Thursday, February 18, 2010

Doormat McLoser, I am Unfriending You

Meet Doormat McLoser. She (or, more rarely, he) is a perfectly nice person, with many fine qualities, often including intelligence, compassion, and a devotion to a less-than-mainstream pastime, like the school newspaper, drama club, stamp collecting or playing the ukelele with her teeth. Unfortunately, she (or he) is also Unpopular. Oh, the angst of being Unpopular. Oh, the horror of sitting at the lunch table slightly closer to the garbage cans. Oh, the pain of being ignored in the hallways by all the People Who Matter. How she ever bear it?

She cannot! She will not! She will become Popular any way she can, no matter who she has to trample on or what she has to give up. It's all in the cause of Popularity!

To do this, she must befriend Glittery LaBeautiful. Everyone looooves Glittery LaBeautiful. She (or sometimes he) is rich, tall, thin (except for her C-cups), blond goddess who has perfect teeth, is a shoo-in for the valedictorian, and was accepted at an Ivy League school as an eighth-grader. She runs the school. Nothing is done without Glittery's say-so. She picks everything from the lunch menu to the spring musical. Ergo, the road to Popularity lies in Glittery's stiletto-heeled footsteps.

Unfortunately, Glittery isn't very nice. In fact, Glittery is a sociopath whose methods would make Hitler sit down with a notepad and pencil, and all her little cabal isn't much better. But Popularity is more important than self-respect, so Doormat will perform whatever wacky and degrading hijinks Glittery dreams up.

Eventually, the line is crossed, and Doormat discovers that her old friends (Awkward Dorkman and Nerdy Geekington III) are her True Friends, and that's all she needs. Oh, and remember Dreamy Boy Doormat Never Noticed Because He Was Just Too Geeky For Her? (You know he's there too, often if not always one of the True Friends.) Now that she thinks about it, Dreamy Boy is sooooo much cuter than the godlike quarterback she dated for about thirty seconds. Luckily for Doormat, Dreamy's just cuckoo for her Cocoa Puffs.

Then it's time for hugs, smoochies, and a vicious takedown of Glittery that utilizes all of Doormat and the True Friends' arcane skill set. That taken care of, everyone rides off into graduation and the glow of acquired self-respect and Glittery's humiliation. The End.

I can't take it any more.

I realize that popularity is a preoccupation bordering on obsession with many teenagers. I understand that in realistic YA fiction, this storyline is a trope bordering on a subgenre. I'm just sayin', I'm over it. No more. Please, God, no more.

I want to scream at Doormat. "For Chrissake, have some self-respect." I want to kick the True Friends for taking her back after she dumped them like the cafeteria's tuna-fish sandwich. I want to decapitate the  Dreamy Boy who may actually have less self-respect than Doormat. Barring decapitation, I want him just once to say, "Yeah, I did like you, but now I'm snogging this smart, confident girl over here who has never once felt the need to dress up like an ear of corn and swim in a vat of tomato sauce at the senior prom. Buh-bye!"

The only one I have no loathing for is Glittery LaBeautiful. Because sociopath she may be, but by God, she  owns it.

There are excellent books with this storyline. But all too often it's the same tired stuff masquerading as wacky hijinx and deeply felt lessons on self-respect, and I'm done. I'll look at the covers, I'll shelve the books, and I'll put them on display when called for. But as the Internet is my witness, I'm never reading one of them again.

This was going to be a tweet. Then it evolved into a Facebook status update (more characters, dontcha know.) Then, as I thought about it, I realized that my rage was too huge to contain in anything less than a full blog post. If you've made it this far, I commend you. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to weed my TBR list.


Patti O said...

Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

You made me chuckle with this one Mo, especially as I consider just HOW MANY of those you've likely read over the years ...

Arleen Leah

Lenore said...

Seriously overdone - so true.

Angela Craft said...


All I can say is I heartily agree. It's annoying to see any trope repeated ad nauseum, but this one is particularly irksome.

Patti said...

Hilarious! I've got to say, I'm over tons of YA. It's got to have some pretty great writing for me to think it is more than average. I think I'm a little burnt out on all the teenage drama too. And I agree, this quest for popularity in YA is tiring.

Anonymous said...

What I keep wondering is, how many teens truly want to be popular in that way anymore? I get the impression that teens, especially by high school, want to find other people who are weird the same way they are, not to become someone else to fit in among the wrong people. The teens I've known in recent years take a certain pride in being not-quite-mainstream.

If nothing else, the desire for popularity doesn't seem to be all that universal--probably some teens put more weight on it than others, not unlike adults, really.

But even when I was a teen, my reaction to the sort of friend who would ditch me to sit at a better lunch table wasn't to think I sucked, but to think they sucked--to be hurt and betrayed, sure, but also angry at them, not myself, and in no rush to give up my own self-respect in hopes of sitting with them. So it's a hard, hard sell for me personally as a reader to respect a protagonist who does the same.

Bibliovore said...

Janni, I think that's my biggest problem. I have no buy-in to Doormat's quest and no respect for her as a result. I can't fathom the depth of Doormat's need to be Popular, because that was never the case in my high school. You could be relatively popular--popular-ish, if you will--but there was never one person who was worshipped as a god and known merely by the tinkle of their laughter in the hallways. As a result, it was easier to find a group of your own special weirdness. I always thought it was because the place was huge (5000 kids, no joke) but now I wonder if that kind of popularity only exists in adults' memories of high school, and in bad teen movies and annoying books.

Kate Coombs said...

Just found this--love it! Especially the fact that the only character you respect is Dreamy LaBeautiful because she OWNS it.

There's a Dreamy clique at my niece's school, but she sensibly avoids it like the plague because, DUH, those girls are mean as snakes! My niece has her own friends and is thoroughly enjoying life. (One of many examples, I'm sure.)