John Tucker Must Die (2006)TWITTER/RETROGRADEBEY

Comedic revenge films are my Achilles’ heel. For some reason, this God-awful genre that often pits women against each other seems to hold a place in my feminist heart. Something about those crude jokes and predictable storylines feels like a warm hug after a whole week of lectures and essay deadlines. I’ve watched them all an embarrassing amount of times. From the pre-2000s oldies like Bring it on! right through the more modern versions, like The Other Woman. Still, the film I find myself gravitating towards time and time again is the cult classic, John Tucker Must Die. For some reason, this film comes out on top every single time.

Directed by Betty Thomas and starring R&B legend Ashanti, this mid-2000s movie successfully integrates all the typical tropes of the genre. This includes the questionable ‘strangers to friends’ revenge arc so many revenge films attempt, but rarely ever pull off. John Tucker is presented as the archetypal American male athlete who every girl in the movie is floored by. He’s the teen movie character trifecta: charming, good-looking, and manipulative.

John Tucker Must Die (2006)TWITTER/RETROGRADEBEY

Beth, Carrie, and Heather, on the other hand, are widely different and all unaware that they are dating the same man. Until by fate (and poor scheduling), they are all placed in the same gym class along with new girl Kate. Typical to the genre, each of the girls seems to have an underlying hate for the other and a complete disregard for Kate, the new girl. This hate, of course, reaches new levels when, during gym, Carrie lets out that she is dating Tucker.

“The film, unlike others, manages to take the shape of a typical comedic revenge film without losing its character.”

What follows next is the quintessential petty fight that lands them all, including Kate, who breaks the fight up, in detention. There, the girls realise that they are being played with the help of Kate, who talks of her own experience dealing with her mother’s F-boys. At that point, an alliance forms. Despite their polarising personalities, all four girls band together and decide, in a comical attempt, to try dish out karma themselves.

The movie often receives negative press despite its high grossing net and its awarding-winning cast. Perhaps, this is due to the noticeable age difference between the actors’ ages and the ages of the characters they portray, or the unlikelihood that it would pass the Bechdel test. I mean, Sophie Bush’s performance as the sexually promiscuous, non-conformist teenager would have been impeccable if the role weren’t played by a twenty-four-year old and her lines weren’t completely male-centred.

John Tucker Must Die (2006)TWITTER/RETROGRADEBEY

Nevertheless, the film revolutionised the genre. With a slightly more diverse cast than other classics such as She’s the Man and Mean Girls and quality writing, the film draws my attention the most. Every crude joke lands and there’s never a dull moment where viewers could lose focus. Somehow, the film, unlike others, manages to take the shape of a typical comedic revenge film without losing its character. This is illustrated in the semi-mature thong jokes undercutting the childish behaviour displayed all the way through. Furthermore, the film teeters around 12A rating to reflect the transition towards adulthood that younger viewers can relate to, without the film being considered inappropriate.

“The natural development of relationships between the girls and the more than bearable writing sets it aside from every cringe-worthy comedic revenge movie.”

Plus, it’s the refining of the strangers to friends’ revenge arc that should be considered iconic. Let me explain: plenty of movies attempt to grow friendships between characters with no common interest, except the boring but beautiful man the story revolves around. John Tucker Must Die is similar, except the relationships that develop between the characters are real! We see the girls amble after Kate as she’s used as girlfriend bait for tucker, in fear that he could hurt her the same way he hurt them. One scene shows them follow Tucker and Kate on a boat ride, using a beat-up speedboat that stalls in the middle of the water. This is, of course, a hilarious scene, but it also shows the lengths they are willing to go for their friend.

John Tucker Must Die (2006)TWITTER/RETROGRADEBEY

Why is this important, you ask? Because us viewers are able to relate more to the characters and engage in the movie instead of being immersed in confusion on how the characters magically got over their differences, without showing moments that qualify for true friendships.


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John Tucker Must Die is atypical to the sea of movies that fill up this genre. However, something about the natural development of relationships between the girls and the more than bearable writing sets it aside from every cringe-worthy comedic revenge movie. Overall, it’s the perfect encapsulation of the awful yet entertaining comedic revenge genre, which I am completely obsessed with.

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