Things only adults notice in What a Girl Wants
Released in 2003, What a Girl Wants is the story of a teenage girl named Daphne Reynolds who travels to England to meet her dad for the very first time and has to learn how to fit in with London high society. If it’s been a while since you’ve watched it, you may just want to revisit the classic 2000s teen comedy. The film stars Amanda Bynes and embodies the cheesy goodness that only teen movies of the early aughts can — but how does it hold up today? Is it just as as funny as it was all those years ago?
As a kid, watching Daphne’s exploits on the screen is fun and it’s easy to relate to her free-spirited ways. As an adult, though, there are times when it’s hard to resist the urge to scold Daphne for some of her actions. Seeing What a Girl Wants as an adult also makes certain aspects of the script leap out in ways that you probably didn’t notice the first time around. Here are some of them.
How did Daphne get to England in What a Girl Wants?
We can understand why 17-year-old Daphne, tired of being told that meeting her dad will only set her up for heartbreak, would decide to finally just pack a bag and fly off to London to meet him. The question is, though, how does Daphne actually accomplish this?
We’ll go ahead an assume that she saved enough money from her waitress job to afford a ticket, but how does she buy it? Does she have a credit card? Does she steal one of her mom’s? Does she even have a passport to be able to board a plane to another country? You’d think that a mom like Libby who is so keen on keeping her kid from seeing her dad would either not allow her daughter to obtain a passport or keep it locked up.
If Daphne had been 18, it would have made more sense for her to be able to work out the logistics of hopping on a plane to another country, but as a minor it seems like there’d be a lot of hurdles in the way — especially once you consider that she’s doing all of this without her mom’s permission.
Libby keeping Daphne from her dad in What a Girl Wants seems unnecessarily cruel
Libby may be the most heartbroken character in What a Girl Wants, but, uh, that doesn’t quite excuse her behavior. Listen, we get why Libby didn’t want anything to do with Henry. He did break her heart (at least, she thinks he did) and, yes, breakups can be hard. But aside from all the miscommunication, Henry doesn’t seem like he gave any indication that he’d have been a bad father. He wasn’t painted as abusive or deliberately neglectful, so Libby’s decision to keep him from knowing about his daughter doesn’t seem to have any real basis.
In the 2003 flick, Libby tells Daphne that she’s kept her away from her father. “I was trying to to protect you from getting hurt the same way I was,” Libby explains. However, there’s no sign that Henry would have hurt or left his daughter. After all, as Daphne tells her mother, “You left him, remember?”
In reality, it seems like Libby was trying to keep herself from getting hurt further, while hurting both Daphne and Henry in the process. Daphne herself says she feels like half of her is missing, all because her mom won’t allow the two to meet.
Daphne packed awfully light for a transcontinental trip in What a Girl Wants
Daphne’s choice of luggage raises some questions in What a Girl Wants. When Daphne shows up at her dad’s place in England, she only has one overnight bag in tow. One! And it’s not even a particularly large bag. It only looks like she has enough space in there for one or two changes of clothing — especially because the limited space available is made even smaller by the photo album she brought to England to show her dad.
What’s her plan here? Is she expecting to buy more clothes in England? Daphne clearly cares about fashion and even redesigns an ugly dress into something more fashionable later in the movie so it’s hard to believe she’d be okay with just wearing the same outfit or two for the duration of her trip. And even if that were her plan, that still doesn’t solve the problem of where she’s stashing her makeup, toiletries, travel documents, and other important travel items. We can certainly appreciate Daphne’s desire to pack light, but a carry-on suitcase or even a decently sized backpack would hardly have been overkill for an overseas trip.
Couldn't Daphne have called her dad first in What a Girl Wants?
Daphne’s approach to meeting her dad at the beginning of What a Girl Wants is a bit extreme. When she sees that his home has a guarded gate, she decides to scale a wall and sneak onto the grounds. As an adult, you might be thinking: Couldn’t she have scheduled an appointment? Made a phone call? Pretended to be a member of the press to get a sit-down with her dad?
Breaking into a gated home with a lot of security seems like an odd choice — not to mention a potentially dangerous one. She’s actually quite lucky that Henry decides to drag her into the house for questioning after he catches her lurking. He could have just as easily filed a restraining order with the police without ever pausing to hear Daphne out. And, really, it would’ve been completely understandable.
After all of that, though, Daphne still beats around the bush and teases out the reveal that she’s his daughter. Come on Daphne, have some mercy! You’re already trespassing on the guy’s property — just get to the point and tell him you’re his daughter already!
