Of course, boys are a preoccupation at Gallagher Girls’ Academy and it fits perfectly with the story, the setting, the characters, the everything, but… how are boys portrayed in this series? Is this a question worth asking? How does the portrayal of boys in this series offset the portrayal of girls?
What types of male are represented in this series? There are the boyfriends, of course, and the boys from Blackthorne, and the local boys… there are the male teachers, there are fathers – and there are lost fathers,… there are male spies/agents… senators and ambassadors…
This one caught my eye: “There’s something about Preston Winters. He has a sort of self-deprecating manner that all really hot nerds are either born with or acquire over time.” (190)
This is a character-type we could return to when considering Cammie’s friend Liz – and all her friends, in some ways, since they seem to draw on many stereotype traditions from American movies and TV programs about American high school… (note though, by raising the spectre of stereotypes, I don’t mean to belittle this series – I think it’s very clever and, as I’ve said, witty). What parts of the stereotypes are perpetuated? And what parts are challenged?
Of course, the girls do plenty of fighting in this series, too, but, again, this scene caught my eye:
“Zach was the first to react. In a flash, he was turning to me, yelling, ‘Run!’ / He didn’t know that the man in the alley was Agent Townsend. He didn’t care that Agent Townsend was heading straight for him. / ‘Zach, no!’ I yelled, the jumped between the two of them. ‘Stop!’ I cried, but Zach was already grabbing me around the waist and setting me in what he thought was a safer position. / ‘Ms. Morgan,’ Townsend snapped. ‘Go!’ / ‘You’re both telling me to run!’ I screamed while Preston peeked out from behind the door to watch two highly trained fighters in their prime behave like a couple of idiots. / I don’t want to think about how long it might have lasted if it hadn’t been for the whistle. High and loud, it pierced the air and reverberated in the narrow space for what felt like forever. / Everyone turned and looked through the early morning haze at Bex, who said, ‘If you boys want to beat [-p.192] each other’s guts out, I’m willing to let you, but I’d rather get Cam somewhere safe and find out what she’s doing walking the streets at five in the bloody morning.’ She started back down the alley, then stopped and added, ‘Oh and Zach, if you’re going to run away from school, leave a note. Even Cam did that.'” (191-192) … actually this thread continues on p197:
“Zach huffed but smiled. ‘So you’re Townsend.’ / The two of them stared for a long time, wordless. It felt a little like I was watching a documentary on the Nature Channel, something about alpha males in the wild. I didn’t have a clue how it was going to end until Townsend nodded and took a deep breath. / ‘I suppose you should hear it from me that I have met your mother.’ He smiled a little sadly. ‘Well…when I say met, I mean one time I tried to kill her.’ / There was a charge in the air. Maybe it was the plush carpet beneath our feet, but I could have sworn I felt a spark. / ‘Do me a favour.’Zach’s voice was low and dark and dangerous. ‘Next time, don’t just try.’ / Townsend smiled, and for a moment the two of them looked like long-lost friends. ‘Boys,’ Bex said, dropping into the chair at the head of the table. Abby rolled her eyes. ‘Exactly.'” (197)
Hmmm… what does it take to ‘be an alpha male’? How do such males fit into this series?
And what differentiates boys from men in the series? Consider: “It takes a lot to make people who know fourteen different languages speechless, but that did it. / When Zach said, ‘I’m going to kill Dr Steve,’ it wasn’t the angered threat of a worried boy; it was the calm, cool statement of an operative trained to do exactly that. And that, I think, is why it scared me.” (313)
Obviously, drawing attention to the way boys are portrayed also draws attention to the girls. This is, to be fair, something that the narrator herself draws attention to when she states: “As Buckingham talked, I couldn’t help but remember that there’s a reason they call us Gallagher Girls. It’s not just because the youngest of us are twelve. It’s also because our founder was under twenty. From the very beginning we have been discounted and discredited, underestimated and undervalued. And, for the most part, we wouldn’t have it any other way.” (263)
Is this saying something about what the Gallagher Girls are and are not?
Actually, pp252-253 make this connection between boys and secret spy missions a bit more open. (It seems to be a connection the author is playing with!) Cammie realises that the report she had written after her first boyfriend was actually responsible for setting all the other events in motion. Something in that report (which covers the moment she ‘discovered boys’) tipped off the Circle that she was valuable and they started trying to capture her…
Ref: Ally Carter (2012) Out of Sight, Out of Time. Orchard: London, Sydney