She’s Just Being Miley
I’m not going to lie: ever since the cruel, faceless overlords took SpongeBob SquarePants off of Netflix Instant, I’ve been struggling to find reasons to get out of bed in the morning. What’s the point? I can’t cook dinner while listening to SpongeBob ask, “Art thou feeling it now, Mr. Krabs?” I can’t skip class and watch my favorite fry cook teach a little piece of floating algae about fun.
Trying to fill a SpongeBob-shaped void is a lot harder than I thought it would be. He is irreplaceable. So instead, I decided to watch the most awesomely bad shit that Netflix Instant has to offer. Some shows and movies are so bad that they make you feel better about yourself. You get to sit there in the same clothes you wore yesterday, mustard stain on your shirt, and say, “Well, at least I’m not that person.”
But there’s a bell curve: an optimal level of badness that makes something funny. And sometimes, a movie crosses the line from bad-funny to bad-offensive. That movie is 2012’s LOL with Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore.
The movie’s tag-line warns us: “You can change your status, but not your heart.” Okay, I get it. Love is difficult to navigate as a teenager, especially in the social media era. I can dig it. So I grabbed a bowl of ice cream and some potato chips, and I settled in for 90 minutes of mindless fun. God, I wish I had watched Pretty Little Liars instead.
The movie opens with a nauseating bitch-slap to the rule of thirds: a schizophrenic, wide panning shot of Wrigley High School. An elevated train, a giant shiny bean, and big buildings. I wonder, briefly, if they think I’m stupid. I fucking know where we are. I travel. Jesus. The clumsy exposition does not bode well for what clearly should be a masterpiece of subtlety.
Deep-dish pizza is a Seattle thing, right? (Source.)
After we establish setting, we meet Miley’s character, Lola. She wears ripped tights and oversized flannel shirts because she’s laid-back. If the flannel wasn’t enough of a tip-off, she tells us that she’s “just goin’ with the flow. Trying to love, live, and laugh out loud. Which is nice, cause [her] name is Lola, but everyone calls [her] ‘Lol.’” I briefly wonder if anyone taught the writer to show, not tell.
Her friends are Something 1 (Blonde) and Something 2 (Brunette), whose names fly away from me as soon as they’re out of Lola’s mouth. She also has a boyfriend named Chad. I’m supposed to believe that they didn’t talk all summer long even though they’re totally in love and her phone is surgically attached to her hand. He casually tells her that he hooked up with someone else over the summer. She runs off to the bathroom so she can scribble over the sharpied testament to their love: <3Chad + Lola 4ever<3. (Not anymore, apparently.)
This is where we conveniently meet Chad’s best bro Kyle, or, as I like to call him, Cheekbones Guitarman. Lola tells us that he’s her best friend even though I thought Blonde Something and Brunette Something were her best friends. He reminds me of those creepy “We love the moon” creatures, spongmonkeys. But his cheekbones could cut glass, and he’s sensitive. His businessman father doesn’t understand him or his music. So, you know, he’s perfect.
Dreamboat alert. (Source.)
This movie is confusing. Like, really confusing. There’s a Battle of the Bands plot for Cheekbones’s band, No Shampoo. (Yes, that is really the name of his band.) Cheekbones sings a song about always having loved a certain lady friend. It goes like this: Something something, I won’t let you go now that you’re mine, something something, strum the guitar, something. He gives Lola the spongmonkey eye, which I think is a good thing.
Meanwhile her freshly-divorced mom, Demi Moore, whose character’s name I can’t recall, has a meet-cute with a cop. Demi meets Dreamy McCopButt when she breaks her high heel at the courthouse. He’s all, “You’re not gonna find a cab at this time of day. I’m a safe driver, trust me.” So she accepts a ride on the back of his motorcycle. Hello, stranger danger? But what am I even saying? Infantilization is so totally hot. She melts for him, as do we all.
And then, when Demi is gabbing with her friends, this conversation happens:
LOL, women r ridiculous. Just lay back and think of England, mmkay?
So, Lola and Cheekbones get to know each other in a movie montage—even though they’re supposed to be best friends?—and it’s adorable. They visit the shiny bean, share a lollipop, and run the wrong way down an escalator. Lola writes in her journal, “I can’t love him, but I do. I feel so real with him.” As you can see from her Moleskine journal and her forbidden feelings, she’s deep, y’all.
Oh man, this is boring. Anyways, Facebook era and all. It’s complicated. She thinks Cheekbones and some “skank” she lovingly calls Post-It fucked in the bathroom. Post-It, who “sticks to everything,” is a skanky skank who is a skank because she’s a skank. You wouldn’t understand. Anyways, instead of talking to him about it, she storms off. For a while, she goes from “Fuck you” to “Okay, see you in an hour” back to “Never talk to me again.” This is, admittedly, the most realistic part of the movie.
