Things In She's All That You Only Notice As An Adult

It's hard to believe that 1999 was so long ago — before smartphones were in everyone's hands and college acceptance letters still arrived via the postal service. 

Fortunately, if you're nostalgic for the era of Napster and "No Scrubs," you can still revisit those pre-Y2K days via the teenage rom-com She's All That. Starring '90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. and petite, brunette bombshell Rachael Leigh Cook, the movie hearkens to a simpler time when being prom royalty was paramount, and fax machines were still relevant. 

There are some details throughout the movie that you may not have caught onto when watching as a teen. And while it hasn't aged terribly overall, some aspects of it have — especially in the era of #metoo and #timesup. Here are some of the things you'll only notice about She's All That as an adult viewer. 

There's a Hanson reference

Remember when you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing "MMMbop" every two hours? Well, that '90s pop cultural phenomenon bled right into She's All That, though you have to be quick to catch it. Blink and you miss it, but to help Taylor become prom queen, her supporters bust out a picture of her with Hanson to show how hip and connected she is.

Hanson made a comeback in 2017, however, so maybe they'll influence a few more prom elections in the future.

The Boggs family live in the hills

It's made clear in She's All That that Laney doesn't come from a rich family with a huge house. Rather, she lives in a single-parent home with her father and brother.  Still, the Boggs family manages to live in what looks like the hills above Los Angeles, an area that's not known for being cheap. For a single-parent family dependent only on a pool cleaner's salary, it's odd they can afford to live in that location.

Zack inspires Laney's art

In the beginning of the film, Laney's art teacher, Ms. Rousseau, is critical of her art. That's because Laney is inspired by the turmoil in Mogadishu, Somalia, to which she has no personal connection. 

Later in the film, however, Ms. Rosseau tells Laney that her painting of her mother is amazing — maybe the best piece of art she's seen all year from anyone. She goes on to tell Laney that that she's passed this information onto the art schools Laney has applied to (via fax, because it's 1999). Then she says, very seriously, "I have spent four years trying to open you up, Laney Boggs. Whatever's responsible for this change, don't let it go." 

However, the only big change in Laney's life is that Zack has fallen for her, which has opened up her emotional life in a new way. The takeaway message: A man was the catalyst for her artistic awakening.

Laney Boggs is gorgeous from the start

Laney is supposed to be an ugly duckling who's "scary and inaccessible," as Zack describes her in the beginning. But Laney's played by actress Rachael Leigh Cook, who is clearly beautiful. Dressing her in overalls and big glasses didn't change that. 

Still, the movie literally relies on the old cliche that if nerdy girls simply remove their glasses and let their hair down, they'll suddenly become sexy and desirable. Zack even asks Laney about her glasses, and if she'd consider swapping them out for contact lenses. He tells her that, "your eyes are really beautiful," which is so corny that even Laney doesn't believe he's being serious.  

But once Laney is presented to Zack post-makeover, he's 100 percent into her, as if she wasn't always that beautiful.

It passes the Bechdel Test, but it's not feminist

In order for a movie to pass The Bechdel Test, two named, female characters have to have a conversation about something other than men. She's All That passes the test several times, though that doesn't make it a feminist film.

First, mean girls Savannah and Misty encourage Laney to commit suicide in art class, citing the benefit of being discovered posthumously as an artist. Later, Savannah, despite being sick on the bathroom floor, boasts to Laney about getting into art school in an attempt to make her feel bad. That's not exactly girl power.

Later, Mackenzie and Laney talk about "girly stuff" and make-up, as well as Laney's mom, but it's during a makeover.

Finally, during the big confrontation between Taylor and Laney, Taylor deliberately spills a drink on Laney's dress and says, "You really should be more careful with silk." Laney responds, "Thank you. For a minute there I forgot why I avoided places like this and people like you." Taylor, aghast, asks, "Avoided us? Honey. Look around you. To everyone here who matters, you're vapor. You're spam. A waste of perfectly good yearbook space. Nothing's going to change that." That might not be about men, but it sure isn't empowering.

Zack stalks Laney

Zack has no qualms about showing up wherever Laney may be, even if he's not invited. He first shows up at her job, where she tells him, "Stalking is illegal in all 50 states." After that, Zack shows up at her house, and she tells him, "Look, you can't keep showing up like this." He responds, "And you can't keep avoiding me. Like the other night. What was that?" She says she was busy, which should have been enough, but it isn't. 

So when she turns down his invitation to go to the beach, he accepts Simon's invitation to play Sega at their house just be around her. This forces her to acquiesce, so she gets her bathing suit and goes to the beach with him. 

