On John Tucker Must Die

If you know anything about me, then you know why I think John Tucker Must Die is such an awesome movie. It’s hilarious, creative, and fun to watch, even if the movie isn’t really all that good (guilty pleasure, honestly, but well worth it like Mean Girls). There is also the eye candy that Jesse Metcalfe provides.

Some of these setbacks in the film are addressed in Feminist Film Critic‘s review:

John Tucker Must Die offers a lively ode to Spice Girl-flavored girl power. This is not the feminism of Betty Friedan or Ms. magazine. Rather, the four heroines of the film derive power from overt sensuality, fashion, and popularity. Typical high school stuff. In fact, much of this film is typical, coloring by the numbers to hit all the expected notes and finish with the safe ending.

As new girl Kate, Brittany Snow steps back from her frightening turn onNip/Tuck, returning to her friendlier persona on American Dreams. Having watched her “hot” mom (Jenny McCarthy) repeatedly be abandoned by men, Kate encourages three enemies (Ashanti, Sophia Bush, and Arielle Kebbel) to band together after discovering their boyfriend’s cheating ways and seek revenge. The boyfriend in question is John Tucker: star basketball player, most popular guy in school, and wealthy to boot. The girls play a few relatively harmless pranks, including feeding the cheater estrogen, but as he continually rises above, they determine to exchange an eye for an eye: their broken hearts for John Tucker’s.

Enter Kate. Despite her friendship with John Tucker’s much less popular brother, Kate pursues a relationship with John and achieves the sought after profession of love—which in this film equates to John placing his expensive watch on Kate’s wrist and announcing to the student body that he is, in fact, whipped. Who needs “I love you,” when a guy is willing to admit that you have conquered his wandering ways?

In the end, this battle is less about love than power. As Kate points out, the three frienemies obsess over John Tucker, first trying to attract him and then trying to destroy him: either way, their lives revolve around him. When Kate swoons over a romantic date aboard John’s yacht (of course), the trifecta immediately restore her empowering anger by playing a tape of him bragging about his nocturnal plans for the lovely Kate. Basically, it is the same old story: the guy wants sex so he whispers sweet nothings (lies) in the girl’s ear. She wants to possess him, so she teases him with her sexuality. John Tucker Must Die exposes the strategy inherent in surviving the social war that is high school at its most base and vapid.

Director Betty Thomas’s vision saturates the screen with color and vitality, yet her depiction of the girls’ friendship lacks warmth. Most troubling, however, is Thomas’s acceptance of any and all gender stereotypes. Overdosing on estrogen, John behaves like Thomas’s vision of a girl: whiny, emotional, and paranoid. Kate becomes popular not after the usual teen film transformation montage sequence but rather through the simple act of straightening her radiantly blonde hair (would it have been that hard to give her a pair of Clark Kent glasses for her to wear to demonstrate the pre- and post- popularity Kate?). Thomas also stages the requisite chick fight, complete with hair pulling.

The elephant in the room is teen sexuality. Ashanti’s head cheerleader character and Bush’s oversexed vegan admit to sleeping with John, repeatedly. Bush’s character bemoans her slutty ways, and the other girls mock her for her easiness, but Thomas frequently plays her sexual freedom for laughs. In one sequence, Bush finds a bra in the back of John’s car. Her first reaction is fury, until she spies the “100% hemp” label on the bra and realizes that it is her own. These young women are completely lost in a world that validates their sexuality even while it condemns them.

Thomas cowardly steps away from the obvious challenge: placing virgin Kate in a position in which she is tempted to sleep with the known cad. How would she face her own desire in light of her rationalism? How would Kate’s mother confront her daughter’s awakening sexuality in light of her own promiscuity? Thomas avoids all tricky sandtraps, choosing instead to offer us a glossy but empty betrayal of young women. So much for girl power.

Though my feminism recoils from Thomas’s refusal to empower girls with such antiquated ideas as self-esteem and discriminating sexuality, the movie isn’t a complete bust. John Tucker Must Die is a well-packaged film delivering every conventional expectation. As John Tucker, Desperate Housewives alum Jesse Metcalfe demonstrates more than beauty: in fact he is quite charming and charismatic. All the young female stars share the screen with generosity despite the fact that the limitations of the script relegate them to shallowland. For an entertaining and amusing couple of hours as the cinema, John Tuckerfits the bill. But it falls far from achieving satirical depth, choosing to reinforce stereotypes rather than undercut them.

I’d like to finally reference The Odyssey Online‘s article, “Why Every Teenage Girl Should See “John Tucker Must Die”“:

Going through high school can be one of the hardest things you’ll have to go through. From “fitting in,” to bullies, grades, sports and of course relationships. What could make that harder? Well for Kate, being a transfer to her new school with no friends could only make it harder. In the movie “John Tucker Must Die,” we watch Kate’s journey through high school and the obstacles she goes through to break one boy’s heart. This movie has multiple life lessons throughout it and there are important messages every girl needs to know.

1. No matter what, your mom is always right.

Through high school you are going to meet so many new people. Some are going to be your friends forever, and some are only going to be around when they need something from you. I guarantee you your mom will be able to pick out those friends the second she meets them. I promise the only opinion you’ll value is the one your mother gives you.

2. Yes, chocolate does make everything better.

No matter the time of the month, chocolate is always the answer. Everyone deserves a little treat and I recommend that be any form of chocolate. It’s the best comfort food there is. So you go girl, eat that whole pint of ice cream.

