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23 May 2008

All About All About Eve

Watching All About Eve tonight, I couldn't help feeling as though I had seen the movie before and as the plot unfolded, the more familiar it seemed. Themes of ambition, jealousy and female bitchiness aren't exactly rare, but it went deeper than that. Then, I realised that a Sweet Valley High book I read when I was about ten (She's Not What She Seems) completely, shamelessly ripped off All About Eve right down to the last detail. There was me thinking that the ghostwriter had come up with all of those plots of her own accord! Here's the book's blurb:

Shakespearean tragedy!

Jessica Wakefield has landed the starring role in Sweet Valley High's production of Macbeth, and suddenly she's too busy for anyone except Paula Perrine, a timid new transfer student who idolizes her. At first Paula spends all her time fawning over Jessica and helping her prepare for her role. But before long, Paula seems to be better friends with Jessica's crowd than Jessica is.

Jessica is pleased that her new friend is coming out of her shell, but when Paula falls to tell Jessica that she's been made her understudy, Jessica wonders if Paula is trying to steal not only her friends but her role as Lady Macbeth as well! No one else, not even Jessica's twin, Elizabeth, believes shy Paula could do such a thing. Can Jessica convince her friends of the truth before it's too late?

I guess that to be fair to the ghostwriter, the target audience of SVH wouldn't really have much overlap with that of All About Eve, but still! In the SVH book, there are the following similarities:

· Paula has a real sob story in her past but is very sketchy when quizzed about her background and when people try to pin down some details.

· Jessica's boyfriend (and everyone else) thinks Jessica is completely over-reacting and that Jessica is just jealous of Paula's popularity. Paula subsequently hits on the boyfriend who then (of course) realises she (Paula) is evil. (Never mind, Jess, he's going to die in another seven books, anyway.)

· Jessica ends up going on a journey out of town, only to get lost/break down and end up missing the opening night of Macbeth, allowing Paula to grab the female lead. Coincidentally, all of the world's media (or, at least, the film critic of the LA Times) have descended upon Sweet Valley for this specific performance, and Paula gets rave reviews.

· Jess's friends then catch Paula in her lies and they all realise how damn cold she is. Paula is, though, they all concede a tremendous actress but she is also a conniving, heartless bitch. Luckily, in SVH, minor characters tend only to appear in one or two books before being obliterated from everyone's memory.

· The comparison would have been complete if there had been an epilogue in which Paula is backstage after the next play where she has won some award, only to find some freshman or sophomore girl waiting in her dressing room being all mousy and timid and stalkerish...

Needless to say, from what I remember of She's Not What She Seems, it was a pile of derivative (actually, that implies there was some creativity in it) shite. All About Eve, on the other hand, was fabulous. It is also good to know where Dawson's Creek stole its "fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy ride [night]" line from - ahh, Dantean mixing of high and low culture. Incidentally, the line was used in an episode called All About Eve, where a not-very-Eve-Harrington-like character descends upon the creek and wreaks some havoc; even more incidentally, the DC Eve was played by Brittany Daniel, who played Jessica Wakefield in the dire TV series of Sweet Valley High.



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