#TBT: The 'Girl Talk' Series Owned Our Childhoods, But Is Actually Really Problematic For Women
Come on, you read Girl Talk. K. A. Applegate wrote the 45-book series under the pseudonym L.E. Blair in the early '90s. The Girl Talk series focused on a group of four girl friends — and their rivals and numerous crushes — in the fictional (and perfectly named) Acorn Falls, Minnesota.
In Acorn Falls, junior high mostly consists of boy crushes, fashion and modeling, and issues with other teen and preteen girls. But, boy did we eat up what was fed to us back then. And don't take this all out on Applegate; she's a Newbery Medal-winning author for The One And Only Ivan , so she has the chops. Much of it was a product of the times.
The series wasn't just about books — it was a whole experience and lifestyle with its spinoffs and accompanying material.
Why did we love Girl Talk?
Maybe it's this way for kids now, too, but I remember not being able to be a fan of something — say, I don't know, the New Kids on the Block — without also having the posters, the pillow cases, the candy, and all other possible accoutrement. Girl Talk really satisfied that urge.
There were all the books, of course, but there were also special edition advice and boredom-buster books and games that basically owned every sleepover in the 1990s.
Anyone who was anyone in elementary and middle school was playing the Girl Talk version of Truth or Dare. And if you were too "lame" (6th-grader words, not mine) to answer a question or complete a dare, you had to wear a red zit sticker on your face the rest of the game (the horror!).
But there was also the Dream Phone-esque game, Girl Talk Date Line, and others.
No this isn't the real-life murder mystery series Dateline, but it's just as horrifying to feminists.
But these were all the best things ever to us 10-to-13-year-olds. It was like we were a part of the Girl Talk girls' inner circle, talking on the phone with Randy, Allison, Sabs, and Katie as they did in the books. And they were, at the time, the cool older teenagers who opened up a world of what school was really going to be all about. Plus, just like The Baby-sitters Club, there were just so many books to devour.
You guys, these books were terrifying. Yes, they were delicious as candy, but wow. Case in point: Sabrina, or "Sabs" to her besties, was obsessed with fashion magazines and would constantly say she had baby fat, and even dieting. This was not frowned upon by her friends.
Here's another: In the second book, Katie wants to try out for the boys' ice hockey team (hooray!), and she is tough and awesome and kills it, despite all the boys pushing her around on the ice. But then, it's all ruined, because one of these boys that's all, "Girls can't play sports!" and "Man up!" kisses Katie and she's all hunky-dory in love with him anyway because he has killer blond curls. Sigh.
It was like the writer was trying to make these girls interesting and cool, but then just fell back into sad. crushing storylines.
Oh, and the third book is about a modeling contest and it's called The New You. And in Cousins, everyone is disappointed that Sabrina's cousin who is a model is fat. I could go on.
But let's give credit where credit is due. There is a hint of diversity here. Allison is Native American, and Randy is a totally cool punk rock girl. In one of the books, Drummer Girl, Randy deals with misogyny when she joins a rock band. I just wish we could push this way more.
If you loved the Girl Talk books, try reading...
What about finding a series you can read and read, that goes down as easy as Girl Talk, and that focuses on female friends without all the scary parts?
1. Just As Long As We're Together by Judy Blume
Judy Blume so perfectly discusses changes in female friendship without falling into stereotypes or easy endings. Just as Long as We're Together and its sequel Here's to You, Rachel Robinson follow two friends as they cope with the introduction of a new girl who is bonding with one of the friends.
2. Internet Girls series by Lauren Myracle
Like the Girl Talk girls had their phone calls, the Internet Girls had their instant messaging. They both get in the heads of teenage girls, though Myracle manages to avoid some of the issues in Girl Talk.
3. Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Peaches is billed as The Ya-Ya Sisterhood for teenagers. Three girls spend one summer on a peach orchard, and as they go through crushes and troubles, they start to become friends. The sequel, The Secrets of Peaches, follows the three girls as they become closer and closer.
Images: Amazon (2)