“First you need to know something about them. The beautiful ones. The Flawless Four. Everyone wanted to be them. You know ’em, they went to your school too. They totally ruled. The one in the green that’s Courtney. She was the leader. She was like Satan in heels. The blonde, Marcie Fox, a legend in her own little mind, known to herself as ‘Foxy’. Oh, the leggy one with the pig tails is Julie, doomed to be popular because of that face and because she was best friends with the one in the pink. That’s Liz Purr. She was special. Everybody loved Liz not just because she was beautiful and popular, and rich and smart. She was all of those things, but more than anything, she was sweet. Courtney ruled with terror, Liz ruled with kindness, she was like the Princess Di of Reagan High and that pissed Courtney off. Liz Purr was well, she was perfect. I used to dream about what it would be like to be her, Elizabeth Purr. Its a shame about what happened to Liz. That was no way to wake up on your seventeenth birthday.”
These words are spoken by Fern Mayo, the ultimate nerd-girl. She is mousy, quiet and shy. In school she blends into the background and is snidely referred to as “Mayonnaise” by Marcie. The Flawless Four are worshiped by the student body of Reagan High and Fern is no exception. She looks at them with longing, wishing she could be like them. Especially Liz, who she considers the cat’s meow. It is this idol worship that is going to take Fern on a journey of self-discovery and her life will be changed forever. This is Movie Bad Girl of the Week. The movie is “Jawbreaker” and the character of Fern Mayo is unforgettable.
*If you have not seen “Jawbreaker” please be aware that this article contains spoilers.
Courtney, Marcie and Julie kidnap Liz on the morning of her 17th birthday. It is a yearly tradition/prank with the girls. Courtney shoves a jawbreaker into Liz’s mouth and covers it with duct tape to keep her quiet. They tie her up and place her in the trunk of Courtney’s car. Their intention is to take her to breakfast (in her nightclothes), fill her with pancakes and proceed to school where they plan to tie her to the flagpole in her bra and undies to let the fun begin. On the short ride to the restaurant something goes terribly wrong. They pop the trunk and snap a photo of Liz. They all react in horror. Liz is dead. She, somehow, swallowed the jawbreaker and suffocated. They can see it lodged in her throat. The girls go into blind panic. It was supposed to be a joke. Julie wants to notify someone of what happened. Courtney refuses saying it will destroy their lives. She calls the school and pretends to be Liz’s mom. She says Liz has a fever and could one of her girlfriends please bring her homework to her. The girl’s go to school and act like nothing is wrong.
At school Ms. Sherwood asks Courtney to pick up Liz’s assignments at 3:00 and she readily agrees being Liz is in the trunk of her car. After school Fern goes to see Ms. Sherwood to ask if she is going to chaperon the botany club banquet. She says she is and asks if Fern could take Liz her homework being Miss Shayne didn’t show up for it. Fern’s eyes light up at the though of being in the same room with Liz. She takes the assignments and walks out on a cloud lost in a fantasy, her and Liz….best friends. We see the “Flawless Three.” (now that Liz is dead) The girl’s are debating about how to handle the situation. Julie still wants to notify someone. Courtney and Marcie concoct a plan to make it look as though Liz has been raped and killed. Courtney suddenly remembers Liz’s homework an finds Ms. Sherwood. The girls find out that Fern (Mayonnaise) Mayo is already on the way to the Purr residence. The girls rush off. They have to beat Fern to the house.
They take Liz’s body up to her bedroom and begin making it look like someone attacked and killed their friend. While Courtney and Marcie go about business, Julie sits there wracked with guilt. Julie picks up a birthday card from the year before and opens it. The girls are startled to hear Liz’s voice. It is one of the cards you can record a short personal message in. In this case the card is of Liz in a panic at the birthday prank the year before imploring “What are you doing to me?!?!?” Courtney grabs the card from Julie and an argument starts. Julie wants to call the police. Courtney wants to strangle Julie. Courtney tells her, “I killed Liz! I killed the teen dream. Deal with it.” The girls finish up and when Courtney tries to get Julie’s approval another argument ensues. What the girls do not know is Fern is coming up the stairs and can hear them. From inside the room the girls finally hear that they are not alone and Courtney yanks the door open to confront Fern. She asks what she heard. Fern says she doesn’t know. Julie tries to get past Courtney to take Fern home. Courtney is ruthless in her questioning, flustering Fern. She sees the body and runs down the stairs screaming. The girl’s corner her outside the house, and this is where Fern’s journey begins.
Courtney rakes Fern over the coals telling her that she now knows their dirty little secret and she is the kind of girl that tells. She tells Fern that she knows what they did and that gives her power. Fate has decided that Fern is going to be something she was never meant to be: cool.Courtney decides to seduce Fern. She tells Fern that she understands how her life is. Fern is nothing, they are everything.Fern is a shadow, Courtney and her friends are the sun. Fate has decided that Fern is going to be something she was never meant to be: cool. Courtney purrs her seductive spell letting Fern know that they are going to make her one of them, beautiful, popular, loved, feared, but only, and only if Fern never tells anyone what she saw and heard on this day. She convinces Fern to take Elizabeth’s place in the group. Fern agrees because more than anything, this is her heart’s desire. Courtney takes Fern for a make over and when we see her again, no sign of the geeky girl remains.
