Season 2, episode 32: “Just One of the Guys”
Boy howdy does none of my episode numbering make any sense anymore. Oops.
This is supposed to be one of the more feminist episodes of Lizzie McGuire, according to Lizzie writer/story editor Nina Bargiel. Let’s get into THAT!
Lizzie’s P.E. class has to participate in the Presidential Fitness Challenge, which seems to only consist of the flexed arm hang. I had to do this in middle school! Except there were more components and only girls had to do the flexed arm hang – boys did pull-ups.
Miranda, Lizzie, Gordo, and Ethan are up first, which is a wild coincidence because everyone else in the class is an unnamed extra. The P.E. teacher even checks her clipboard before calling them up, like she made a note to call principal characters only. It turns out Lizzie is amazing at the flexed arm hang and sets a new school record. Cartoon Lizzie announces that she’s conquered the Presidential Fitness Challenge and plans on winning the actual presidency in 2024. Man, wouldn’t that be a fucking relief at this point.
Every time I actually relate to Lizzie it’s for something completely random. I, too, discovered a hidden knack for the flexed arm hang in middle school. I didn’t set a new school record at all, of course – I came in 5th place of all the girls in eighth grade – but I did place, which astonished me. It was a very proud day and the complete opposite of that time my P.E. teacher laughed at me for being bad at baseball until I cried in front of everyone. Middle school is hell and I wouldn’t say that this show portrays it accurately, in general.
Some guy we’ve never seen before named Thomas comes over to congratulate Lizzie on beating his boy Ethan. Ethan has boys? He’s never had any friends before! I’ve complained about this! Glad they got around to fixing this problem in one of the last three episodes.
Miranda ribs Ethan for losing to Lizzie, so Thomas encourages a rematch, which leads Gordo to call Ethan out for fragile masculinity. Man, if that isn’t the pot calling the kettle misogynistic. Sure, men shouldn’t be competitive assholes around women, Gordo. They should be more secure in their masculinity. Ethan is definitely the character who needs to learn that.
Lizzie and Ethan arm-wrestle and she beats him. Everyone is shocked, including me.
It seems extremely unrealistic, but it’s moving the plot forward so let’s accept it. I only have two more episodes of this terrible show to sit through.
Matt procrastinates on his math homework. He finally falls asleep and the fucking monkey shows up and does his homework for him. Y’all, what even is this show anymore? If anyone ever mentions Lizzie McGuire around you, I encourage you to respond, “Oh yeah, that show about the middle school girl who dates celebrities and her brother who’s always getting into scrapes with a gay couple’s chimpanzee?”
An actual writers’ meeting featured someone throwing out a sentence like, “Uh, what if Matt doesn’t want to do his homework….and so the monkey climbs through his window and just does a bunch of math problems for him?” and someone responded, “Yeah, that’s brilliant! Let’s do it!”
In the show’s defense, I suppose the monkey’s arrival is justified because of Matt’s afternoon snack of one (1) banana that’s for some reason eaten off a tray with a cloth napkin and plate. You know, the way kids eat bananas.
Thomas and Ethan find Lizzie at the Digital Bean and ask her to join their flag football team. Lizzie excitedly agrees. Miranda decides to tag along so she, too, can hang out with the most popular boys in school, Ethan Craft and also Thomas. You know how the girls are always swooning over Thomas. He doesn’t have a last name but he has all of their hearts in the palm of his hand. Miranda says she’ll be a cheerleader and Gordo says he’ll come watch but he WON’T be a cheerleader, but I thought men are supposed to be secure in their masculinity or something?
Matt’s sadistic teacher Miss Chapman makes an announcement that Matt did an amazing job on his homework, even if he’s a real shit to have in class otherwise. Damn, Miss Chapman, did Mr. Dig break up with you?
Lizzie wins the game for her team. At this point, I got pretty irritated with this episode. Lizzie’s in a cute little midriff-baring sporty outfit and all the guys fawn on her for being so athletic and it rubs me the wrong way. I went to six schools by the time I was Lizzie’s age, and all of the popular girls always looked and acted like Lizzie here. They’re athletic and coordinated and wear trendy, cute clothes and boys are always looking for excuses to talk to them.
