Season 1, episode 23: “Last Year’s Model”

Hoo boy, this is a weird one.

Let’s start with a thought experiment: if I put a gun to your head, could you describe Lizzie McGuire to me? Miranda Sanchez? David Gordon? Matt, Kate, Sam and Jo? You feel like you can, in broad terms, but the writers constantly throw in crazy plots that cause the characters to act in ways you wouldn’t expect. Gordo is Lizzie’s trusty, level-headed best friend, except when he’s an irrational, self-centered dick. Kate sometimes commands the social life of the school, but she’s often a pathetic priss everyone gangs up on.

I can’t even wrap my brain around the main character. The central idea put forth by this series is that Lizzie is painfully average, right? (Suspend your disbelief that Hilary Duff is completely gorgeous and accept that she’s supposed to be inferior to Kate.) Solid B student, neither popular nor a social outcast, generally unremarkable and a klutz to boot.

Anyway, this is an episode about Lizzie becoming a fucking model. Let’s get into it.

This one starts with the McGuires opening mail and Lizzie reading Teen Attitude, a magazine we’ve never seen before. Matt gets a $50 gift certificate from Gammy McGuire, even though his birthday was months before. Sam questions this, pointing out that she got Matt a present already, and Jo scoffs, “Your mother sends him birthday presents every six weeks now. She’s getting a little fuzzy around the edges!” Holy shit, Jo, maybe don’t make fun of your mother-in-law’s rapidly oncoming dementia.

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Lizzie says that Teen Attitude is putting on a fashion show nearby. Anyone can audition to model and those picked for the show get $500 in merchandise. Lizzie was hyped as shit for the chance to be in the background of the junior high documentary just last week, but she’s fairly chill about the prospect of becoming a model. Her mom says she can try out and she’s like “Cool!” and that’s pretty much it.

The audition just involves walking and spinning. Thought experiment time! How should Lizzie handle the task of walking while spinning? Those are two things she should not be able to handle, right? This seems like the perfect opportunity to bring up her almost pathological clumsiness. But nope, Lizzie is perfectly composed and not physically awkward at all. She gets on the catwalk and she’s beauty, she’s grace. Lizzie says they picked her because she looked “like a nice, typical 13-year-old girl,” even after we see her looking glamorous and confident on the catwalk. Honestly, this scene and that line would make a lot more sense if Lizzie had just sent in a headshot. I can’t get over the fact that she had to pass a confident walking test to get this job and she, Lizzie McGuire, passed with flying colors.

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Also, doesn’t it seem like she should have called Miranda and asked her to audition too? I would’ve expected that. Gordo even demands to know why she didn’t tell them about it, because he would have wanted $500, but Miranda seems totally fine with being excluded.

Mr. Dig pops up to be his zany self. He’s really pumped about Lizzie becoming a model, because of course all the substitute teachers would know about one middle schooler’s new extracurricular activity, and encourages her to try to become famous. I thought that was a weird lesson, but I was encouraged when Gordo called him on it and said teachers shouldn’t be telling students that they have to be famous to be happy. Mr. Dig says he’s a sub so he can tell kids the truth: if you want to be happy, it helps to be famous. Lizzie points out when he leaves that he was telling it straight and rich and famous people are way happier. Was this written so Disney could brainwash kids into thinking its terrifyingly exploitative kid star factory was morally sound?

The McGuire parents take Matt and Lanny to what seems like a Bed Bath & Beyond for Matt to spend his gift certificate. He ends up with a hammock. It is extremely obvious that the team was only allowed to shoot in one very small corner of the store, because this entire montage is shot at different angles of the same corner, with props being switched out between takes.

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Lizzie walks in the Teen Attitude fashion show, and half the school is there for some reason. Everyone is in awe of her modeling skills, which the show represents with a lot of spinning. Everyone else on the catwalk does a small turn at the end of the runway to turn around, but Lizzie spins like a top. I counted and Lizzie spun 8 times. It seems excessive. Jo says that their little girl is growing up, and Sam replies that he’s got a new rule and their little girl can’t leave the house till she’s 25. Gross. The patriarchy: ruining literally everything always!

