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The Palace kitchen. Brooke and Sam with their zig-zag hairdos are unusually chummy with each other, bonding over their periods and comparing how much water they’re each retaining. Sam pulls a bottle of "Lady Time" out of her bag, an herbal remedy to help ease the mood swings caused by ovulation that she bought when she went shopping with Lily for "cruelty-free eyeliner." She hands it to Brooke and pours herself a product-placement glass of Minute Maid orange juice. "Hey," says Brooke, all touched by Sam’s gift. "Is it me or has the whole hatred thing between our two groups reached an all-time high?" The girls agree that they need to bring an end to all the fighting. "You know actually," says Brooke as Leave It To Beaver music plays in the background. "I think that if we got them all into one room and communicated. We could all be friends. Don’t you think?" Flash forward to twelve hours later in the Novak: Lily is strangling Mary Cherry and calling her a total liar while Nicole watches, smirking. Brooke pulls Lily off of Mary Cherry and asks Sam if there’s any "Lady Time" left. "Oh my god," says Sam. "We’re out. Thanks, Brooke, you hog!" Brooke bitch-slaps Sam and starts pulling her hair. "Oh my god, this is how it ends!" whimpers Lily. "Trapped in this hell-hole restroom. Out of food. Out of oxygen!" "We’re all going to die in here," says a disheveled Mary Cherry.


Nine hours earlier, "Ethel" Kennedy High. Wow, I didn’t realize that Kennedy High had a Feminist Studies class that had only six students, namely Sam, Brooke, Mary Cherry, Lily, Carmen, and Nicole. What an amazing education these ladies are getting. Teaching this class is a new teacher whose name is Mr. Bennett. Mr. Bennett is played by Mitchell Anderson, an actor with amazing range. Until I saw the credits I had no idea that the openly gay feminist-studies teacher with a Frankenstein-shaped head on Popular was the very same actor who played Ross Workman, the openly gay violin teacher with a Frankenstein-shaped head, on Party of Five. Anyway, today’s class is all about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, which as we all know is about a woman in a Puritan community who had to wear a big red "A" on her chest for committing adultery. "Hey Carm," says Nicole. "I think you should sew a great big ‘L’ on your chest, you know, for ‘Loser.’" Sam buries her face in her arms and Mr. Bennett looks uncomfortable with all the tension between all six girls. "Mr. Bennett," says Mary Cherry, wrapped in a fur coat. "Do I have to sit next to her? She stinks." "No," says Lily, "you are the one who smells -- like road kill." Brooke and Sam exchange looks as if to say, "What were we thinking earlier?" Mr. Bennett calls for order and urges all the girls put themselves in Hester Prynne’s clogs and imagine having a shameful secret. Actually, Mr. Bennett, Hester didn’t really have a shameful secret. You see, the whole town knew she was an adulteress because she had to stand around in public with a scarlet A on her chest for adulteress. But hey, that’s not the point. The point is that all the girls have shameful secrets and that’s the theme of tonight’s episode.

Sam sees Hester Prynne standing at the front of the room, waving at her. Sam, a little crystal meth can be fun every now and then, but when you do it for six straight days and you get no sleep, you’re going to run into some scary hallucinations. Mr. Bennett explains that he feels passionate about The Scarlet Letter because had a shameful secret, "but I’m glad to say I came out of the closet five years ago and I’m doing much better." Thanks, Mr. Bennett. It’s so inspiring to see someone who is so comfortable with their sexuality that they can come out to room full of high-school girls on the very first day of class. Mary Cherry’s hand shoots up. "Mr. Bennett, let me just say on the record that I love the gays." "Thanks, Mary Cherry," says Mr. Bennett. "We love you too." Mary Cherry is all giddy and gives Mr. Bennett the thumbs-up sign. Sure, this was a nice little comedic exchange, but what really happened here was a meta-dialogue between the gay male community and all the wild and well-dressed teen-aged girls who inhabit our lives either as our nieces, our next-door neighbors whose parents want us to baby-sit them because we’re "safe," or characters in the movies we love like Clueless or Heathers. In turn, these chic little girls see gay men as their mentors, either as hair stylists, last-minute well-dressed dates to the prom, sources for Special K and ecstasy, or simply as friends to turn to for superior advice on oral sex. ["GOD, Gustave, that conversation was supposed to be CONFIDENTIAL!" -- Sars] Or maybe it’s a meta-dialogue between the thirty-ish gay male writers and producers of Popular and the teenage girls who watch the show. The girls love the gay men who write and produce Popular because they’ve created a show where they get all the good lines and the men take a back seat to them. The Popular creators love these girls back because they tune into Popular and buy the products from the companies who sponsor the show thus keeping them employed. There’s a Bennington senior thesis here somewhere.

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