3. Always be yourself.

In “John Tucker Must Die,” the girls groom Kate to be the “perfect girl.” They change her and treat her like their Barbie doll just to get back at their ex-boyfriend. Kate wanted to fit in so bad that she let these girls turn her into someone she wasn’t and have this fake life. As important as it may sound to be popular, does it even mean anything if these friends only like you for who you’re pretending to be? Always be yourself, you’re one of a kind.

4. Periods will be your worst enemy.

Whether you are at that point in your life or approaching it, you need to learn to adapt to this new factor in your life. You may have to skip out on certain plans with friends or even miss school. Of course, you can relate back to #2 and stuff your face with chocolate but unfortunately you are going to be in pain, crabby and always crying…always. Most importantly boys won’t understand and they won’t want to hear about it either. That’s why it’s so great when the girls trick John into consuming estrogen.

5. Once a cheater, always a cheater.

As you may know, the plot of the movie is to get revenge on John Tucker, who had three girlfriends at the same time. Although the girls did not know at first, they eventually found out. You never know when a boy is going to try to pull off something like that and you need to be aware. People will know about it and not feel the need to inform you of it either. If you ever find yourself in that situation, stand up for yourself. You do not deserve to be treated that way. Know your worth and leave them in your past.

6. You’ll find love when you least expect it.

Sometimes when you’re so busy and focused on school, athletics, work or interests, you let the world pass you by. High school is such a great experience, don’t get caught up in any one thing. While Kate is so busy trying to make these girls her friends, and make John’s life a living hell, she’s missing out on Scott, John’s brother. It’s obvious they have a connection and would be happy together but Kate is so focused elsewhere she can’t see it. Love is always right around the corner, and if you don’t pick up your head and see it you could miss out on something special.

7. Revenge isn’t ALWAYS the right answer.

Cliques do exist, mean girls are real, and rumors do spread. High school can be full of drama and your feelings may get hurt. The things these girls do to John should not ever be done to anyone, as what John did shouldn’t be done to others either. Luckily it was a movie and John’s feelings didn’t get extremely hurt but you never know what is going on in someone’s life outside of school. Words hurt and can have a bigger effect on someone than you may think. Always be the bigger person. Talk things out and lend out a hand to those who need someone to lean on. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

Watching these students make their way through high school will help you with your experience, too. Having a diverse group of characters lets you connect with them and see how they deal with everyday situations. That is why I recommend this film to all, especially teenage girls. Beside the fact “John Tucker Must Die” will have you laughing endlessly and reaching for the remote to play it again.

According to CinemaBlend:

John Tucker Must Die follows the recently popular formula for inane teenage entertainment. It gathers together a group of twenty-something soap stars and singers with Abercrombie & Fitch bodies, casts them as unscrupulous high school students bent on being popular enough to get each other in the sack, and puts them through the same old ridiculous scenarios and tired visual gags. Once again, a movie has emerged with two apparent purposes for its obvious target audience: steal their money and dim their intelligence.

If it were possible, the characters could be considered less than one dimensional. There’s John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe), the all balls and no brain jock star who could well be on his way to getting an academic scholarship from Harvard’s LaCrosse team. He’s in trouble for dating and sleeping with all the sufficiently pretty girls in school at the same time. His sneaky, horny tactics pay off until three of the girls figure out what’s going on. Heather, (Ashanti) the busty cheerleader, Beth, (Sophia Bush) the over-sexed idealist, and Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) the ditzy brainiac (go figure that one), discover John’s been cheating on all of them and decide they need to take revenge. Their goal is to make him completely undateable and crush his homornal male spirit. To do it they enlist the help of Kate (Brittany Snow), an innocent loner and the only pretty girl in school that John hasn’t bedded.

John Tucker quickly becomes a metaphor for every guy who is out there charming women into bed and then skipping out with the sunrise. His last name also quickly becomes one of the lamer running jokes throughout the film. The girls exclaim that they’re tired of dating one Tucker after another. Of course, he could have been John Nassole, or John Chitthed, but since the movie has to maintain a PG-13 rating, Tucker is the better choice for getting those golden “f”-word giggles out of the teenage crowd.

Along the way the movie dances around with the idea of developing some kind of positive message, which might have been a good idea. However, each time the story comes within arms reach of a redeeming quality, it turns around and erupts into a tantrum, food fight, or some other infantile comedic activity. Ironically, the only character that learns anything truly valuable about herself is Kate’s mother, played by the cast-because-she’s-hot Jenny McCarthy. Her life has been spent dating a long line of “John Tuckers” and through her daughter’s misguided exploits she realizes it’s time to think a little harder about the men to she dates. Of course, that probably goes way over the heads of the teens watching the film. The lessons aimed at them come at the end when John Tucker realizes that honesty is the best policy. That way his high school exploits in dating multiple girls can evolve from deceitful secrecy to hot, three way action.

The story is tiresome, the comedy is stupid and the characters are shallow, teenage versions of the ladies from “Sex In The City”. But who needs a good plot, clever comedy and interesting characters when you’ve got Jesse Metcalf’s hotness for the teen girls to drool and swoon over? Look out Channing Tatum, you’ve got competition. The premise might have worked better in a college setting, where the kinds of confidence the characters exude would have been more believable (not to mention responsible). Instead, John Tucker Must Die is mindless drivel, dipped in drippings from American Pie, and served up with the knowledge that there’s a demographic out there with plenty of money to spend and no common sense on how to spend it well.

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2 thoughts on “On John Tucker Must Die

  1. Pingback: On Scream 3 | The Progressive Democrat

  2. Pingback: The Best and Worst of Charmed: Season 6 | The Progressive Democrat

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