In fall 2011, when Geek Charming premiered, I was a senior in high school. As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t watching quite as much Disney Channel during that time. I do remember Geek Charming, though. Directed by Jeffrey Hornaday (who was nominated for a Director’s Guild Award) and based on Robin Palmer’s book, the film stars Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland and High School Musical 3’s Matt Prokop.
It’s important to address the upsetting real-life circumstances that cast a shadow over this DCOM. In 2014, Sarah Hyland was granted a restraining order against Matt Prokop after he abused her physically and verbally. This is horrible, and I am not aiming to magnify Prokop’s work or presence in any way. But I do want to celebrate Sarah Hyland and the incredible career she has had. I think Geek Charming showcases her acting abilities, particularly because she is playing an over-the-top popular girl in a sea of other populars. Disney Channel leads are the underdog more often than they’re the popular kid. In fact, the cool kids are usually the antagonists. It’s unique that Hyland’s Dylan Schoenfield starts out as a sort of anti-hero. She’s bubbly and cute and has her eyes set on the Blossom Queen crown. (I love that I just watched Wish Upon a Star, where Katherine Heigl was on the ballot for Winter Festival Queen.)
Josh Rosen is the titular “geek” in this equation, and Dylan is the “charming.” He sizes her up as an appropriate subject for a documentary he hopes to enter in a student film festival. Dylan considers the film an opportunity to bolster her chances for Blossom Queen. Josh captures her in her natural habit with the other populars, including her douchebag boyfriend Asher and her fiercest queenly competitor, Nicole. In the footage, Dylan shows superiority over her friends (what “popular” Disney Channel girl doesn’t?), and she comes off as the shallow girl she presumably is. However, Josh slowly captures her losing her layers. The queen-bee look is partly an act. Dylan truly loves fashion and posh things, but the whole Blossom Queen obsession is actually her way of connecting with her deceased mother, who once held the title. Dylan shows herself to be a more laid-back person when she makes a giant ice cream sundae, and definitely when she belches loudly in front of Josh and her dad.
There are a couple of likely developments in this story. We get a standard “give the geek a makeover” scene, and Dylan becomes upset with Josh before they can be together. Both of those aspects of the plot are reminding me of Lizzie McGuire. Remember when Larry Tudgeman got a makeover so Miranda would like him? Same with Dylan dressing up Josh — she needs him to fit in with her crowd, and this new look is supposed to make him more attractive to his crush Amy (Sasha Pieterse). As for the part where Dylan becomes upset, that is because Josh’s documentary embarrasses her. Going back to Lizzie, remember when Gordo made a documentary that embarrassed practically everyone at school?
This 2010s DCOM might make an interesting study if you watch a lot of these movies. It stands out in its casting, even if a few of its threads feel familiar. Like I said, making the popular chick the protagonist is an unusual move for Disney Channel. She’s not mean in a Kate Sanders way, at least, and she does win Blossom Queen. If you check this out, as always, let me know!