I didn’t see the teen comedy, John Tucker Must Die, but I liked the title. It definitely fits my feelings about one-time Degrassi the Next Generation heartthrob, Craig Manning(played with gusto by Jake Epstein) especially after last night’s mid-season premiere episode, “What’s it feel like to be a ghost?” Craig returns from his tour as a regional rock music champion to his adoring girlfriend Manny, his adoring best friend Ellie, and an adoration for a drug not prescribed for his bipolar disorder. It was a good episode but had a strangely emotional effect on me. Within half an hour, I was pacing the living room like a maniac, livid at a fictional character as if Manny were my best friend or I were in her shoes. It made me wonder: why do I hate Craig? What is it about this character that makes me hope he’s the one to die(the often-publicized hook for this season’s finale)?
I’ll begin with my take on Manny. Manny is one of my favorite characters. She may be the school hottie but this girl has survived abortion, her best friend’s eating disorder, body image issues of her own, her strict Filipino parents’ rejection, and years of drama thanks to Craig. She may not be an honor student but she is feisty and insightful. Craig has treated her badly since seventh grade yet she forgives him constantly. Like that friend’s boyfriend you secretly can’t stand, if you love Manny, you know she loves Craig and therefore deserves the happiness of being with him. After last night’s episode, I hope Manny finally realizes she deserves happiness that doesn’t sacrifice her dignity or health.
On a personal level, I have been in Ellie’s place more so than Manny. Like Ellie, I have been the loyal best friend, the one who provides intellectual connection and emotional depth. In high school, it was Warrior. In college, it was Tiger(and to a certain degree, that hot water polo player.) For all those men, I was the faithful sidekick, only to be dropped for the hot girl. Whenever I see Ellie clamor for Craig’s attention, I am reminded of all the energy I put into my so-called best friends. Forget chemistry. No errand or favor or hours-long conversation got me the guy.
In real life, guys like Craig are to be avoided. I do still notice them(what was Beautiful, if not a better-groomed, non-musician Latino version of Craig?) but I prefer to meet someone who will be my loyal partner.