Once again, there may be another Gidget remake — the type that stars Miley Cyrus or other starlets of her ilk in a “fun on the beach” movie. Before Gidget became shorthand for cheesy beach party movies, it was a book, based on a real surfer girl, Kathy, the daughter of the author. The original cover included a photograph of Kathy with her surfboard. Arguably, this may be the first contemporary novel about the fangirl experience.
And the book does not shy from complicated issues facing teenagers in a manner-of-fact manner, surprising for its publication in 1957, including sexism, sex, teenage independence, participating in a fandom / sport, and the need to belong.
Much of the book is focused on Gidget finding herself — as a surfer and as a person — by joining a surfer community. She is no airhead bikini babe:
I felt right at home with the crew. They were regular guys–none of those fumbling high school jerks who tackle a girl like a football dummy. No sweaty hands and struggles on the slippery leather seats of hot rods….
Every day … someone else let me have a board to practice…
The great Kahoona showed me the first time how to get to my knees, to push the shoulders up and slide the body back–to spring to your feet quickly, putting them a foot apart and under you in one motion. That’s quite tricky. But then, surf-riding is not playing Monopoly and the more I got the knack of it, the more I was crazy about it and the more I was crazy about it, the harder I worked at it.
I also recommend the television show starring Sally Field, which unlike the movies (and later television series), focuses on what it is like to be a teenage girl with a fandom.
The issues that the real Gidget, Kathy, and the fictional Kathy needed to deal with to participate in their fandom of surfing still confront girls and women who are interested in male-dominated fandoms. But Gidget begins the story on passionate fandom — why female metalheads mosh, girl gamers guild, and other tales of belonging through participating in a fandom.
I love your thoughts about Gidget. I was surporised, when I read it, to find that it was a much more serious book than I expected. I enjoyed your post. Thanks.