it sounded interesting. She hoped she would have a chance to meet some of the visiting teachers and find out what high schools in other countries were like. [Fuck off, Liz.]

But wait for it – as she’s getting summoned from class by the principal, she checks with Mr Collins:

“Are you going to assign homework?”

For every point I give Jessica in this book, I take at least ten from Elizabeth. And 20 from Enid.

Joining Elizabeth on the committee are Todd and Enid, presumably because they are her closest friends. Also Bill Chase, which surprised me, as I assumed he was either too stoned or too busy surfing to attend class.

But while Liz is sucking up to her new multicultural friends, Jessica is effectively burning her aqua maillot in the war on sexism.

She throws the full force of her sized six body behind Club X. The secret society meets at night in their matching Club X jackets, and they spin a wheel to see who gets to carry out the dare of the day. Jessica is initiated – driving without headlights, smoking in Mr Cooper’s office and scaling a fence to jump off a 20m platform into a river. Strangely, the dares keep landing on her, because Patman is rigging the wheel with a magnet. But she gets her own back – when challenged to steal a car, she hotwires 1BRUCE1 and high tails it to the Dairi Burger. All the time there is this overtone of sexual tension, but I am SO thrilled that Jessica doesn’t disrespect the point of this story and give in to Bruce’s charm. [She’s currently dating Sam Woodruff. Heart!]

Elizabeth is less ballsy about the gender war, but prefers to debate it with Enid, which is obviously not a debate seeing as Enid agrees with everything she says. At least Winston has a new approach to Elizabeth’s question of whether men and women are equal.

“Of course not,” he says. “Women have better hair.” I’m glad Winston is getting to the heart of this matter.

Meanwhile, Liz is getting anxious that the escalating dare war will spill over and ruin SVH’s reputation in front of the international community. So she phones Project Youth hotline for advice. Given that the service is staffed by Amy Sutton and her equally vapid boyfriend Barry, I have to conclude that Liz is an idiot. Heeding Project Youth’s advice, she does nothing and lets Jessica and Bruce sabotage the school.

After learning about the rigging of the dare wheel, Jessica sneaks in and weights the wheel to land on Bruce. She dares him to play banned hard rock radio station KZZP over the PA system at the special assembly.

Bruce has no choice but to partake.

The music blasts, the school is humiliated, Jessica is actually put on detention AND grounded, and Liz gets the shits temporarily.

But of course, this is Jessica, and she never gets her come uppance. Liz disregards her spine and goes along with a twin switch so Jessica can sneak out to see Sam. I guess for once, I’m not even too pissed about a Wakefield getting off the hook with murder.

Maybe I could get a Club X jacket? Or get the precious logo embezzeled on my stethoscope? Maybe I could hotwire a BRUCE’s Lexus and drive it into our local burger joint? Either way, Francine has inspired me to smash the glass ceiling, Wakefield style.

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9 Responses to “All hail the lipstick feminist: SVH #86 “Jessica against Bruce””

  1. Daniella July 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    I had the same time of experience at the end of graduate school…cheer up, you’re almost there, and it will get better when you’re done! And anyway, if you are an Enid, well, didn’t Enid turn out to be a fabulously successful gynecologist in SVC? Ignoring her horrible personality transformation of course, but she was turned into a great doctor 🙂

  2. Elle July 26, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    You can do it!

  3. Laura Kate July 26, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    Hey! Good luck with your final 6 months. Kick ass Wakefield style. :p
    My mum likes to tell me she can tell how stressed I am by how much Sweet Valley I’m reading… needless to say, anxiously waiting on mid year stuff, there is a large stack of SVU books next to my bed…
    And remember “What Would Jessica Wakefield Do?” (try not to apply it to every situation. You may wind up a sociopath…)
    Best wishes!
    Laura Kate

  4. winstonegbert July 26, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    Ah, thanks for the support you guys. Laura – my Sweet Valley habit also seems to reflect stress levels.
    Although maybe I should go one better and ask, “What Would Margo Do?” Maybe I should do lots of rasping and get out some [metaphorical] knives to take my rightful place in the physician community. Just a thought.

  5. Sam July 27, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Great recap! Hope everything works out for you… if not, don’t forget the lucrative world of dog sledding (it worked for Susan Butcher)!

    😉

  6. Samantha July 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Aww, hang in there! I’m also surrounded by idiotic, soul-crushing guys in my profession (supermodel), and some days it’s really, really hard to deal with. And also hard to remember that not all guys are like that. Try and remember that there are a few Winston’s mixed in with the Bruce’s. Or a few Todd’s mixed in with the Scott Daniels’, if you prefer. I could go on but doubt that this is encouraging at all.

    My roommates and I have our own “Club X” but it mostly consists of us doing stupid dares like prank calls and talking to boys we have crushes on. No hotwiring (yet).

    • sophie July 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      How about a few Nicholas Morrows mixed in with the Scott Trosts? Also, as supermodel, assuming you are being serious, is the Bruce affect better or worse compared to us mere mortals?

      • Samantha August 1, 2011 at 2:40 am #

        Oh, silly me. In my haste to comment, I mistakenly left out one word. That should read “ASPIRING supermodel.”

        But yes, as an aspiring supermodel, I will say that Bruce holds the same affect on most females, regardless of occupation. Especially on this cover, with that leather-jacket-wearin’ smirk. I also find him fetching on #18, Head Over Heels, where he looks just like a young John Travolta, circa Grease. But hotter.

  7. Jenn Doyle August 7, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    I loved your use of “Bruce” as a male attitude. I may have to use this one myself some days. Thanks for making me smile and hang in there.

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