But the point of this scene, you guys, is of course that Lizzie is an underdog. As ALWAYS.
Thomas and Ethan shower her with praise, including Ethan saying she’s “a total dude.” At this point, the real queen of school shows up. Is she wearing cute, trendy clothes? No. She’s dressed like a second grader. Is she surrounded by friends? No. Do the cute boys talk to her? Not this episode. But this is is Lizzieverse, where Kate is labeled “popular” for some reason.
She tells Lizzie that she is a total dude – because she’s acting manly. And that’s an insult because of traditional gender roles!!!!!!
Lizzie tosses and turns in her sleep that night, the show’s standard way of showing something is bothering her. I can’t decide if I should be glad for some semblance of continuity on a show that usually disregards it or if I should side-eye the lazy repetition of a device that could be replaced by anything more creative. Lizzie has a nightmare that’s just people telling her she’s a dude, so she wakes up and calls Miranda, who seems to have her own phone line separate from the rest of her house.
Lizzie says that no guy will EVER want to date her. As a refresher, the list of guys who have been interested in or have explicitly wanted to date Lizzie is as follows: Tudgeman, Gordo, Ronnie, Corey the Grubby Gulch popcorn boy, pop star Aaron Carter, and millionaire actor Frankie Muniz. For some perspective, I didn’t go on a date until I was 16.
Miranda says that Lizzie might just be a guy-girl, which seems remarkably trans-inclusive, but Lizzie vows to be more of a girly girl.
Matt leaves out two bananas so Fredo the chimp does his homework and Melina’s. Intentionally leaving out bananas kind of makes it seem like he suspects that his mystery scholar is a chimpanzee, which boggles the mind.
Lizzie puts together her GIRLIEST outfit, and it’s… jeans. Like, obviously gender is a social construct and all, but I would expect her to wear something more like a skirt or a dress if her goal was traditional femininity. She tells Ethan and Thomas that she’s not going to play football anymore. This week’s crisis seems very contrived. You’d think that if Lizzie was in with the most popular boys in school, Ethan Craft and also Thomas, she wouldn’t fuck with a good thing.
Sam and Jo tell Matt that they got a call from his school and Matt thinks he’s in trouble until they say it’s because his teacher said he’s a math genius. This scene is essentially recycled from the episode where Matt was an artistic genius. The joke is the same (Matt’s usually in trouble but the teacher isn’t calling about that this time!) and it’s even set in the same location in the house.
Lizzie meanders into the gym, looking for advice. Just like Gordo did when he was concerned about his height. I guess Hill Ridge Junior High has after-hours mentoring sessions where you can wander into the gym and find a teacher who’s waiting there to resolve your problems.
Lizzie tells her P.E. teacher, “Ever since gym class yesterday, everyone thinks I’m a guy-girl,” and her teacher doesn’t respond, “Wait, this problem has been going on for ONE day? Cool your jets.” Lizzie says everyone in school is saying things about her – Ethan and Kate and Thomas who exists now – and her teacher doesn’t respond, “You know there are more people in school than the five or six people you interact with every day, right? You should learn some of their names.” She tells Lizzie that the guys meant to compliment her on her athleticism (which Lizzie should have been able to realize by paying attention to context and tone) and that Kate is probably jealous of Lizzie for hanging out with them (which Lizzie should have been able to realize because Kate is a soulless monster). Her P.E. teacher goes on to say that Brandi Chastain, Picabo Street, and Kelly Clark don’t care about what people think! I had only the vaguest sense of what those references were about, but Lizzie knew them all, even though she had to ask who Ginger Rogers was recently.
The P.E. teacher ends with a talk about how you can play sports and do girly things, but I’m surprised that Lizzie needed to learn that because I feel like that was the message of all of female-targeted pop culture in the 90s and early 00s. Cartoon Lizzie even said she wants to look “1 part Clueless, 2 parts Legally Blonde” when picking out her girly outfit, but she clearly didn’t internalize anything about Elle Woods’s actual arc.
