This weekend we were treated to not one but two Lifetime teen movies. After Saturday’s Expecting Amish, last night the network aired Guilty at 17 (“inspired by true events”). It’s been a while since our last At 17 movie (Missing at 17), so I was very excited to watch. It turns out that the title means “guilty” less in the “innocent until proven” sense, and more in the “ugh I feel really, really bad about that thing I did to that person” sense. Twist!
As usual, this movie was an amazing learning experience for me. I gathered so many invaluable life lessons that I’ll carry with me for years to come. Where would I be without Lifetime teens? I’d probably be either dead or in prison or in an unhappy polygamist marriage. Thanks, kids. You’re life savers. So without further ado, I present the 17 life lessons Guilty at 17 taught me.
1. When you’re lying to help your friend frame her teacher for sexual assault, remember to sound as awkward as possible.
This is how the movie starts, with good girl Traci (Erin Sanders) saying she witnessed science teacher Mr. Adkins (Rob Stewart) inappropriately touch queen bee Devon (Chloe Rose). She makes sure to add as many uncomfortable pauses as possible, hesitating before using the phrase “between her legs.” I should mention that Traci didn’t actually witness anything, and she also doesn’t know that Devon is lying. But in the words of Gretchen Wieners, she’s such a good friend.
2. Make sure your dad goes to his doctor appointments, or else he’ll have a heart attack at a really inconvenient time for you.
If your dad has high blood pressure, you go ahead and warn him that he has to go to his cardiologist appointments, or else the rules of storytelling dictate that later on he’ll be hospitalized. And it’s really not helpful for you to have to think about him maybe dying when you’re already dealing with that big fat lie you told to help your friend. Traci knows what I’m talking about.
3. Make a snide comment about your teacher’s stolen laptop so he won’t suspect you.
Devon knows what she’s doing. She and her boyfriend got test answers off Mr. Adkins’ laptop, then proceeded to smash it and leave it for him to find and confront the class about. So what’s the best way to make him cross you off the suspect list? Not saying anything? Wow, what an amateur move. Obviously you should chastise him for not backing up his files. Duh.
4. Teachers who get nice letters from their past students are incapable of sexual assault.
Mr. Adkins is simply devastated that his teaching career could be ruined by this false accusation. He gets postcards from former students telling him that he changed their lives, for crying out loud! And he reads them at his kitchen table while emo music plays. How could he be capable of such a crime?
5. Your CAT scores are, like, really important.
There’s this test called the CAT, and if your dad to buy you a cool car, you better get good grades on it. But make sure you don’t ask whether the “C” is a typo and is supposed to read “S.” Just go ahead and cheat on it, okay? Who cares what it stands for?
6. When you lie to your dad, take a really long pause first to make it convincing.
Mr. Adkins talks to Traci’s father (Michael Woods) to ask if he can get her to confess to lying. So he asks her point blank whether or not she really did witness what she says she did. Instead of immediately saying, “Yes, of course I did!” like a person who’s telling the truth would, Traci hesitates for approximately fifteen years before answering with a lie. #NailedIt.
7. Always leave a note.
J. Walter Weatherman already taught me this one, but this movie gave me a more specific example. When you’re trying to make the murder of the teacher you framed look like a suicide, leaving a typed-up note in the victim’s car is super important. Right, Devon?
8. There’s nothing scarier than nightmares about the zombie teacher you framed.
Traci has a very scary dream wherein she gets into her car and Mr. Adkins pops up in the back seat wearing some really terrifying Halloween makeup. Try to avoid dreams like this whenever possible.
9. Printers are full of secrets.
Mr. Adkins’ daughter June Gailey (Alex Paxton-Beesley) gets the feeling her dad’s death wasn’t a suicide when she looks at his printer queue. Why would the last thing listed be a quiz from days earlier when he supposedly printed a suicide note? There’s only one explanation: MURDER!
10. If you suspect your father was murdered, obviously just get a job as a substitute teacher at his school.
Once June starts getting suspicious, she obviously has to start spying on his accuser during the school day. And I’m sure she’s also super focused on making sure the other students get a good education as well. Riiiight.
11. If the new substitute teacher follows you around everywhere, she’s probably the daughter of the guy you framed.
Maybe it’s just me, but if Miss Gailey insisted on driving me to the hospital where my dad’s been admitted, hanging out with me all night at said hospital, going back to school to retrieve my books for me, and talking to me about my problems, I’d start to suspect maybe she had ulterior motives. But not Traci. Which is why she confesses to Miss Gailey that she lied for Devon, which is super awkward once Miss Gailey says who she is.
12. Guilt is best dealt with by getting drunk and crying.
Traci just cannot deal with all these problems she’s having, so obviously she grabs a bottle of booze in the middle of the night, drives to the waterfront, and just crouches in front of a fence drinking out of the bottle and sobbing with her car’s headlights still on. Then she proceeds to drive home drunk and crash into the garage door. Still feel guilty, Traci? You do? Oh, bummer.
13. When you hit a girl riding a bike with your car, make sure she’s dead before you drive off.
Traci is threatening to confess to her lies, and Devon is having none of that, so she asks her older boyfriend Jay (Jack Peladeau), who already helped her with that little murder, to run her over. He taps her a little, she falls over, and he drives away. Thoroughness, Jay. Don’t you watch Lifetime movies?
14. When all else fails, blame your Bieber-haired boyfriend.
Poor bangs-having Jay. Devon meets Miss Gailey in the school parking lot to confess that everything, from stealing the laptop to making up Mr. Adkins touching her to killing him to hitting Traci on the bike, was his idea. Perfect timing for Jay to show up and be all, “WTF?!”
15. But be warned that said Bieber-haired boyfriend might actually love you.
Turns out some Lifetime boys care about more than just sex, contrary to what we’ve been taught before. Jay actually really loved Devon, which is why he was so willing to murder for her. Awwwwwww.
16. If there are cameras in the parking lot where you’re threatening to shoot your girlfriend, better just shoot yourself instead.
Miss Gailey is quick to point out the security cameras to Jay to stop him from shooting. So he of course declares, “It’s better to have lost at love than never to have loved at all,” and then shoots himself in the head. I was expecting English teacher Miss Gailey to point out his incorrect quoting, but I don’t think she had the chance. (BTW, Jay is dead and Devon is arrested.)
17. The best way to tell someone “Sorry for framing your dad” is to make a cool video of him.
Traci is okay after that bike attack, and she wants to make things up to Miss Gailey, so she edits together an interview of Mr. Adkins talking about his career. He mentions again that he gets letters from former students. Ugh, we get it, you’re a good teacher.
Of course, the biggest lesson is probably to not lie about witnessing a sexual assault just because the queen bee asks you to. But then we wouldn’t have a movie, so…