With their long blonde hair, "perfect size six" figures and enviably dramatic Californian lifestyle, the Wakefield twins (AKA Jessica and Elizabeth, the creations of the prolific Francine Pascal and her crack team of ghostwriters between 1983 and 2003) were catnip to teenage girls experiencing the agony of being boyfriend-less, red Fiat-less and living in a decidedly less glamorous locale.
As Roxane Gay wrote of the feeling that the Wakefield twins and their delicious – if problematic (like there sure was a lot of date rape, and Jessica spiked her own sister's drink and very serious crimes are kind of ... forgotten about) – lives, in her essay collection Bad Feminist, "Nostalgia is powerful... I am in my mid-thirties but my love of Sweet Valley remains strong and immediate.
"When I read the books now, I know I'm reading garbage, but I remember what it was like to spend my afternoons in Sweet Valley, hanging out with the Wakefield twins and Enid Rollins and Lila Fowler and Bruce Patman and Todd Wilkins and Winston Egbert. The nostalgia I feel for these books and these people makes my chest ache."
So of course, the announcement of a movie adaptation of the more-than-600 books (and the TV show that ran from 1994 to 1998 starring twins Cynthia and Brittany Daniel – follow their joint Instagram for ultimate #TBT feels) was met with collective excitement among certain patches of the Internet. Namely, the former teenage girls who have long since left high school, but still haven't quite got life figured out like we thought we would.
According to Deadline, the movie is being adapted by Kirsten 'Kiwi' Smith and Harper Dill. Smith has Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You and Ella Enchanted writing credits to her name, as well as the TV show The Mick. Dill has also written for The Mick and and 13 Little Blue Envelopes. It's not the first time a movie version has been touted, with Diablo Cody once commissioned for a (musical!) script.
The funny thing is though, the world has changed for the women excited about the news – many of us who probably saw ourselves as an Elizabeth: bookish, earnest and would-be dorky if she didn't have the jackpot prize (we already said the books were iffy through a modern day lens right?) of a steady, hunky, boyfriend.
Because while we all might have wanted to be a Jessica – the most popular girl at school, a cheerleader, a total mean girl that you would have given anything to be – in our teens, she kinda doesn't fit in any more. (Does she even go here?).
Not in a world that worries about the state of the planet, and where some of the most incisive political commentary comes from Teen Vogue and model of the moment Kendall Jenner had strips torn off her for her tone-deaf Pepsi ad.
Yep, to borrow from Alana Massey's piece on being a Winona in a Gwyneth world, it's Elizabeth's domain now and the Jessicas aren't Queen Bee anymore. Because isn't it a little bit basic to aspire to be a cheerleader and to care too much about high school?
Sure, nobody likes a martyr (Elizabeth), but being principled and thinking about how you might impact the world is, well, cool?
Which makes me wonder if the movie will be merely a nostalgic outlet for women of a certain age, because it won't really resonate with teenagers anymore. Teenagers who are sincere and politically engaged.
Yes, the plots in Sweet Valley High were pretty far-fetched and thus delightful – like Elizabeth's friend who is paralysed in a plane crash and then is miraculously no longer paralysed and Jessica joined a cult and also dated a vampire – which is relevant to the worlds of modern young adult fiction and movies which feature vampires and dystopian worlds in spades.
But now, just like "fetch" is never going to happen, being smart and woke has kind of eclipsed being popular.
At least, that is, for the women taking quizzes on the internet and finding that they're now, finally, OK with being an Elizabeth.