Favorite Fictional Characters, #204: Michelle Flaherty
Updated: Jan 29
For cheesy teensploitation sex romps, you could do worse than 1999's American Pie and its increasingly threadbare sequels. It's a pretty conventional narrative, high school boys groping for how to get girls in bed and those same girls doing some groping of their own. It's consistently lowbrow and slapstick, leveraging moments of discomfort and awkwardness for laughs and some dart throws at heartwarming. Most of the characters do what they're supposed to do and don't grow much, from Jim the fumbling amateur to Finch the faux-cosmopolitan, from Vicky the throaty vixen to Nadia the foreign bombshell. Eugene Levy's turn as the hapless father is a bright spot, as is the wild card in all of this, band geek-cum-carnal lioness Michelle Flaherty.
First off, it's important to note that Alyson Hannigan came from central casting as "cute" in contrast to Maxim/FHM regulars Tara Reid and Shannon Elizabeth. In the midst of her Buffy run as the bunny rabbit to Sarah Michelle Gellar's fox, this was right in Hannigan's wheelhouse. Twenty-five years old at the time, she was a convincing high schooler, with a petite frame and Disney-drawn face of wide eyes and toothy grins. And the film further presented her as that geekiest of teenage geeks, the band geek. And yet, while the putative cool kids of our story are struggling to find their sexual rhythm, it appears these geeks have known some of the answers for a while. Michelle herself, asked to the prom by a desperate Jim, is revealed to be far more experienced and worldly than he, despite her ceaseless chatter about band camp. Say my name, bitch, indeed.
From one night stands some flowers may grow, and of course Michelle and Jim prove to be soulmates, their durable love providing a thin spine of charm and romance to a series willing to counteract such saccharine sweetness with routine gross-out fare. More importantly, in a series about what lies we tell and what artificial faces we present to the world in an effort to impress or seduce, flute-loving Michelle unashamedly is who she is. I like that.