When Miranda and Gordo congratulate her afterwards, Lizzie says that Teen Attitude asked her to do another fashion show. Ethan congratulates her on the show and gets smacked by Kate for it. Seriously, are Ethan and Kate dating? The show often has Kate being possessive of or clingy to Ethan, but I can’t imagine they’re an item or else Lizzie and Miranda would bitch about it more.

Some girl we’ve never seen before shows up to ask Lizzie to hang out with her. We’ll just call her Haircut, cuz boy does she have one.

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Haircut invites Lizzie to hang out at the country club and watch the new Backstreet Boys DVD that’s not even out yet, because “her dad pulled some strings.” Big fucking deal, Haircut! You get to brag when your dad gets you in an Aaron Carter video. Wait, does Haircut’s dad work with Lizzie’s dad? Is this town’s big export Nick and Aaron Carter’s careers? Why isn’t Lizzie’s family part of this country club?

Haircut even invites Miranda and Gordo to this luxe party. Thought experiment time! How would you guess Gordo reacts to this invite by a popular rich kid? Does he hate it? Point out that it’s shallow and they’re being fickle and these aren’t their real friends? Maybe say he’d rather listen to old records than watch DVDs of boy bands? You guessed wrong! Gordo thinks it’s amazing that they’re finally in with the popular crowd.

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At the club, he’s exactly as obnoxious as one might expect, shoveling food into his mouth so fast I can’t understand half his lines. Kate is overcome with giddiness when she sees Lizzie, especially when she finds out that Lizzie is doing a photoshoot for Teen Attitude and will appear on the cover. I can’t stress enough that Ashlie Brillault is a truly terrible actress. It’s pretty bad that the writers make her character so wishy-washy – this is the second episode in a row in which she’s thrown herself at a main character that she usually mocks – but she’s so, so bad. This feels like as good a time as any to point out that on her imdb page (where her profile was definitely written by her mom, by the way), a diehard Ashlie fan had this to say in the forums in 2003:

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Miranda goes into assistant mode, dismissing Kate and offering to fetch Lizzie a drink, which weirds her out. Meanwhile, Gordo brags about knowing Lizzie her whole life to impress Haircut. “I put her in all my movies,” he says, sun glaring off his pasty skin. “If you want, I could come over sometime and show them to you.” Gordo is such a slimy little weasel. Miranda says they should go out dancing – what? these are middle schoolers – and Haircut says that Lizzie is famous enough to get them into an exclusive dance club.

How famous is Lizzie, really? I can’t imagine a 13-year-old model with one fashion show under her belt is a recognizable face around town. Why didn’t she get this level of notoriety when she STARRED IN AN AARON CARTER VIDEO!?

At school the next day, everyone is gawking at Lizzie. You can tell fame hasn’t changed her, because she still dresses like a garbage clown.

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Kate compliments her outfit, and Cartoon Lizzie says she’s worn it before without Kate saying anything. False! I always call out an outfit repeat around here, and this is not one of them. Ethan sees Lizzie and starts babbling incoherently. Lizzie’s completely freaked out by all the attention, even though I’d think that having Ethan melt in your presence would be the dream.

Lizzie starts to rant to Gordo and Miranda about it all (actually pronouncing Kate’s last name correctly this time! Hilary Duff finally learned to say “Sanders!”), but they both dismiss her concerns because, in Miranda’s words, “Who cares? We’re popular now.” Gordo nods enthusiastically to this, which makes no sense for his character. He books Lizzie for more social events so he can tag along, and when she protests because she has homework, he offers to do it for her.

