Top 10 Reasons Lesbians Love “Popular”


8. The Diversity

Although the cast is mostly white (except for Lily, who is Latina), Popular does a better job than most late ’90s shows of including diversity in its supporting characters and storylines. These include cheerleader Poppy Fresh (who runs for homecoming queen to represent girls of color), the black gay male drama teacher (who is later replaced by a black woman), an inspiring humanities teacher played by Sandra Oh (who plays a lesbian in Under the Tuscan Sun), exchange student Exquisite Woo (who tells Harrison, "Get one thing straight, whitest boy alive, you are not my type"), Harrison's lesbian mom, and a transgender MTF shop teacher who is the focus of one of the later episodes when he undergoes a sex change operation.

9. The Stereotypes

The show excels at alternating between promoting stereotypes and skewering them. Beneath the surface of clique wars and high school stereotypes, there is Josh, the football player who wants to be in a musical ("Sorry, dad, gotta miss the recruitment dinner. Gotta sing, gotta dance"); Carmen, who wants to be a cheerleader despite her size (and eventually gets her wish); Nicole's occasional moments of kindness; and Brooke and Sam's slow realization they have more in common than they thought.

Not to mention the shop teacher who wants to be a woman and the lesbian pharmacist who wears Banana Republic.

10. The Controversy

Unlike most television shows that either avoid controversial topics or treat them with dramatic earnestness, Popular embraces controversial topics, but isn't afraid to make fun of them either.

The teenage obsession with weight is a running theme on the series, for example, alternating between a serious look at eating disorders and how weight effects popularity, and throw-away lines like "Nicole Julian and Stone Cold are like fashion and anorexia. They go together, thank you."

Other topics addressed include confusion about being transgender ("I don't get it. Why would he want to dress like a woman? And why would he wear those shoes with that dress 'cause they don't match"), the way women are presented in the media ("Eventually it dawns on you. You'll never be a Seventeen girl. Because they don't allow airbrushing in real life."), and class issues, as illustrated in this conversation between Lily and her mother:

Lily: "Look, I know you want me to work, it's just not gonna be here, okay?"
Mrs. Esposito: "I don't want you to work, Lily, I need you to work."
Lily: "Why? Are we broke? How did that happen?"
Mrs. Esposito: "Do you want me to give you a list? Lily, if you want to save the world, start with us."

The show wisely avoids the preachiness that has bogged down many other teen shows, preferring to go for the humor instead. If you learn a lesson or two along the way (and you do, more than once), that's great, but entertainment comes first.

Lily (Tamara Mello) and Carmen (Sara Rue)

Even gays and lesbians are spoofed, but the writers' underlying affection for us always rings through.

"Let me just say, on the record, that I love the gays," Mary Cherry tells a gay man. He responds "Thanks, Mary Cherry, we love you too." That about sums it up.

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