Sigh. Nickelodeon's 1996 movie adaptation of one of my favorite books of all time was passable, with the absurd exception of Rosie O'Donnell as Ole Golly (what?). But Disney's Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars promises to be a travesty. Apparently Jennifer Stone (The Wizards of Waverly Place) spends the movie diving behind couches and wearing silly costumes on her mission to reveal "the biggest teen star"... "for who he really is" (in response to which said teen star cries out, "You don't me! You don't know anything!") so that she can win a blogging competition against "a popular girl". It's just so ludicrous, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. But see for yourself:
What's a Disney movie about a spunky girl without a potential (chaste, of course) hook-up with a hunky guy on the horizon?
The real Harriet would have been a) more sneaky, b) more snarky, and c) less likely to be obsessed with a boy, even as a professional. In addition to its subversive message, the book apparently has a lesbian subtext (Louise Fitzhugh was gay) and a pathos that, oddly enough, haven't made it into any tween movies I've ever seen. Not that I've seen many, but I think I'm on pretty solid ground, here.
I agree that the brainy, independent tomboy is not a huge departure from normal these days, and therefore not as exciting or exotic as she was in 1964. Even Disney's postmodern princesses are portrayed that way, despite their Barbie doll figures, long, luxurious hair, and dreamboat boyfriends. Maybe Disney thinks that the original cagey, prickly Harriet wouldn't appeal to their tween audience--she's certainly not cute or hip, or even nice. But I thought that was the point, and I'd like to think that girls today would get it.
Who knows, maybe the film doesn't end with romance in the wings. Maybe Stone's Harriet is just as much a prickly misfit as the original. I've only seen the trailer, after all, so maybe I'm not giving credit where credit's due.
But I doubt it.
Ms. Fitzhugh must be rolling over in her grave.
Harriet in 1964, 1996, and 2010--the only thing that hasn't changed is the notebook.