Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Was a Teenage Fairy


Brief synopsis:

I actually liked Francesca Lia Block for the most part, and this was one of my favorite books of hers when I was a teenager. But you know what they say. You only snark the ones you love. Oh, and hate. This book is the story of Barbie Marks, a young girl who ends up becoming a model because of her scary pushy stage mother who makes Mama Rose look well adjusted. Barbie doesn't want to have anything to do with modeling even though she's supposed to be gorgeous (don't hate her 'cause she's beautiful!). Her mother even makes her go to a photographer (Hamilton Waverly) who's a pedophile who ends up molesting her. Her only real comfort in life is her best friend, a fairy whose existence is unknown to everyone else, called Mab.

The story fast forwards a few years later to when Barbie is sixteen. She meets a guy called Todd and eventually, Barbie gets the strength to out pedophile-photographer, and then Mab ends up shacked up with a guy-fairy. Oh, and Todd has a gay best friend called Griffin who's secretly in love with him and was also molested by the creepy photographer. (Yes, Griffin finds love, too, at the end.) I'm not really sure why Barbie's best friend had to be a fairy now that I read over this summary, but there you go.
  • When Barbie's mother takes her to meet with a modeling agency, she tells the agent that their last name is Marks because their real name (Markowitz) would hold them back in the modeling world. Aww, someone's changing her name to impress the Gentiles!
  • When I first read this book, I didn't realize just how much of a bitch Mab was. She makes cutesy insults that are supposed to be witty, but Barbie's always so in awe of how tiny and perfect looking Mab is that she lets her get away with it. I used to think Mab was cool, too, Barbie, but then I read a little book called The Game and it taught me that in order to get hot girls (large and small) to respect you, you have to treat them like crap. C'mon, neg that little fairy brat! "You're the best looking thing I almost swallowed today." Or try, "Nice wings. How much did you pay for them?"
  • This book makes use of one of my ultimate pet peeves. The main character is beautiful, and even her flaws are things most people would love to have. Barbie talks about how she's thin, maybe even too thin. And her breasts are small, but she is a model. The fact that she has them at all means that she's ahead of the game! And in one scene, she thinks to herself that her eyes are too big, her nose is too small, and her mouth is too big. Yeah, because all the Jewish girls I know are complaining about how their noses aren't big enough. And the cosmetic industry is constantly coming up with new ways to make our lips look tiny. As for the big eyes, again bullshit. Although, I read somewhere that we like cats because they have such big eyes, but if our eye to face ratio was the same as that of a cat, our eyes would be baseball sized. Okay, from now on I'm going to imagine Barbie looking something like this. You have to admit, it's scary.


  • Hamilton Waverly, the pedophile, seems to like having kids pose with animals. Barbie has to pose with a stuffed lion and a little boy at a photo shoot later has to pose with an actual cub. Maybe he's not a pedophile after all. Maybe he's a furry and the lion is his spirit animal. Which would make him less of an actual Bad Guy, but lower on the totem pole of freaks and geeks.
  • Barbie's beau, Todd, is such a catch. He's a vegan, he's got scraggly facial hair, he's one of those famous for being famous guys, and he drives a pink and black convertible. He also really loves women, so much that every time he falls in love he gets "[Insert Girl Du Jour's Name] FOREVER" tattooed on his chest (I guess temporary henna tattoos weren't in vogue back when this took place):
He really couldn't understand how his genuine appreciation of ladies could cause so much trouble. As far as he saw it, they all should be worshiped and have their names permanently branded on flesh; it was just that he couldn't accommodate each one...
  • For some reason, I can't help reading the above in Tim Meadows' Ladies Man voice. Also, I feel like Barbie needs to either get Friend Todd to a doctor or at least get him a non veggie burger, stat, because I subscribe to South Park's views of what happens when you go vegetarian and I feel Todd's pussification is well underway.
  • Todd tells Barbie and Griffin they both have the same strange, sad looking eyes. Barbie says that hers look that way because she smokes too much. So...wrinkly and squinty? Rocking that sad eyed Shar-pei look? I know I'm a real square when it comes to my health, but when I want to evoke that "the world is too much for me, I'm overcome with vapors and/or ennui, let's read Kafka and talk about philosophy" look, I just wear an extra layer of eyeliner. Panda eyes may be tacky but they'll never give you lung cancer!
  • To make up for the tattoo incident (Barbie gets pissed when she sees all of Todd's tattoos), Todd gets the tattoos changed to say SELENA FOREVER (Barbie changes her name to Selena Moon). Awww, that's awesome. Awesome that Todd and I both love that episode of "The Critic" where the rock star Johnny Wrath turned his tattoo of "Maggot" into "Margo." And Todd even has the same obnoxious soul patch as Johnny Wrath. Besides, now all he has to do is exclusively date girls named Selena and everything should be made in the shade for him.
  • One of the characters says something about Barbie being kind of weird because she smokes and does too many drugs. In Francesca Lia Block's world, this may result in eerily gorgeous looking girls but in real life, I think Barbie's going to start reminding us of another famous Jewish girl who did way too many drugs at a young age.


  • And what is with all the "Smoking makes you look like a haunted, magical elf" messages, seriously? I feel like I'm sitting in at one of Don Draper's pitch meetings, but instead of targeting 1960s era white guys, they're trying to hook the hipster/emo crowd.
  • I feel like Francesca Lia Block has a somewhat limited view of what it is New Yorkers do for fun. Barbie goes to New York for a fashion shoot, and the city is personified as a cold, hard working woman type (but who buys herself flowers at the end of the day just 'cause) who wears lipstick picked out by her local MAC drag queen (sorry, but for me it's Sephora all the way!). And every single time a character in one of her books goes to New York, they always end up at museums or vegan restaurants. It's never the Natural History Museum either, my personal fave. (Maybe Barbie didn't want to be reminded of her own physique--too many skeletons?) And just once, I'd love to see one of her characters be forced into one of New York's many great steakhouses--the passages devoted to vomiting would be so slinkster cool.
In this book's defense, it had a lot of things going for it. It's really progressive about gay people, it's pretty original, and it's a lot of fun. It has the dubious honor of being the only book I'd admit to reading in public that I've blogged about so far. The rest get little makeshift paper bag book covers. So despite the fact that I almost never say this, you should really read this if you get a chance.