Why was Daphne's mom okay with her living with strangers in What a Girl Wants?
Daphne’s mom Libby is super protective of her daughter throughout What a Girl Wants, which is understandable. She’s a single mom, after all, and she doesn’t want her daughter to get hurt. That’s why it makes no sense when Libby just throws her hands in the air and lets things unfold when she finds out Daphne defied her and went to England in search of her dad.
First of all, Daphne is a minor. Libby could have demanded that Henry send her home or she could have flown to London herself to get her. Of course, it’s good that she finally “allowed” Daphne to spend some time with her father, but she seems surprisingly relaxed about the entire situation. It also doesn’t make sense that someone as protective as Libby would be okay with her daughter living with total strangers — not just her father, but Henry’s fiancée Glynnis and Glynnis’ daughter Clarissa.
So much of the mess in What a Girl Wants could have been avoided if Libby had just spoken to Henry
Does anyone in What a Girl Wants have good communication skills? This entire mess could have been avoided if people just talked to each other! Why did Libby just believe that Henry wanted to break up even though he didn’t tell her this himself? And why did Henry believe that Libby would just leave him for another man out of the blue? And why on earth didn’t Libby tell Henry she was pregnant with his baby? Yes, they were very young and clearly scared, but if they had just faced their fears for five minutes and confronted each other, they’d have avoided nearly two decades of heartache. Instead, they don’t get back in contact until Daphne tracks down her dad.
What’s even more puzzling is that, at the end of this once-popular movie, Henry and Libby get remarried to each other without even acknowledging the trust issues that led to them mistakenly thinking the other person wanted to leave without saying a proper goodbye. Let’s hope that they worked on these problems off-screen, because otherwise it does not bode well for the future of their relationship.
How did Daphne's dad not request a paternity test in What a Girl Wants?
For some reason, Henry’s paternity is never in question in What a Girl Wants, and this seems kind of bizarre. Sure, Daphne presents a birth certificate with Henry’s name on it and a picture of him when he was young, but why would Henry determine that this is sufficient proof that she’s his daughter? She may have his eyes or butter her toast the same way, but this still doesn’t seem like the most reliable or scientific paternity test in the world.
It’s especially suspicious that Henry doesn’t ask for more proof that he’s Daphne’s dad considering he’s a wealthy high-profile politician. How does he know Daphne isn’t someone his ex-girlfriend hired to dupe him into paying 17 years worth of child support? How does he know it’s not a plan from a rival politician to challenge his ranking in the polls? He clearly didn’t trust Libby enough to look her up after she allegedly broke up with him, so why would he trust her when she says Daphne is definitely his daughter?
The no hugging thing in What a Girl Wants seems strangely cold
Henry’s mother, Lady Dashwood, immediately goes to bat for Daphne when she shows up at their home in What a Girl Wants. She insists that Daphne stay with the family and brings her to a lavish guest room. When Daphne tries to hug her in excitement, though, Lady Dashwood snubs her, saying, “No hugging, dear. I’m British.”
No matter how refined the British may be, we’re finding it hard to believe that anyone with a heart — which Lady Dashwood clearly has — would be able to resist hugging their long-lost granddaughter, especially as it appears that Daphne may be her only grandchild. What’s this woman’s problem?
That’s not the only way Lady Dashwood maintains an air of aloofness, either. When Daphne calls her grandmother “Lady Dashwood,” the stern matriarch does not invite her to call her something else. It might take a little time for Daphne to work up to calling her “granny,” but calling her by a title feels unnecessarily cold and distant. No wonder Daphne feels so out of place in her newfound family.
How could Daphne have been held responsible for the shattered chandelier in What a Girl Wants?
When Daphne first lands on the upper-class party circuit in What a Girl Wants, she’s viewed as a wild and uncouth American, in large part because at the first coming-out party she goes to she smashes a valuable chandelier by … cranking up the bass? Sure, turning a rigid, black-tie affair into a dance party may have seemed a bit wild, but all Daphne really did was get the party going. Leading people out onto the dance floor is really quite mild, especially when it’s done under the watchful eye of your father and your grandmother.
We’ve also got to wonder how turning up the bass could cause a chandelier to unbolt itself from the ceiling. Did the band, which was planning on playing quiet, mellow music, until Daphne convinced them to liven things up, really bring speakers powerful enough to shake the house with the strength of an earthquake? If anything, we’re willing to point the finger at the homeowner or installer for failing to properly secure the chandelier. Note: If you’re planning on throwing a rager, make sure your light fixtures are firmly attached to the ceiling.