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Lizzie hides in a classroom, where Mr. Dig takes her picture because his nephew is a huge fan. Seriously, how is Lizzie so famous already?! She asks him for advice on getting Gordo and Miranda to act like her friends again and not like her PR team. I would say “Try talking to them about it,” but I’m old-fashioned like that. Mr. Dig suggests that she treat them way worse so they can see that they don’t really want to be her assistants. That sounds like terrible advice. Also, none of this addresses the problem of everyone else in school treating her differently.

Sam takes Matt and Lanny back to Bed Bath & Beyond because they discovered earlier that the hammock broke, which I didn’t mention because who gives a shit, and an employee is running on a treadmill and refusing to help them. That’s bad employee behavior already, but he also insults them and sneeringly says that they don’t do refunds. Matt grabs a roll of duct tape, tapes the man’s hands to the treadmill, and sets the treadmill on top speed until the man is screaming in fear and tells them to take a new hammock. That dude is definitely going to be fired.

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Next we get an honestly amazing scene in which Lizzie, decked out like a Bratz doll, treats Gordo and Miranda like shit to teach them a lesson. Usually the lesson is “don’t treat your friends like shit.” She demands snacks, blows her nose on the homework Gordo did for her, and finally ends up shouting, “You want to keep messing up? You want to keep acting like untrained dogs? Fine! Bark! BARK LIKE DOGS!” and Gordo and Miranda sadly bark for her. It is batshit and I’m down with it.

Finally she swoops off in her tie-dyed feathered caftan, because it’s 2001 and she doesn’t give a fuck.

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She comes back and says she doesn’t want to treat her friends like this, but they made her do it, so it’s their fault. Gordo and Miranda apologize. This doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. Lizzie says everyone at school is still treating her differently, so she has to quit modeling. But she has a contract! Miranda says she should just suck at modeling so they’ll dump her.

Finally, I thought, we get to see Lizzie’s clumsiness come into play. Nope! Gordo hijacks the sound system to play banjo music as Lizzie hops around like a monkey. She’s ripped up the clothes, covered herself in dirt, and blacked out a tooth. She gnaws on a chicken leg before hurling it into the audience and hitting Kate with it, then Miranda starts fake-heckling her so she jumps on Miranda and starts beating her up. All of this seems like a breach of contract, honestly. I feel like she could be sued.

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But I guess that solved that. Later, the trio all hangs out sunbathing in Lizzie’s backyard. She asks Gordo and Miranda to get her some hot chocolate and they both say no. Everything is back to normal! She makes her own hot chocolate to drink while sunbathing. Who drinks hot chocolate while sunbathing? If this show were a person I’d fight them.

There are so many problems with this episode that I think it’d be best to just list them.

  • The idea of Lizzie getting a bunch of attention suddenly is basically a retread of Lizzie running for class president, except last time she loved the attention and this time she’s weirded out by it.
  • Lizzie and Miranda have said on several occasions that they want to be in with the popular kids. Now they are! Why does Lizzie hate it so much? The attention would probably fade within a few weeks once the novelty of her semi-celebrity wore off, and they could take their place at the top of a new social hierarchy with Lizzie dating Ethan. The show doesn’t even acknowledge that Lizzie always wanted this. An admission of her realizing that popularity wasn’t as fun as she’d always expected would at least make this episode feel more meaningful and less like an insane throwaway.
  • To date, Lizzie has been in an Aaron Carter video, was almost a key figure in a documentary about junior high, and is now a famous model. At a certain point, I think the show needs to abandon the idea that Lizzie is the everyman.
  • If she hates the attention now, Lizzie’s gonna have a hell of a time on her school trip to Rome next year.

So yeah. It was not great. It was at least entertaining, unlike boring episodes like “Lizzie Strikes Out,” but there were so many dumb elements to it and no one seemed to be acting in character. Except Matt, who terrorized the Bed Bath & Beyond employee. That seemed right.

Weird never-popular youth culture slang: “coolie” for cool again.

Unnecessary references: Matt does a Dr. Evil impression and we get a weird-as-fuck shot of a mini Lanny that is never explained. Is it…Lanny’s head on a doll? But the doll is wearing the same costume as Lanny in this scene? Is it a dream sequence? For two seconds?

