My teenaged daughter dragged me to the movies over the weekend, which usually means I’m going to watch a predictable teen flick with a message or something painfully family-oriented. But this time I got a bit of a surprise when the teen movie featured a young female lead character who loves comic books.
Sydney White, the modern take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starring Amanda Bynes that opened this weekend, doesn’t break much new ground as a teen movie. But it definitely breaks the stereotype of comic books being for boys because the film’s heroine reads and loves them, something my comics-reading daughter and I appreciated.
And when I looked up pictures over the weekend of Bynes for this post, I was further surprised to find out that it was her idea to make her character a comic book fan. As she told The Early Show on CBS earlier this month:
“I grew up loving Archie comics and I was obsessed and I collected them,” she said. “I have like 400. I still have them. I, basically, when I was meeting to do this movie, said ‘What if my character had a comic book, you know, obsession?’ So they added it in and now my character is a comic book freak as well, so it kind of makes her relate to dorks.”
For those of you not familiar with Bynes, she grew up performing on Nickelodeon, even starring in her own show, and could be described as the Carol Burnett of my daughter’s generation (or the Tracy Ullman or whatever your generation’s female comedy-skit queen was named). So, since seeing the movie on Saturday and finding out about Bynes’ collection, my daughter has not only already informed about a dozen of her friends that the movie star also reads comics (“just like me”), but has counted her comics to see how long it would take her to reach the 400 mark (“just like Amanda”).
And looking back, the movie wasn’t half bad. The story follows freshman college student Sydney, the daughter of a widowed construction worker, who doesn’t quite fit in with the girls at the sorority she’s trying to pledge. She knows more about hand tools than diets, she’s accepting of the dorks who live near Greek row, and her suitcase is filled not with dresses and shoes, but her comic book collection, including (through a quick scan by my daughter and I) copies of Rex Mundi and Usagi Yojimbo.
The standard features of the original Snow White fairy tale are pretty cleverly updated. The self-centered president of the sorority plays the role of the evil queen who obsesses over whether she’s #1 on the “hot or not” website that substitutes for the magic mirror; the frat boy after Sydney’s heart is named Tyler Prince; and the seven dwarfs are instead the seven “dorks,” who spend their time playing video games, arguing about the merits of pirates vs. ninjas, and — yes — blogging. Sound familiar?
(Although, come on, everyone know pirates > ninjas any day.)
And comics fans would appreciate one of the climactic scenes of the film when Sydney has to give a speech motivating her seven roommates into action by using the example of how the Avengers didn’t give up when they were fighting the Black Knight.
The comics references are few, and I’m not necessarily recommending the movie for most Newsarama readers, but I thought it was worth noting that while we all know Hollywood has embraced the comic book-inspired movie itself, this film takes it a step further (and in my opinion, a huge jump forward) by embracing the idea that people actually do read comic books — right now. And not just people, but girls. Leading lady, pretty-as-Amanda-Bynes girls who pledge sororities.
And for me — having found my best friend in a sorority because of our shared obsession over Star Trek — it’s pretty cool to find that Hollywood realizes the stereotypes about college girls and “dorks” aren’t always accurate because those two individuals might be one in the same. And for my daughter and other teen girls like her who read comics right now, it feels good to know they aren’t the only ones.