In news that would make Elizabeth Wakefield hold the front page of The Oracle, it was revealed today that the Sweet Valley High series is being made into a movie.
Deadline reports Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith (Legally Blonde) and Harper Dill (The Mick) are currently working on the script film adaptation of Francine Pascal’s (and her team of tireless ghostwriters’) wildly successful teen series which debuted in 1983.
For anyone who grew up in the 1980s/1990s, the frothy fiction that centred around identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield with their blonde, shoulder-length hair, blue-green eyes the colour of the Pacific Ocean, perfect size six figures and bright red Fiat Spider, made up the sum total of every aspiration you ever had.
Every one of us yearned to be either the bookish, interfering Elizabeth, with her nerdy friends and perfect grades and hunky basketball star boyfriend Todd Wilkins (or sometimes the rather limp Jeffrey French – she occasionally subbed one in for the other to keep things interesting).
Or, more likely (wait, was this just me?), you wanted to be the vixenish and frankly borderline psychopathic Jessica, the fantasy of every boy at school, who surrounded herself with rich and vicious friends like Lila Fowler, and generally made everyone’s lives miserable while having a marvellous time.
On the surface the series seemed benign – high school kids getting up to harmless high jinks. In fact, many of their stories were as reckless and dangerous as a date with the rapey Bruce Patman. Which is one of the things that made them so addictive. The town of Sweet Valley was populated by thrilling, superficial, immoral monsters. And by god, our 13-year-old selves wanted to be that kind of monster too.
Sweet Valley Wrong:
Here are some of the more eye-watering plotlines the SVH filmmakers might want to consider as they narrow down their options:
If it’s an ‘empowerment’ message they’re after they should look no further than Sweet Valley High #4 – Power Play. That’s the one where Jessica harangues the new girl at school, Robin Wilson, for being overweight, leading Robin to develop what could only be described as a full-blown eating disorder. Once sufficiently skinny, Robin was permitted to join Jessica’s cheerleading squad and became one of the most popular girls in school.
Or maybe they’d be interested in drilling down to the sledgehammer prejudices revealed in Sweet Valley High #10 - “The Wrong Kind of Girl” – where we learn that new girl Annie Whitman is wildly maladjusted because she grew up with – gasp! – a single mother. Jessica devotes every waking hour to tormenting the luckless Annie until Annie attempts to take her own life. Another heartwarming lesson for teenage girls everywhere.
Oh and then there was everyone date raping everyone – Lila got date raped by John Pfeiffer (though at least he went on to die in a fire), Bruce Patman ripped off Jessica’s bikini top in the pool against her wishes. There were also sobering lessons about the horrors of the working class (heiress Lila Fowler slums with a construction worker once, to everyone’s naked disgust) and screwing over everyone you knew, even your own twin sister, to get your own way.
The whole series – all 600 books – were depraved, ridiculous and formative parts of our rocky 90s childhoods. And if the filmmakers try to clean things up at all we’ll ignore them in the cafeteria and kick them out of Phi Beta Alpha.