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Notable fashion moments: I want to give the show props for giving Lizzie and Miranda very modest bathing suits at the country club. Miranda is wearing some kind of weird bathing-romper, which is confusing, but the idea is good. I think it’d be exploitative to dress these 13-year-old actresses in anything more revealing for national TV.

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Other interesting tidbits: This should have been called “This Year’s Model.” Not a hard switch. The credits list Mr. Dig as “Mr. Digby Sellers” – “Mr. Dig” is a nickname? In the first Bed Bath & Beyond scene, Matt reads a tag on the hammock as saying “For sale as-is,” indicating it was damaged when they bought it. That’s on the McGuires, honestly. Finally, lest anyone come at me for not knowing a lot of facts about Nick and Aaron Carter, I am aware that the town that was invested in their careers was actually Orlando, where the Backstreet Boys formed (and where I was living when I watched Lizzie McGuire, incidentally.) So Lizzie’s town was probably not invested in the Carters’ careers, as I joked above, because Disney shot in LA, and I’m assuming from a few hints that this show is set in California, too. Nickelodeon, thought, actually did shoot its shows in Orlando in the 90s, incidentally. A kid in my brother’s class was on some Nick commercials. This is turning into a giant fucking tangent, and you know what? I don’t care. Let’s keep it going. Do y’all know about the weird apartment complex in LA for kid actors? It exists and it’s bizarre! Everyone who will be twerking embarrassingly at the VMAs in five years is living there now. The Lizzie actors lived there – check Lalaine’s recent fbf if you don’t believe me.

7 thoughts on “Season 1, episode 23: “Last Year’s Model”

  1. Watching this episode now, and let’s talk about the fact that Kate tells Lizzie she loves her “blouse”, and Cartoon Lizzie (in reference to why Kate is complimenting her) says “I always wear this blouse!”

    When I was 12 or 13–and still to this day!–I would never use the word “blouse” to describe ANY top I would ever wear. And if I ever did use the word “blouse”, it would not be used to describe the SHIRT Lizzie was wearing. …because it was a shirt! Like a 3/4 length sleeve tee. Wtf?

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  2. “Thought experiment time! How would you guess Gordo reacts to this invite by a popular rich kid? Does he hate it? Point out that it’s shallow and they’re being fickle and these aren’t their real friends? Maybe say he’d rather listen to old records than watch DVDs of boy bands? You guessed wrong! Gordo thinks it’s amazing that they’re finally in with the popular crowd.” […] “Who cares? We’re popular now.” Gordo nods enthusiastically to this, which makes no sense for his character. He books Lizzie for more social events so he can tag along, and when she protests because she has homework, he offers to do it for her.”
    ^ I didn’t see it that way. The way I view Gordo is that he’s a product of two shrinks, having grown up in that environment and with their analysis, and thus views the world through their lens. He sees middle school kids as a herd who follow popular trends. He doesn’t care what other people think about him (unless it’s plot convenient) and he likes sticking out (listening to Rat Pack music and not 2000s pop) and doesn’t want to be following the herd … but at the end of the day, he’s still a kid. It’s like that episode where he’s supposed to design this model city and he goes off about a coffeehouse where people discuss politics and it’s very classy and sophisticated, where educated people come to converse, and then he adds in a water slide, free chicken and Tyra Banks as mayor. He’s a kid who likes to be more sophisticated than others his age because he perceives them to be mindless, herd following “dirks”.

    In this episode, he has a chance to attend a country club, something that probably overjoyed the kid in him. He wasn’t really “following the herd” by doing so, and some part of him, namely the part of him that’s 14, probably reveled in the popularity and that he had access to a country club. Let’s not forget that he probably thought hot girls his age would be there in bikinis, and like that not called Miranda Rights episode, he was down to be Lizzie’s photographer is lingerie and swimsuits were an option.

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