Matt wakes up when Fredo is puzzling over his homework and asks, “You mean you haven’t covered long division in Monkey School yet?” So if you were wondering whether you’d get an explanation for how a chimp had been doing math, the answer was Monkey School. Hopefully that answers all of your questions. The Two Big Gay Guys come in looking for Fredo and Sam and Jo get angry at Matt when they learn that Fredo had been doing his homework. That’s their reaction? Not confusion? I guess adults already know all about Monkey School, so it probably makes perfect sense to them.
Lizzie plays flag football again. Kate tries to make fun of her for it, and Lizzie snarls, “Nobody likes you, Kate.” That’s not really a burn – she’s pointing out a tragic truth. Why do they even acknowledge Kate anymore?
Ethan says Lizzie can play if she’s not afraid of breaking a nail, which is the fourth time the show has used that as a mark of girliness. But he sits out so Lizzie can play. He says, “Dude, I’m watching the game” to Kate when she tries to hang on him, and Kate is SHOCKED even though “dude” was such a ubiquitous slang term in pop culture at that point that it was essentially meaningless.
Miranda complains that everyone will think of Lizzie as a guy-girl and Gordo says Lizzie doesn’t care what people think and he thinks that’s really cool.
If they had to air these episodes all out of order, this would be a good one to end on. Not because it is good – it’s not – but this could represent a new start for Lizzie. In early episodes, she’s self-conscious, awkward, and intimidated by Kate, but now she’s extremely popular, boys are obsessed with her, she doesn’t care what others think of her, and she actively bullies Kate. The series is complete! She finally achieved popularity AND self-confidence AND a bra.
But nah. We’ve got two more to get through.
Notable fashion moments: Lizzie wears some crazy clip-in braids and hair extensions in P.E. She and Miranda both also wear jewelry that would badly encumber physical activity.
I just want to harp on Lizzie’s football outfit here: it’s fine, and of course the point of the episode is that you can care about your appearance and play sports, but come on. It’s way too cute for the plotline here. If Lizzie were in a giant ratty T-shirt and some baggy men’s shorts, I would buy the concern that the boys no longer saw her as a viable dating option because of her involvement in the game.
Also, Ethan tells Lizzie when she’s all dolled up in jeans, “I hope you brought something to change in for the game!!” but he himself wears jeans to play football.
Ethan’s hair is A MASS OF BOUNTIFUL CURLS for the football game. How?? I initially refused to believe that hair could be this naturally beautiful and preferred to believe that Ethan curls his hair for football because he too understands that you can play sports and look pretty.
However, I tweeted at Clayton Snyder to ask about it, and HE TWEETED BACK! As if I couldn’t love him more!!!!!!!! Apparently that IS his natural hair, because he IS perfection incarnate.
Kate is an outfit repeater. This episode:
Lizzie wears sparkly fish clips in her hair, which is definitely better than her jeweled spider hair accessory.
And Miranda reps the Union Jack with her socks. Her Anglophilia has gotten out of hand.
Other interesting tidbits: This is the second episode (after the modeling one) where Lizzie discovers a hidden talent that requires coordination, balance, and grace. You know, things that the world’s clumsiest middle schooler shouldn’t be able to handle.
Matt tries to mess around on the computer while putting off homework, but Jo has put some block on it that features a bouncing video of her face yelling “DO YOUR HOMEWORK! DO YOUR HOMEWORK!” I haven’t watched Disney Channel recently, so I wonder if they’ve gotten a better sense of what computers do since the early 00s.
Matt and Lizzie both have their own computers, and the family has one downstairs. Maybe they could have sold one of them in that episode where they complained about money problems.
I noticed the WILDEST thing this week. Look on the side of Matt’s desk. See the little paper man?
Okay, now look on Lizzie’s wall….
I thought this was lazy set decorating, but in this same scene she calls Miranda, and the man is there too!
Then he shows up in a different spot in Matt’s room later! This must have been some sort of on-set inside joke. I bet it’s in even more scenes that I missed.
This one is called “One of the Guys” in Disney’s online player, but it’s official title is “Just One of the Guys,” per IMDb. Did the title get that Jenny Lewis song stuck in anyone’s head? I’m ashamed to admit I continually got the terrible Katy Perry song “One of the Boys” in my head while working on this episode.
Jo calls Miss Chapman Mrs. Chapman this episode. Is there a Mr. Chapman? Was she running around on him with Mr. Dig??
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