In Spider-Man: Far From Home, 16-year-old Peter Parker has planned quite the Hot Girl Summer™ for himself. He’s jetting from Queens to a class trip in Europe, leaving behind his Spider-Man suit and his Aunt May (who, it should be noted, is having quite the Hot Girl Summer herself — albeit with Jon Favreau). In Europe, Peter Parker fantasizes, he can tell the girl he has a crush on that he likes her likes her, give her a necklace, maybe kiss her at the top of the Eiffel Tower. He won’t have to worry about saving the world or the neighborhood; he can just be 16, abroad, and nervously in love.
I respect Peter Parker’s summer! But, in the grand tradition of young people (including and especially teenagers) going on a summer vacation abroad to be as horny and corny as possible (everyone in Dirty Dancing, Alexis Bledel in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise, for starters) and act on that horniness, young Parker’s summer leaves much to be desired. He touches down in Europe, unpacks his bags, all to become the glorified personal assistant to Bradley Cooper’s tethered — ahem, Jake Gyllenhaal? Fix it, Iyanla Vanzant! Because I love summer more than I love most people I have met in this life, I must speak on behalf of the greatest teen to ever do it. The standard for a true Hot Girl Summer — subcategory teenage, sub-subcategory Euro trips — remains with our once and future queen: Miss Elizabeth Brooke McGuire.
In the year 2003, a little girl — okay, she was 13 — traveled to Rome with about two dozen of her classmates. She had just graduated middle school in a rather dramatic fashion (footage of her botching her salutatorian’s speech had made the rounds on cable news), and she was looking forward to the prospect of jetting off to an entire continent with no knowledge of her middle-school misdeeds. That girl went off to Rome, single-handedly saved European pop music, and also came back to America with a boyfriend. I’m not Kamala Harris; obviously that little girl wasn’t me. (The only thing I did when I was 13 was read Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld and design several PowerPoint presentations and deliver them to my parents, demanding that they let me start a fashion blog.) This little girl’s name was Lizzie McGuire!
Here are some things Lizzie McGuire did during two weeks in Rome that Peter Parker did not accomplish over more than two weeks in Venice and London: In The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Lizzie McGuire learned lyrics and choreography and performed one song at a sold-out concert at the Colosseum. Lizzie McGuire wore an inflatable igloo dress. Lizzie McGuire defeated her younger, idiot brother, and she befriended the mean girl in her middle school. Not only did she do this all behind the back of her chaperone, but she also got her chaperone laid. Peter Parker had to put on one little Spider-Man suit to see through like five of Jake Gyllenhaal’s lies. (To be fair, Lizzie McGuire had to put on the full armor of God to see through the lies of the Italian pop singer Paolo. I don’t know if you know this about teenage boys, but all they do is lie. I’m speaking from experience. If Paolo’s mouth is moving, he’s lying!)
Mysterio and the Elementals are worthy foes, as far as the Marvel villains go — better than Thanos, hotter than Loki, not a Nazi like Red Skull. Quentin Beck is sly, he’s fussy, he’d probably watch Phantom Thread and feel very seen! But all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe baddies cannot compete where they do not compare: Alex Borstein as Ms. Ungermeyer in The Lizzie McGuire Movie is simply the world’s — or at least high school’s — most powerful force. She speaks with a microphone at all times. She tells parents to shut up. She laminates things. I don’t remember one line of dialogue from Quentin Beck said in Far From Home. But Ms. Ungermeyer calling Gordo “a sneaky little brownnoser with a hidden agenda?” So perfect a line ought to be inscribed in the skies.
I believe that Peter Parker thinks he has the summer of his dreams. I believe he thinks he has the summer of anyone’s dreams. But attention must be paid to the May vacation that showed us what’s possible when you sneak away from your class trip to have illicit adventures in Europe. Thirteen-year-old Lizzie McGuire did not single-handedly save Europop in the year 2003 to be usurped by a teenage boy in a mask! I love Peter Parker, am mostly mixed on Tom Holland, and yet, Lizzie McGuire would be rolling in her 30-something grave.
All of this is to say: Peter Parker’s summer Euro trip was okay, I guess. But it certainly wasn’t what dreams are made of.