Do you ever have one of those weekends where you don’t feel like watching and recapping an episode of Lizzie McGuire but you’ve made a vow to review all 65 of them on a weekly basis?
This week we’ve got a hell of an episode. There’s a plot and everything. It’s called “Election” because it’s about an election and not, as far as I can tell, in any sort of homage to the Reese Witherspoon vehicle of the same name.
It starts with Kate and some chick walking around being pleasant. “Okay, something’s going on,” says Lizzie. “Claire is being nice to everybody and Kate’s not even stopping her!” The disregard the Disney Channel has for its audience’s intelligence is honestly astonishing. We’ve never seen this Claire character before. She seems to be Kate’s second-in-command here and we’re all supposed to accept that that’s a fact we’ve always known. We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.
Right off the bat we get two tropes I hate in kid’s shows: the cheerleaders who walk around in their uniforms for no reason and the characters who are labelled “popular” but characterized by over-the-top horrible personalities. You know what would make Kate better, besides casting a different actress? If she were a fake-ass bitch. If Kate were nice to everyone all the time but in a fake way, then a) she’d be a much more believable popular girl, b) Lizzie’s history as a former close friend of hers would be much more compelling because only she would know the real Kate, and c) her hatred for Kate would be less cliche hatred of a mean girl and more of a simmering resentment stemming from why everyone else can’t see why Kate is so fake. Which would make the audience side with Lizzie and make Lizzie actually relatable! Why don’t I have a contract to write scripts?
Anyway, turns out Claire is running for class president and her only opposition is Larry Tudgeman, whose gimmick is he’ll eat a worm for every vote he’s promised. The trio complains that the popular kids win everything and Gordo says a true normal person should run. Someone like Lizzie! Gordo and Miranda both insist she’s the perfect representation of a normal student.
You know what we could go for here? Some oppositional costuming. Does Lizzie scream “average middle schooler” to you right now? No, because she’s dressed like she’s gonna start an all-girl alternative band. You know who should be dressed like that? Miranda, who in real life did join an all-girl alternative band but they kicked her out. (This was a little bit after Lalaine’s meth years so I guess they just didn’t like her personality.) Lizzie doesn’t read as “the embodiment of normalcy” and therefore this scene doesn’t really make any sense. There’s no discussion of which of the three should run – they just nominate Lizzie. So she should be dressed differently than Miranda, and that should be the case consistently. Why don’t I have a contract to costume TV shows?
Lizzie throws her hat in the ring and her parents are proud of her. Note that she’s eating a cereal called “Computers.” I don’t have a joke for that, I’m pretty confused about it overall.
Her dad says he was president of the audio-visual club is his day and they use an actual old picture of that actor, Robert Carradine, in his younger years looking nerdy. That’s cute!
Except notice that they didn’t take the TWO SECONDS it would take to photoshop that nametag to make it say “Sam,” his character’s name on this show. They clearly were photoshopping that big projector into the image already! Remember what I said about Disney Channel not giving a good God damn about their audience’s intelligence?
Matt comes down and pours two bowls of cereal and starts talking to an empty chair. Oh, fuck me. Matt has an invisible friend named Jasper now. Do the writers just sit around and ask each other to brainstorm the most obnoxious things kids do? The kid who plays Matt is actually a pretty gifted actor so it’s a shame I want to punch him every time I see his dumb face on the screen.
Gordo calls Lizzie to coach her on how to appeal to the masses but temporarily zones out thinking about how hot Claire is. How did I not remember that Gordo was this much of a fuckboy? Miranda makes posters for Lizzie. I guess because she’s the artsy one. Maybe? She hates art class because they aren’t allowed to draw N*SYNC. I bet Miranda had a DeviantArt account by the end of high school, now that I think about it.
Gordo says Tudgeman’s only appeal is the shock factor of his worm stunt. “He’s all about shock value,” he says. “Think of him as the Marilyn Manson to your Britney Spears.” They totally said that so they could re-use that Hilary-as-Britney B-roll from the picture day episode.
