Once upon a time, we were introduced to a series about a smart, overtly sardonic, and extremely pessimistic upper-middle-class teenage girl dealing with day-to-day life in her American suburban town. Her name was Daria Morgendorffer and she ruled. Over a decade later, we are given the same synopsis, but instead of cartoons, we get real people who have maybe been cast, who may read from scripts. I'm talking, of course, about MTV's My Life As Liz.
While I don't quite fall into the teenaged target demographic of this show, I'm not too far away from my glory days. If this were eight years ago when I was a freshman in high school, Liz would look less like the girl from the band Paramore and more like the girl from Seventeen magazine's classic "Am I Emo?" Same crap, different year. Countless numbers of television shows have already been about how sucky high school is (possibly the best being Freaks and Geeks).
The main difference between the past and present representations of this subject matter is that the Diablo Cody Empire has confused young women into thinking they're transgressive if they aren't cookie-cutter cheerleaders. Liz is just a teenager -- and that's fine... or, it would be if she didn't have her own series on MTV.
Liz is so obsessed with her newly found unpopularity and constantly refers to herself as a dork, even though she is obviously very trendy. Also, she isn't even in band or drama! My problem with this is that Liz says things like "MTV made me do this!" Obviously, MTV didn't make her do anything -- she is one of millions of people in this country who think that they should have their own reality show because they are so "unique." Liz is a vegan, has a lizard, an iPhone, a MacBook Pro, a Blazer, Ray Bans, and long-lasting bright red lipstick -- not exactly a modern-day Bill Haverchuck. Dan Hopper from Best Week Ever covered this better than I ever could have:
"To actually be a 'dork' implies some degree of social ineptitude or embrace of aspects of culture that may not be considered cool or mainstream, but which in turn unite those social outcasts in their own small way. Hot chicks co-opting the term 'dork' to make themselves appear more adorable [...] undermines the entire concept of the term, and insults actual dorks Middle Earth-wide."
If this show wanted to be a celebration of dorks, it would be about Liz's guy friends. In the fashion of classic nerds, these guys spend all of their time together, are physically unattractive, watch LOTR on Valentine's Day, would never even fancy the idea that they would have a secret admirer, and wouldn't screw each other over on homework assignments the way Liz does to Cameron.
So Liz is mean-spirited, pretty, and definitely not a dork. I'm not sure why I'm supposed to care about her. With a loving mom and the negative attention of the popular girls, at best she reminds me of Lindsay Lohan's character in Mean Girls pre-Ms. Norbury intervention. Seriously, Liz has a Hate Wall and calls her enemies things like "The Blonde Squadron of Shallowness," making fun of them for shopping at Hollister (even though Liz herself is ultra-trendy by shopping at thrift stores). When Taylor tells her she only reads magazines, Liz is annoying and pretentious about it. We later get this weird moment when Liz tells Taylor that she assumes that people think of her as a "weird demonic bitch." Although Taylor assures Liz that people like her, that doesn't seem to register with the hipster senior and she continues to rage on. It reminded me of that episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon goes to her high school reunion to show all of the people who used to make fun of her how awesome she is now, but when her presence upsets the attendees, it turns out that Lemon was actually a huge bully who humiliated and tormented her old classmates out of her own insecurities.
The reason My Life As Liz isn't the worst thing ever is because its characters aren't mature enough to be self-aware. Liz knows she wants attention and that she wants to be different, but she doesn't understand that difference doesn't come with a makeover. We see this most obviously in the scene where she takes Taylor shopping, as Liz tells the camera, "Someone needs to show her she doesn't need to be that cookie cutter blonde," while calling herself a "mold breaker." Liz assures her new gal pal, "I know what it's like to break free." Ridiculous? Of course, but Liz will grow out of it, just like the rest of us did.
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