The next day at school we see Fern looking striking in Pink. Everyone wants to know who she is and Courtney decided that she needs to become Vylette and let the name Fern go. Fern is over. At this point Julie separates herself from the group. A police investigation into the death of Elizabeth Purr is getting underway and eventually Courtney will manage to frame someone as the killer.
In the meantime we watch an amazing thing happen with Fern. Her popularity rises. She stars in the school play and also manages to become head cheerleader. She becomes narcissistic and a total bitch. This is most evident when she is being nasty and snide to Julie, who we find out, were very good friends at one time. Courtney becomes horrified when she realizes that Vylette has become more popular than she. This leads to an ugly confrontation in the restroom. Vylette is full of herself and this angers Courtney to no end. She tells Courtney not to forget that she has the power, because even if she did frame someone for Liz’s death, she knows the real truth. Courtney threatens Vylette who simply tells her if she doesn’t like it she can murder her just like she did with Liz. Courtney has created a Frankenstein monster and like all monsters in those movies….Vylette needs to die.
Vylette arrives at school the next day to find the building is covered with posters letting the whole world know that in reality she is Fern Mayo and the entire thing has been a ruse. She faints. She wakes up in the nurse’s office and is horrified that the nurse calls her Fern. She exits and finds the hallway (also covered with posters) full of students laughing at her because she is Fern Mayo Uber-Geek. She encounters Courtney and Marcie. Courtney smiles and tells her it is over. She faints again. When she comes to, she finds Julie and Zack (Julie’s boyfriend) there to assist her. She doesn’t understand how Julie can be so kind after the terrible way she treated her. She tells Julie and Zack that she is a nothing. Julie tells her that isn’t true. The three leave together and on the ride home we discover that it is prom night. None of the three are going. They are trying to figure out how to bring Courtney down before she hurts someone else. This leads to my favorite line of Fern’s: (referring to Courtney) “She’s so evil and she’s only in high school.”
Later that evening Julie is in her room and her mom comes in with a bag that Mrs. Purr dropped off with some things that belonged to Liz. She thought Julie might like to have them. Julie takes out the talking birthday card we saw earlier in the movie and opens it to hear Liz’s voice. To her surprise she hears Courtney saying: “I killed Liz! I killed the teen dream. Deal with it.” She knows how to bring Courtney down. She calls Zack and Fern and they all go to the prom. Fern and Julie are made fun of by the popular clique when they arrive together and they ignore the taunts. They hold hands as Prom Queen is announced and it indeed is Courtney Alice Shayne. Zack wire the speaker system to play back the message that is recorded on the talking card and everyone realizes that Courtney is a murderer. Her reign is over. Fern, Julie and Zack are happy that justice has been done and their lives will be a much happier place without Courtney.
What can we learn from Fern Mayo?
There are times that we have been on the outside looking in. We have felt out of place and had that desire to be accepted by others and be like one of them. That dream does not always come true and we learn to deal with the disappointment. Fern is the butt of jokes and is one that is made fun of. She accepts this, she could never be like them. How many times have we felt like that?
Through circumstance this all changes and Fern is taken under the wing of the ultimate clique at school. They give the world and Fern a chance to see something that they never have. Her outward beauty. Inwardly she was always beautiful, outwardly she looked frumpy and clumsy. This gives her a new found confidence where she can walk with her head held high. People should love you for who you are regardless of what you look like, however if a make-over will make you feel better and let you hold your head high then do it. Don’t dream about it. Just make sure it is because it is something that you want and not what others want. Only your opinion matters here.
If you get the chance to be taken into a group you desire and get a new look and confidence about yourself, it does not give you the right to become full of yourself. You are not better than anyone else and you need to remember where you came from. Do not push away the people that cared for you before this transformation happened. Unlike Fern you should not allow yourself to feel like you are better than the new group that brought you in. They invited you in and wanted to give you something special, that by the way, you wanted. Keep in mind that you were on the outside before. Do not become a Vylette.
Biggest lesson. Don’t lose touch with who you really are. After her ruination she attends prom with Julie. This is where her self-empowerment shows up. She realizes that she is Fern Mayo. She always has been and always will be. She attends prom as the new and improved Fern looking radiant, with her head held high ignoring what the in-crowd has to say. She realized that she was always good enough just the way she was and that she is beautiful inside and out. Fern will never be that frumpy girl again. She will always be an attractive and well liked person who doesn’t play into the popularity game which can be so vicious. You can like her for being Fern or you can take yourself elsewhere. Do things for yourself that make you feel good, like a new hairdo or some new clothes, and know that as long as you can love yourself for being you that other’s opinion really don’t matter. You are good enough right now, just as you are. Now I must say that “My name is Alexandra and I am a Fern Mayo.” Someday I might even share some of my childhood photos to prove that point.
Love yourself and love those around you. Have a great week!