Like every young girl who one day dreamed of seducing her English teacher on a ferris wheel, I loved Never Been Kissed. For several years I found it to be a believable portrayal of a high school as well as a professional newsroom. Then I rewatched it recently and realized that there are a few huge problems in the plot. And the biggest one goes by Michael Vartan. Or, as he’s probably more familiar to the kids at South Glen South High School, Mr. Coulson.
But before we get into his Mary Kay Letourneau role play, let’s talk about what happens in the movie. Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore) gets assigned by her boss to go undercover at a high school. Which seems four hundred billion times more complicated (and less ethical) than just interviewing some high school kids about what happens at The Court. Tell a kid he’s a major source in a huge newspaper story and he’ll tell you whatever you need to know. However they decide to go the undercover route.
We find out that Josie’s actually a reformed loser who got called Josie Grossy in high school. To illustrate just how hated she was at high school, the movie makers decide to create one of the most tragic scenes in teen high school movie history — Josie Grossy gets asked to prom by the hottest guy (ugh Josie girl, where are your red flags) and he pranks her by egging her in her prom dress. I honestly don’t think they could even put that scene in movies today — it’s just too cruel.
Naturally Josie goes right back into her Josie Grossy routine when she returns to high school and befriends the most boring group of people alive. Yep, the smart kids. Leelee Sobieski fulfills this movie’s need for a Laney Briggs. You know, the loser-nerd-geek-weirdo who’s actually beautiful, smart, mature and destined to be successful later in life. Once she loses that ponytail, of course.
Josie’s boss hates that his 25-year-old undercover reporter who is most definitely standing out as a 25-year-old undercover reporter isn’t make friends with the right people. So he tells her to become popular stat. Josie, knowing that this is an impossible request, goes to her super cool little bro for help. Rob (David Arquette) helps her out by also enrolling in high school. Which to me proves that the big story from this whole undercover sting should be “South Glen South High School will enroll ANYONE, despite a complete lack of paperwork.” Rob makes Josie popular by eating an obscene amount of cole slaw. How this would work in real life, I do not know. If anyone pulled that vile stunt at my high school, he would most definitely not be viewed as super cool. But whatevs, moving on. Rob uses his re-found prowess to hook up with another student — which is not okay by any legal standards, but it’s still better than what Mr. Coulson did to Josie.
As you probably recall from the movie, Josie impresses Mr. Coulson with her advanced insight into what he’s saying in his English class. In fact, he impresses her so much that he develops a little bit of a crush on her. He even violates the basic teacher-student code (also known as a law), and invites her on an extremely flirtatious ferris wheel ride. Everyone knows teachers are never supposed to invite students to a second location, and that includes carnival rides. While they don’t kiss in this scene, they definitely kick off an emotional affair that would rival Brangelina’s on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. For proof, look no further than the fact he asks Josie to dance at prom…in front of EVERYONE.
But then Mr. Coulson finds out that Josie’s actually 25 and not-the-very-illegal-age-of-student and he freaks out. Not in a happy way, like “thank heavens you’re 25, because I’ve been having feelings and I was freaking myself out with them and oh my god, it all makes sense now why I attracted to you, you’re my age! Oh I’m not a child predator. Thanks the lord!” No he does it in a real creepy way, “you told me you were a (underage) student Josie! You misled me into thinking that I was falling in love with a child. And now you just come here and are like, surprise, we could legally date and you expect me to be happy about that. You’ve ruined everything Josie, all my fantasies just flew out the window. I hate you!”
Now we know that Mr. Coulson eventually comes around to Josie being age-appropriate and the whole town comes out to see her get her first kiss. But, whhhhaatt! “Yay, Mr. Coulson’s accepting her age! Love is real!” No, I’m sorry. That whole “meet me on the pitcher mound” thing should’ve been a To Catch a Predator sting. However it’s instead an exciting event for the whole high school — and for every other girl in that high school who ever dreamed of hooking up with Mr. Coulson. South Glen South High School, please, fire Mr. Coulson.