Friday, September 25, 2009

A perfect size six, with eyes like the Pacific Ocean

So, here's some crazy news for anybody with a) two X chromosomes and b) a birthdate between 1977 and 1985: Diablo Cody is adapting the Sweet Valley High books. What?! Now?! This is just one big swirling eddy of emotion for me.

First of all: Diablo Cody. Good writer; potentially obnoxious person. I liked Juno, after the first ten minutes, and I've heard pretty good things about her show The United States of Tara. So, no complaints creatively. But last year, I read an article in the New York Times--maybe in the magazine?--about Cody and three of her friends, a sort of girl-screenwriter cabal, who traipse around Hollywood and drink in the morning and wear matching jewelry and occasionally write stuff. The article was completely annoying and pretentious, and made them seem completely annoying and pretentious, and although I would like desperately to have my own cabal of girl-screenwriter pals with whom to traipse around Hollywood (less so the morning drinking and matching jewelry), it did not make me love her in the way that it was probably intended to. Mostly, it made me want to throttle her and then take her existence and her Oscar to retool as my very own. So you'll see why she and I have a rocky relationship.

Now. Sweet Valley High. These books were off-limits to me as a kid, but I sometimes read them anyway (sorry, Mom!), a depressingly Elizabeth Wakefield act of rebellion. I was especially into the crazy multi-generational super-special ones that followed the lines of the girls' ancestors: remember the one with the horsey circus chick, and her daughter the flapper? More recently, I often played the Sweet Valley High board game with my college roommates; we'd fight over who got to be the twins, and who got stuck with snotty Lila, and then we'd all steal each other's boyfriends. I think there were special outfits involved (for the game pieces, not for us). Special times, those long evenings arguing over who needed whose Science Club equipment. Now, I mostly get my SVH fix through The Dairi Burger. But it's a thing. I mean, really: does the love of the late-80s pre-teen book series ever really go away?

It seems to me that this combination is a brilliant but dicey one. To make it really work, it'll have to be utterly biting--deeply familiar with and specific to the Stepford reality of the books--which places it above the heads of kids today, who haven't read the series and wouldn't get the humor. As an alternative, they can try to update it in setting and/or tone, in which case it might either miss the original tone of the books, completely fail to address the hilarious lack of self-awareness in the books, or both. (The second one is unlikely: Cody's sense of irony is probably stronger than her sense of smell.) So it'll have to be a very careful operation: mean enough--in a tough-love kind of way; after all, Cody is a fan--to satisfy the old-school Sweet Valley fans out there, but friendly enough to attract younger girls who don't know anything about, for example, the time Jessica stayed out All Night Long and was maybe raped by a guy named Scott and his pet mustache. I'm not saying it can't be done, and I'm certainly not saying Cody's not the woman for the job. If anything, she's probably exactly the right woman for the job. But if it doesn't go well, if it isn't pitch-perfect, it could be a disaster for all. And everybody knows there are no disasters in Sweet Valley.


Xerxes said...

You can tell when your generation is starting to be considered "adult" when Hollywood begins making movies using stories / events from your childhood.

Xerxes said...

BTW what do, "Eyes Like the Pacific Ocean" look like?