Later on, she declines the invitation to Preston's party, saying she has to clean the house. He shows up at her home anyway with the JV soccer team to do the cleaning. He also brings his sister along to give Laney a makeover, and a dress for her to wear to the party. Later he crashes her art studio uninvited, showing he won't take no for an answer.

Zack tells Laney to smile

During a walk on the beach, Laney says she's concerned about the health of the ocean, which is a noble concern. But this puzzles Zack, who's clearly not invested in the cause. In an effort to get her to relax, he asks her, "Don't you ever just kick back? I mean, I know the world has its problems, but would it hurt you to smile once in a while?" As an adult, most women find such a request annoying — or even rude and disrespectful.

There are racial disparities

Clearly an effort was made to have diverse casting as there are many people of color in the film. But if you take a look at the credits, you'll notice that some of the black actors aren't named like the white characters. 

To start, Vanessa Chester, the black actress in the opening scene (during which Zack says "what's happening, Connie?" to a white woman named Melissa), is simply "Girl #2." Additionally, Preston, a significant character, doesn't have a last name. Lil' Kim, a major celebrity, is simply "Alex." And Usher, another major celebrity, is just named "Campus DJ." 

There are indeed other minor white characters like Chandler, who only have first names, but that doesn't explain Preston not having a last name, or stars like Lil' Kim and Usher only having a first name and a general label.

Fat people are shamed

There are several instances in She's All That where fat people are stereotyped or shamed. First, at the beginning of the film, Laney tries to grab a literal Twinkie out of Jesse's hand, and presses him about losing ten pounds by graduation. Later, Jesse is shown eating a chocolate bar with an empty Cheetos bag stuffed in his pocket. In the same scene, he asks if she had "an M&Ms worth of fun" at the party. 

Additionally, during the scene where Dean is looking for a girl for Zack to "transform," a fat girl is shown briefly, with food in her hand. At the prospect of having Dean pick her, Zack quickly changes the subject and tries to get him to pick someone else. 

Finally, at the end of the film, Jesse is shown eating a giant plate of food at the prom. That doesn't stop Mackenzie from flirting with him, but it's a stereotypical representation for laughs nonetheless.

White privilege abounds

As an adult, it's hard to miss the amount of white privilege in She's All That. In the beginning, Laney's painting depicts her interpretation of the turmoil in Mogadishu, but she's a white girl living in America. Her teacher aptly points out that those issues aren't her personal struggle. 

But the most obvious example of white privilege in the movie plays out in Zack's college dilemma. He has letters of acceptance from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Yale, but agonizes over the difficult choice he has to make, not aware of how privileged he really is. 

When his dad catches him hiding the letters because of his indecision, Zack says, "I'm not like you, I just can't pick a letter out of a stack!" His father responds, "Of course you can, that's what being an adult is all about! Making choices!" If only adulthood was as easy as picking which Ivy League school to attend.

The man banter is sexist

While it might not have seemed so egregious as a kid in the '90s, the banter between the guys in the film is actually quite sexist. 

It starts when Taylor dumps Zack, and he exclaims, "Who the hell does she think she is? There are 2,000 girls in this school and I can bump monkeys with every one of 'em. Taylor Vaughn is totally replaceable." Dean objects, saying, "Every girl wants to be her, and every guy wants to nail her." And Preston adds, "Basically she's you, with t**s." But Zack counters this, saying, "You strip away all that attitude and make-up and basically all you have is a C- GPA with a wonder bra." They're not being kind to Taylor in this objectifying assessment. 

Dean also has some additional choice moments. At the beach, he gestures down to Laney and says, "Check out the bobos on Superfreak. You know, from up here, she almost looks normal." Then at the game, Dean tells Zack that he missed the goal because he hasn't "gotten any" in a while, which can "really screw up a guy's concentration," highlighting the guys' obsession with sex, and the idea that it's a need and women are just a prop. 

While perhaps all these scenes were intended as cultural commentary, the lines sure are blurred between commentary and exploitation. Side note: here's the science behind how sexual activity actually affects athletic performance.

The big paternal pep talk is awkward

Laney's dad is clearly meant to come off as bumbling and out-of-it. He gets every Jeopardy! answer wrong, mumbles a lot, and doesn't seem to notice that Zack has enlisted the JV soccer team to clean his house. 

But somehow, it's supposed to be believable that he can pull together an inspiring pep talk toward the end of the film, which will motivate and comfort Laney. He tells her that she takes on too much responsibility, and worries that she's missing out on being a kid. He also confesses that he's afraid she's "putting off her life like this," forgetting that she's been severely impacted by her mother's passing. Then he tells he to go to the prom and have fun. As an adult, this scene just comes off as awkward. And why is he futzing with pool parts?