“Guess what, guys! I’ve got syphilis!”
— Actual Line Of Dialogue From She’s Too Young (2004)
Yes, indeed, 14 year-old Dawn (Miriam McDonald) has syphilis. But she’s not the only one! It turns out that there’s a syphilis epidemic raging at Dawn’s Canadian high school. It all comes down to a 16 year-old aspiring man-whore named Nick (Mike Erwin) and Nick really isn’t that concerned about it. When the school’s counselor informs him that he’s patient zero in the syphilis epidemic, Nick holds out his arm and says, “Give me my magic bullet and I’ll be on my way.” Nick also jokingly refers to syphilis as being “the big S.”
Meanwhile, Nick’s girlfriend, Hannah (Alexis Dziena), is shocked to discover that she has a mouth sore, despite having never had intercourse with Nick. Uh-oh … it turns out that syphilis is a lot easier to contract than she originally believed! Luckily, her incredibly overprotective mom (Marcia Gay Harden) is doing her best to make sure that nobody in Canada ever gets syphilis again. If that means going from house to house and announcing, “My daughter has syphilis!,” that’s what she’s going to do!
One of Hannah’s best friends is Dawn. Her other best friend is Becca (Megan Park), who regularly sneaks off to a motel with her boyfriend. Seriously, every teenager in town is having sex, except for Hannah. That said, Hannah does try to convince her photographer friend, Tommy (Joe Dinicol), that it’s time that they both lose their respective virginities. Tommy, however, refuses and says, “We have ages to do that…”
(Really? A teenage boy turning down sex? Maybe he’s just worried about getting syphilis…)
Anyway, after Dawn reveals that she has syphilis, every student at the high school is forced to get a blood test. Becca gets pretty mad about being inconvenienced and decides that she doesn’t want to hang out with either Dawn or Hannah anymore. (Even worse, her ultra religious parents threaten to send her to private school!) While Dawn can at least hang out with her mother and her younger sister, Hannah now has no one to be friends with. After all, Nick’s has apparently succumbed to an internet pornography addiction, Tommy rejected her, and her mother is too busy telling everyone in the neighborhood that Hannah has syphilis. So, Hannah spends all of her time hanging out on a website and chatting with Dawn (whose user name is Dawn69 and I’m sure that’s just meant to be a coincidence).
The site, by the way, is called Teenplaya.com. I don’t know if Teenplaya.com is a real site and I’m not planning on finding out. Any site called Teenplaya.com is probably going to be crawling with all sorts of viruses, not to mention syphilis…
(“Lisa,” you’re saying, “you can’t catch syphilis from a website…” Whatever. That’s the same thing they told Napoleon before they sent him to Elba and we all know how that worked out.)
I have spent a lot of time on this site defending Lifetime films but occasionally, I do see a movie that pretty much lives up to every single pre-conceived notion that people have about Lifetime films in general. She’s Too Young is one such film. It’s so overwrought and earnest and it has so little understanding of the way that teenage girls actually talk that She’s Too Young actually is a classic of a certain kind. It’s like the Reefer Madness of Canadian STD films.
Speaking as a Degrassi fan, one of the things that made She’s Too Young especially memorable was that Dawn was played by Miriam McDonald. On Degrassi, McDonald played Emma Nelson and, in a two-part episode that was considered to be too controversial to air in the United States, she contracted gonorrhea. It’s interesting to compare the rather level-headed and always honest approach of Degrassi to the far more histrionic style of She’s Too Young.
(On Degrassi, when Emma finally told her stepfather that she was sick, he assured her that she would be okay and that the most important thing was that she learn from this experience. In She’s Too Young, when Hannah confesses that she’s sick, her mother responds by running around the neighborhood and telling everyone that her daughter has syphilis.)
For all the talk about how the original Mother, May I Sleep With Danger is the ultimate over-the-top and unintentionally funny made-for-TV film, I would argue that She’s Too Young is actually far more memorable. From the overwrought dialogue to the overwrought performances to the painful sincerity of the film’s intentions, She’s Too Young is a classic that deserves a James Franco-produced remake.