John Tucker Must Die: My High School Boy Bible

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about movies and the cinematic arts as a whole. I mean, I’m not a film major or anything, but I have at least one foot fully submerged in the film culture pool of knowledge. That said, one of my all-time favorite movies is still, John Tucker Must Die.

In the movie, three girls discover that they were cheated on by the same boy. However, they are encouraged by new kid Kate to take out their frustration on John (the guilty party) instead of on each other. Working as a team, the four girls manage to get John to fall in love with Kate (the only one he hadn’t yet dated and dumped) – and then break his heart the way he broke theirs. It’s a pretty terrible movie, and in the end they all learn how lying and pretending to be someone you’re not gets you into trouble, but teenage me saw this movie as a sort of boy-bible and I loved it. In fact, I still love it.

See, the girls had a two-part method for dealing with men:

Step #1: Play Hard to Get

“Don’t pay any attention to him.” “Don’t even look at him too much.” “When he speaks to you, count to three in your head before you answer him.” This is the advice that Kate is given for attracting John’s notice. If she acts like she’s into him, then it’ll be too easy for John and he’ll lose interest. Guys want what they can’t have and so Kate (fortunately blessed with blond hair, good looks, and dry wit) had to become unobtainable. She had to make him work for a date with her because he had to believe that she thought he was unworthy of her.

This advice, while extraordinarily effective, is also complete bullshit. As Kate quickly learns, pretending to be someone you’re not, just for the sake of a getting a boy’s attention, isn’t worth it. No matter what kind of awful things he’s done in the past (aka. cheating on three girls simultaneously) he doesn’t deserve to be put down and humiliated by someone else. “Treat others how you’d like to be treated,” is the Golden Rule they teach in kindergarten and I stand by that when it comes to dating, too.

Step #2: Stay in Control

So you’ve played hard to get for a while and now you’re ready to go out with this guy. What do you do now? The girls’ unanimous advice was to stay in control of the situation. John may think he’s won by getting Kate to agree to a date, but where the evening goes is ultimately her call. It’s his job to continue to try and impress her and if she makes it too easy for him than he’ll think she’s easy. She needs to keep making him work for it.

As an adult, I understand that this kind of imbalanced relationship is indicative of an unhealthy one. A real relationship is built not on emotional manipulation and power plays, but rather on a foundation of trust and companionship. In the movie John describes himself as “whipped.” He  gives Kate his watch and tells the whole school that he belongs to her. But to be “whipped” means to be unwillingly tied to someone because you’re so much at the mercy of their feelings. Isn’t that just as bad as John emotionally manipulating and cheating on the other girls in the first place?

John Tucker Must Die was my guidebook in high school. It was effective to say the least, but in the end playing through the game didn’t get me what I wanted. After a few months I’d always be bored and it’s because I wasn’t ever really being myself – I was following someone else’s playbook instead of my own. Being with someone was always more about the process, than about the relationship and I understand now that that’s just not how it’s supposed to be. The John Tucker process might help you get a boyfriend, but it certainly won’t help you keep one.

Have any similar experiences? Share them with me down in the comments below!

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