Claire and Kate roll up to intimidate Lizzie and Kate calls Lizzie a “LOSER!!!” twice, both times making the L sign backwards. The actress who plays Claire is really pretty and competent, so maybe the writers brought her in because they realized they were only gonna get so much out of their horribly cast antagonist. Anyway, Lizzie gets the confidence to make a big mean speech to both of them about how she’s the better choice.
Some dork named Veruca is impressed by how Lizzie stood up to Claire and Kate and promises her the votes of all the mathletes.
Lizzie starts politicking and making speeches. And she re-wears that fugly shirt I called her out for last week! That’s actually fine and I won’t make another “Lizzie McGuire, you are an outfit repeater!” joke because at least it’s not twice in the same episode. No one would ever notice if they weren’t devoting a chunk of their life to watching all of these in order, so I give them a pass because I am confident the costume design team did not see this project coming.
We get a montage of Lizzie shmoozing with different groups. This show would be sunk without Hilary Duff. Something about her is absolutely insanely likeable. As an actress, she’s fine, nothing special, but she’s got boatloads of charisma. From her modern-day social media she seems completely charming and relatable and sweet to this day. This montage is fun just because of her. We also get to see Miranda running around screaming to vote for Lizzie and Lalaine also seems in her element here. Makes you picture Miranda at a protest for some feminist cause down the line.
I want to point out that Lizzie visits some club where she both wears Princess Leia hair and then removes it for a Star Trek-themed photo doing the Vulcan salute. This bit isn’t conflating Star Wars and Star Trek, is it? You are walking a razor’s edge of offensiveness, writers. Maybe it’s like a sci-fi club and they like both.
Lizzie gains some confidence and Gordo says she’s starting to have an advantage: Tudgeman had to go to the nurse for a worm-related stomachache and Claire hasn’t even infiltrated the drama group. Wait, what? “But the drama club is like second-tier popular!” cries Miranda. Um. Lizzie resolves to take on the challenge of getting them to like her and says nervously but excitedly, “I can’t believe I’m gonna hang out with the drama club!” WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Miranda reminds her she said she’d eat lunch with the Foreign Exchange Club. Lizzie says it’s not a hard choice between eating foreign food and hanging with cool drama kids, and Gordo says it’s more important for to be seen with a group as influential as them.
W H A T U N I V E R S E D O E S T H I S T A K E P L A C E I N
I’ve decided that the writers were all homeschooled and have no concept of actual middle school hierarchies. Their only frame of reference is the cliche old shows they watched at home and the joy they took in community theatre when they left the house. Or maybe they’re all British and the theatre is so respected over there that even middle-school thespians are admired. Or maybe this whole show is written by a bunch of idiots!
Continuing along with the recap and not dwelling on how I could have been second-tier popular if only I’d gone to school wherever Lizzie lives, Lizzie dons a cool outfit and gets in with the drama club. That ideal to which all middle schoolers aspire. Miranda asks what’s gotten into Lizzie and a slack-jawed Gordo says, “Whatever it is is making me all tingly inside!” Fucking Gordo, man.
Meanwhile the McGuire parents buy Matt a cool new toy so he’ll stop talking to his imaginary friend but he doesn’t. They ask him to play with his real friends and he says he can’t because they all have expensive video game equipment and he doesn’t. The McGuire parents are idiots and say they’ll buy him that too.
Cut to – oh shit, it’s the Digital Bean! I was wondering when we’d see the Digital Bean! What the fuck is this place? This dimly-lit, super-funky hangout that seems to be patronized only by middle schoolers comes up a lot on this show. How do they get there? Why does it exist? Why are there no adults? I made a joke about this in a creative writing project I did in seventh grade or so and no one laughed and I looked up from my paper and saw everyone staring at me and in that moment I realized, too late, that it is not socially appropriate to admit you watch Disney Channel in middle school. Do you see how far from second-tier popular I was in those days?
Anyway, in the Digital Bean Lizzie makes Gordo get her drink for her and complains about it and is a dick. She demands Gordo get her a coffee so she’ll look as edgy as the drama kids which is a bizarre choice for a middle schooler but so is this entire establishment! Miranda makes a big huge deal about why she would drink coffee. I don’t know, why the fuck are y’all in a coffee shop, Miranda? The world you inhabit is topsy-turvy. Lizzie says things are CHANGING and Miranda should try to KEEP UP. Miranda says she CAN keep up, she just CHOOSES NOT TO. The fights on this show are so tame. But Miranda storms off so I guess we’re supposed to think it was a big deal.
