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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Girls In The Back Of The Cast

I was watching 90210 last week when the character of Lila was introduced. The actress seemed familiar so I googled her. Instead of immediately getting the actresses name, I instead came across this casting call notice for the character.

"Lila: A student at West Beverly who is both stylish and sarcastic, Lila is “chubby” and “heavier than our girls on the show.” Recurring potential."

Charming isn't it, but it got me thinking of teen dramas and their perception of the overweight, bespectacled, and non-conformist. Let's start with the "big girls", the big girls are usually no more than a size 10 or 12 at best. Despite the fact that they hang with the core cast, they are never really a part of it. On the off chance that a big girl is paired up romantically, it's usually with another outcast character.

For example, Delia from My So Called Life. Sure she hung out with Angela, Brian, and Ricky but only in a peripheral sense. There was no threat of her hooking up with Jordan Catalano. Instead she was pawned off on nerdy Brian and then rebounded onto a gay guy who sees her as a chance to "go straight."

Another example is Terri from Degrassi: The Next Generation. She hung out with the core cast but like Delia, she was still peripheral. Her only real relationship on the show was with Rick, a "nerdy" character who quickly became abusive. Her only major story lines concerned her obsessing over her weight and becoming a plus size model. Despite being an original cast member, the character was written off with little fanfare and rarely mentioned again.

And of course who could forget the girls with glasses. They are always portrayed as rampant overachievers with little to no social skills. Like the big girls, they hang out with the core cast but are never truly fit in. If the show progresses past high school, these same characters will forgo their dreams of Ivy League Schools to attend the convenient community college that everyone else goes to. These characters never hook up with the shows stud and usually wind up with other outcasts. More insultingly characters like 90210's Andrea and Degrassi's Liberty lose the glasses and suddenly become more popular and likable.

And then there are the true outcasts, the Goths/Wiccans. Their purpose on the show is to be the antagonist to the prettier, popular characters. They are so totally non-conformist and are so above the high school/college drama. For a time, either the characters are quickly written off (Glenda, One Tree Hill) or suddenly give up their Goth ways and happily conform (Ellie from Degrassi.) The most insulting change was Meghan from Felicity. She started out a wonderfully dark and awesome character. However, by the end of the series she happily conformed and thus became boring.

This is Amber Wallace who played gothy Glenda on One Tree Hill. She's the "lucky" actress picked to play the "chubby" Lila on 90210.


Sadako said...

Or else they get made over into tiny size zero clones.

Good call. I was hoping they'd do more with Delia, too, but then I guess the show did get canceled. Still she definitely was more of an outsider than any of the others...