Thanks to YouTube, one of my childhood TV shows is now accessible again. Ready or Not was a Canadian half-hour show centered around two best friends, Busy (Lani Billard) and Amanda (Laura Bertram), navigating life through the preteen years, into their early teens. It aired from 1993 to 1997 in Canada and the US.
I remember watching this show anytime it was on—for real. I’m talking reruns, over and over. I never watched it in order because we didn’t always have cable, and I never really followed programming schedules; I just caught shows whenever. So, for that reason, I’d never seen the last few episodes before the series was canceled.
Why it rocked:
Here’s the thing about this show: It was freaking groundbreaking. No show today would ever be able to tackle issues the way this show did. I don’t think anyone could watch a few episodes and not end up totally captivated. I recently began watching the series from the beginning on YouTube and I’m realizing just how excellent this show truly is, in ways my preteen brain just couldn’t pick up on.
Let’s talk about gender:
What’s been blowing my mind is the characterization of the two main characters, Busy and Amanda. Two girls, two very different ways of expressing their gender. Amanda is a stereotypical “girl.” I don’t need to explain how because we can all imagine how girls are supposed to be, and that’ll give us a basic idea of Amanda. Not that she’s a stereotype—I’m speaking generally here. Amanda is a charming, proper girl. Busy would be a stereotypical tomboy, speaking generally, once again. Throughout the series, the girls are often at odds with each other because of the difference in the way they express their femininity. Amanda wants to wear frilly sleeves and read romantic poetry, Busy wants to play basketball and wear baggy sweatshirts.
The queer factor:
As I watch now, I’m seeing things in these characters that I wasn’t seeing as a young viewer. Amanda is so open-minded and empathetic. Some of the “girl” things she was so focused on would sometimes seem funny to my younger self, kind of cheesy; I’m realizing now that she was a highly-intelligent, deep person destined to do great things—if she doesn’t end up standing in her own way.
Busy is such a badass girl. To me, she’s queer. I think as she was growing up, she was really starting to blossom into a little lesbian who was going to defy gender expectations without realizing that’s what she was doing.
I don’t think any of this was by accident. I think the writers had to have seen where this was headed. There was so much romantic tension between Busy and Amanda. I can’t count how many times I thought they were going to kiss in some scenes. It got to the point where my girlfriend and I would yell at the TV, “Just kiss! Just kiss and it’ll all become clear!”
Then they took it all away:
Something bizarre happened in the last season of the show. Suddenly, Busy began to conform to gender expectations. Busy started wearing flowery outfits—blouses and dresses! I mean, this is the Busy who was forced to wear some gaudy bridesmaid dress that prompted one of her brothers to say she looked like “a linebacker in drag.” In the last season of the show, Busy lost what made her insanely awesome. She dated so many boys, I couldn’t even keep up with it. It’s like the writers took Busy’s character and tried to erase the queer out of her. I don’t know if they were ready to tackle that major issue: when one best friend comes out as queer to the other best friend. Who knows why this happened, if it was the writers, the network (US television, perhaps?), or the actor herself. Bottom line is: They were onto something huge with this show and then it not only ended, but it was erased.
See, I think Busy and Amanda belong together. I think they’re soul mates. Evidence: When Troy gave Busy his grandmother’s ring, she acted all weirded out by it. She basically wanted nothing to do with that kind of gesture from a boyfriend. But when Amanda gave Busy a ring, Busy took it. It meant something; so much so, that when she lost it, Busy couldn’t handle it.
I just wanted one of those longing looks to turn into a kiss—just once!
The series closed with Busy and Amanda sort of reconnecting (after Busy’s ridiculous trip into Stereotypical Girl World) but with Amanda moving to the other end of the country. The friendship was going to break up. I can’t handle that thought. I can’t live with that being the end of Ready or Not, with that being the end of Busy and Amanda.
Ready or Not shows up in my writing:
Last week, I was editing my young adult manuscript Boifriend and I realized I unknowingly gave a nod to Ready or Not by whipping up a friendship between my main character Pen, a Busy-like tomboy from a European family, and Olivia, a proper Amanda-like girl with divorced parents. In one scene, Pen and Olivia have lunch at school, with Pen giving Olivia half of her peanut-butter sandwich to save her from having to eat this seven-grain salad, and I thought, Holy sh*t, I just gave Pen and Olivia a Busy-and-Amanda moment. I had no conscious thought of this show while I created the story and characters for Boifriend, but evidently, the show has been with me on a subconscious level.
This show was too special. It can’t be the end of Ready or Not, even if it technically happened way back in 1997. I’m a fiction writer, which means I make up stories all the time. I have the power to breathe life into fictional people. So…I decided to try out this fanfiction thing. I decided to take this story and continue it. To take it to where I think it should go. The story picks up in 2004, after six years of Busy and Amanda being apart. (I guess this would qualify as New Adult fanfiction, since the girls are now in college.)
So, stay tuned because soon, I’ll be posting the first story/chapter to the Ready or Not fanfiction reboot. And please, spread the word to anyone you know who might remember this kickass show and want to experience it again!
Update: Ready or Not: Chapter 1!