The next day we get some Serious Acting from Lalaine who looks like she might cry as she complains to Gordo that Lizzie just hangs with the popular (drama) kids now. Really, Miranda? You did that in the pilot with Kate’s crew. Bam, bitch! I got receipts on your ass.
Sad music plays as Gordo and Miranda complain about the duplicity of politics. Wow, that’s…weirdly heavy for an episode with a subplot about an imaginary friend. Gordo advises Lizzie to hang out with all the clubs in school to remind them before voting day that she’s the voice of the people but Lizzie blows him off to hang out in the intoxicating presence of the drama kids.
At home Mrs. McGuire listens in on Matt’s phone conversation and hears him tell his friend that his parents fell for the invisible friend ploy and are buying him a lot of cool shit. Duh, Mrs. McGuire.
At school we get a voting montage and the current class president announces the new one. Why didn’t you run for a second term, current class president? The current class president is Sara Paxton, by the way! You know her from things, like replacing the OG Marnie from Halloweentown for Return to Halloweentown. They should have dressed her just a smidge preppier and she’d be a pretty good Tracy Flick stand-in if they wanted to make one of the obscure over-kids’-heads references they like to throw in there every now and again but, once again, I would be a better costume designer for this show.
And the winner is Tudgeman! Sure, whatever! We knew Lizzie wouldn’t win because then the show couldn’t complain about what a nobody she is. BUT GUESS WHAT FUCKING HAPPENS.
Tudgeman, big old nerd that he is, yells a Star Wars reference at the end of his speech. The reference? “One more thing: Jar-Jar Binks RULES!” And all the nerds in the audience cheer!!!
GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE WITH THAT WEAK SHIT, SHOWRUNNERS! Jar-Jar Binks??? That’s the Star Wars reference you’re gonna have the nerds cheer for? Never mind that said nerds are dressed in Star Trek costumes – I’ve already tenuously conceded that point to you on the assumption that this club might like both. But they are cheering for the statement that fucking Jar-Jar Binks allegedly “rules”? FIGHT ME, TERRI MINSKY!
After the election Lizzie is all alone in the Digital Bean, because okay, eating ice cream, because what is this place, and Gordo and Miranda come in to comfort her. Lizzie makes a speech about how she was a bad friend and a “total monster” to Gordo and Miranda. Um, Lizzie, hate to break it to you but you were way more horrible to be around last episode and that was just normal behavior for you.
Gordo says they kind of won because at least they succeeded in taking something away from the popular kids. You know what else would have been good? If they had Sara Paxton in a cheerleader uniform to signal that the cheerleaders had a lock on the class president deal. Then this win would feel more historic for the social class system of the school. Don’t mind me, writers, doing your job for you fourteen years later!
At home the McGuire parents make Matt wash an imaginary donkey because it’s a fitting punishment for his crime, see? The trio sit and laugh at him because they have nothing better to do. Matt whines about it like the obnoxious asshole he is. Dude, you’re getting off so easy! Your parents should take away both new toys they got you and take away phone privileges for a month or something! Matt finally gets so fed up he sprays his parents with the hose. What a stupid brat! Everyone laughs and all runs around spraying each other with the hose and tossing suds on each other. Great, so Matt’s punishment turns into a fun game! No wonder he’s the worst!
A totally random observation I haven’t been able to fit in anywhere: I noticed recently that at the end of all episodes, it says “Filmed at Ren-Mar Warehouses.” That’s where the Aaron Carter video was filmed! Meta, or just laziness? Does that mean it’s canon that Lizzie lives in California or wherever Ren-Mar Warehouses is? I tried to look this up and ended up finding Lizzie McGuire fanfic and I was all like “nope” and ended my search there.
Anyway, this episode had a much better structure than some but also some truly baffling elements. Claire randomly appearing! The cool drama club! JAR-JAR BINKS, WHY. I’d give it a B if I assigned letter grades but I don’t and since I’m not the Disney Channel I’m not going to spring a new thing on you totally randomly and expect you to not question it.