Philosophizing and junk.
Blah blah. Demi goes on a date with Dreamy McCopButt where she says something along the lines of, “I used to be all for women having the same rights and sexual liberation, but with my little girl, I just don’t know.” Then she asks a man who has no children for advice on raising her children. He says, “I think you think too much.” She responds by sucking on his face. He’s a panty-dropper, that one.
Lola and Cheekbones get back together on their way to Paris for a school trip. (Yeah, that happens.) Anyways, when she gets back, her mom asks her how her trip was. She says, “It was cool.” You’re not going to tell her about the things you saw or the house you stayed in or anything? The Eiffel Tower or the food? No? Okay… Um, also, Cheekbones breaks up with Lola again over Facebook Chat, citing bad timing and Chad and stuff. Then, almost immediately, it’s back on. Cheekbones says, “Ur my girl.” To which she responds with a smiley face. God, it’s romantic.
Blah blah, there’s a fight between Lola and her mom, which results in Wisecracking Grandma saying, I shit you not, “This house needs a man.” Run and tell that, Granny. What else? Cheekbones wins Battle of the Bands in front of his mean businessman dad, effectively melting his icy, business-y heart. Lola and Cheekbones walk off together into the sunset. Or something. It’s happily ever after for the spoiled brats. In the end, Lola learns something important: “You can pretend to be anyone you want, but when it comes to love—I mean real love—just be yourself.” Cue vomit.
My problem with this movie isn’t that it’s mindless or even that it’s poorly-written garbage. Sometimes there’s nothing better than just zoning out in front of something you don’t have to think about. My problem is that it markets itself as a movie for independent young women—Miley’s character being a sort of trailblazing young teen just trying to figure it all out. And yet, it fails the Bechdel test, a manner of testing the realism of female characters in books and movies, so hard.
LIPSTICK!EYE SHADOW!SKIRTS! (Also, check out Alison Bechdel’s website, Dykes to Watch Out For.)
Lola’s friends technically have names, but they escape me. Not that their names matter. I mean, they’re not real people nor do they have personalities; they’re just there to thrust Lola towards her hunky destiny. Save for a montage in which they play dress up in Paris, there’s no, for lack of a better word, substance to these relationships.
She doesn’t have a single conversation with Blonde Something or Brunette Something that doesn’t eventually turn into a conversation about her boy troubles. Oh, wait, that’s a lie. She and Blondie have a brief exchange in Paris about a phone adapter. Oh, but technically it turns into a conversation about Cheekbones. You win some, you lose some, I guess.
Chad and Cheekbones are supposed to be peripheral to Lola, part of her story, yet, while they get to exist outside of the relationship bubble, she doesn’t. They have several conversations about their musical aspirations. But Lola? Even though she’s the title character, she has zero personality outside of tEh bOizzz. She can’t even tell her mom about her visit to a foreign fucking country because it isn’t a conversation about Cheekbones or Chad or her dad or Dreamy McCopButt.
Her mom, to boot, functions as this kind of straw-man feminist. She constantly makes snide remarks about equality, but in a manner that’s supposed to make you disagree with her. She nods along to Random Husband’s astute observations on female sexuality. She’s childish when it comes to her relationship with her ex-husband, getting mad at him for “screwing random sluts” even though she’s dating/screwing Dreamy McCopButt. She even asks Wisecracking Grandma why everything has to be about dating and men—while talking about dating and men. She cannot support her own opinions because they’re unsupportable.
Dude, I know I’m probably expecting too much out of a movie featuring Miley fucking Cyrus, but that’s kind of my point. Well-rounded female characters shouldn’t be groundbreaking or unexpected or Academy Award material. It’s weird to say, but women are people too. With, like, hopes and dreams and interests and stuff. I guess I’m just mad because I’m on my period, but I doubt Miley Cyrus only thinks about Thor’s little brother, that Hunger Games guy. (That’s a thing still, right? Those two?) She probably also thinks about how much hair bleach burns and, like, music or whatever. And, let’s be honest: teenage girls aren’t going to watch The Hours until they get to their hairy armpit phase in college.
So, for the love of god, let’s put a bit more effort into this shit, okay? Show girls that there’s more to life than boys? All I ask is for one conversation per movie—just one—that’s not about dating or boys. I will even take a conversation about the benefits and drawbacks to nail polish, just as long as I don’t hear, “Well, my boyfriend hates when I paint my nails.” Please? I’m trying to impress a guy in my History of Women class.