Examples of Popularity in Pop Culture

The Princess Diaries
Characters: Mia & Lana

“‘Oh,’ said Quendy. ‘You like the lesions?’ Link said, ‘Can we just play?’ ‘Well, I think they’re a lot of fun,’ Calista said, as if she didn’t mean it but meant the opposite. Link spun again, and while he kissed this other girl, really hardly at all, Calista was still talking to Quendy, saying in this really mean voice, “And don’t let anyone tell you you look stupid.'” – Feed by M.T. Anderson

This clip from the Disney movie Princess Diaries shows that, sometimes, changing your look might backfire. Especially if you haven’t been popular in the past. Mia receives a makeover at her Grandmother’s demand because she is next in line for the throne of Genovia. According to the Queen, princesses can’t have frizzy hair and bushy eyebrows. When Mia is forced to debut her new look at school, popular girl Anna and her friends give Mia some backhanded complements, just like Calista does to Quendy in Feed. This goes to show that popularity sometimes hinges more on a attitude than it does on looks or material objects.

Girl Next Door by Saving Jane

“It’s as if they operate in two realities simultaneously. In one universe, they are gorgeous, straight-teethed, long-legged, wrapped in designer fashions, and given sports cars on their sixteenth birthdays. Teachers smile at them and grade them on the curve. … In Universe #2, they throw parties wild enough to attract college students. They worship the stink of Eau de Jocque. They rent beach houses in Cancun during Spring Break and get group-rate abortions before the prom.” – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The song Girl Next Door by Saving Jane accurately matches up with Melinda’s description of the popular cheerleaders in Speak. The song depicts popularity as holding the titles of homecoming queen, prom queen, cheerleader, Miss America, class president and debutante. It also states that popularity includes perfect skin and hair, the admiration of the opposite sex (even the speaker’s boyfriend) the willingness to do things in the backseat of a car (though not explicitly stated), even temperament, the reception of priority seating and sleeping arrangements, and something above the “last choice” among peers.

In contrast, non-popularity includes: jealousy and insecurity, being in the marching band or off on the sidelines, less than ideal seating and sleeping arrangements, bitterness, violence, envy, sadness, and being the “girl next door.”

This shows that popularity is often something to aspire to, while being unpopular comes with a host of negative side effects.

20 Celebs You’d Never Guess are Insecure – Huffington Post Article

“Penelope starts crying, talking about how lonely she is, and how everybody thinks her life is perfect because she’s pretty and smart and popular, but that she’s scared all the time, but nobody will let her be scared because she’s pretty and smart and popular.” – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


This article from the Huffington Post lists 20 celebrities and their insecurities. Many people, especially teens, wrongly assume that celebrities or those in the public eye are devoid of insecurities. Teens view celebrities as superhuman and so elite that they are unaffected by common problems like acne or limp hair. Some teens also think that because celebrities are portrayed as pretty and smart that they have nothing about which to be insecure. Much like Penelope in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian some celebrities feel they are not allowed to have insecurities because they are “pretty, smart and popular.” Chloe Sevigny, actress and former model, is quoted above. Her statement closely aligns with Penelope’s feelings. Even beautiful people, popular people, the upper-crust can feel insecure from time to time, though they usually will not show it. This shows that popular people are still human, even if they are revered.


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