Why doesn't Daphne have a cell phone in What a Girl Wants?
What a Girl Wants was released in 2003. Smart phones weren’t a thing yet, that’s true, but flip phones and bulky Nokia cell phones were definitely popular among teens and adults alike. Why did no one think to get Daphne a cell phone, then? Her dad is clearly rich and can afford to fork over the money and a cell phone would have helped Daphne stay in touch with her mom while in a strange and new environment. A phone would have also helped Henry keep tabs on his daughter. He clearly worries about her leaving the house on Ian’s motorcycle and, likely, having no way of getting in touch with her.
There’s also the fact that the family is being hounded by the press, with paparazzi regularly hanging outside their front gate. How is Daphne supposed to call for help if she finds herself pursued by aggressive photographers? What if she finds herself lost in London, which she isn’t yet familiar with? Couldn’t Henry have just added her to his family plan? We need answers.
Ian is not very supportive of Daphne in What a Girl Wants
Daphne is attracted to Ian as soon as she meets him toward the beginning of What a Girl Wants. He’s a hardworking musician determined to make his own way in life without relying on his wealthy grandparents. While this is admirable, Ian is far from perfect.
After Daphne realizes her behavior is causing her dad’s political career to suffer, she decides to become a prim and proper young lady, no matter how miserable it makes her. She’s so busy adjusting to her new lifestyle that she forgets she has plans to go to a concert with Ian and, when he comes to pick her up, she tells him she has to go to a royal event instead.
While we can understand Ian’s disappointment, accusing Daphne of being fake and walking out on her is harsh and unsupportive. It’s not like Daphne is changing who she is to fit in with her peers, she’s doing it for the sake of her relationship with her dad. Ian could have been a little more sympathetic, no? Somehow, this argument is never really resolved and Ian and Daphne just go on to make up by the end of the film.
How did Daphne get into college in What a Girl Wants?
Exactly how did Daphne get into Oxford at the end of What a Girl Wants? At the beginning of the movie, the summer is kicking off and she has no idea where she’s going to college in the fall. Per U.S. News & World Report, experts recommend that college-bound students start college applications at the beginning of their senior year. Working on her applications this late in the game is already putting things off until the last minute, but several weeks later she’s still filling them out. Presumably, according to the timeline of the film, Daphne should be going off to college in a matter of weeks — but she still hasn’t been accepted anywhere.
It’s hard to believe that she got into Oxford, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, by applying a few weeks before term started. It’s possible that she took a gap year and the movie’s finale jumped us forward, in which case she could have gotten in on her own merit. Otherwise, though, we’ve got to wonder if Daphne’s rich and influential father paid for her to be accepted to school that fall.
Henry is terrible at breakups in What a Girl Wants
For a person who has made a name for himself in politics, Henry is surprisingly bad at confrontation. When he gets a (fake) letter from Libby saying she’s leaving him for another man, he doesn’t bother to seek closure, he just lets her go. He also breaks up abruptly with Glynnis at the end of What a Girl Wants, simply telling her she’ll be fine without him and then walking away.
The speech he gives explaining why he’s withdrawing from his political campaign is longer than the explanation he gives Glynnis for their breakup. While Glynnis isn’t the nicest person — and we don’t blame Henry for ending their engagement — she still deserves to hear why Henry is calling it quits.
Henry clearly has some abandonment issues, but this is not healthy. Hopefully, Libby and Daphne help him realize after the events of the film that there are better ways of dealing with difficult situations than by simply ignoring them.
Armistead never gets his comeuppance in What a Girl Wants
Armistead in What a Girl Wants is the worst. That’s why it’s so frustrating that he never gets his comeuppance. He’s a serial harasser who disrespects Clarissa and Daphne and yet the worst thing that happens to him is getting shoved off a pier — which only results in Daphne getting in trouble so this can hardly count as justice.
Even more disturbing is the fact that, by the end of the film, we see that Armistead is still a sleazy creep. He and Clarissa tie the knot and Armistead immediately forces his attentions upon another unwilling woman, groping one of Clarissa’s bridesmaids as the wedding photo is being taken. It’s implied that Clarissa and Armistead both got what they deserved, but did they? Sure, Clarissa is petty and jealous, but no woman deserves to be with a man who disrespects women or doesn’t understand the importance of consent. As for Armistead, he ends up married to a wealthy and beautiful woman, which is hardly a punishment.
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