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As Hamlet once said, the play's the thing.
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Drama is an award-winning 2012 graphic novel written by Raina Telgemeier. This is the first wholly fictional work written by Telgemeier.note . The story follows seventh-grade theater geek Callie Marin. Having the singing voice of a lobotomized yam choking on spiked marbles, Callie volunteers as set designer for the drama department's stage crew to create a Broadway worthy set for her middle school's production of Moon over Mississippi. Problems arise almost immediately: a shoestring budget, low ticket sales and quarrelsome crew members make her life a living hell. When two cute twin brothers - Jesse and Justin - enter the picture and tease a relationship with Callie, things get even crazier.

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Drama is Telgemeier's most controversial work: due to its depictions of LGBT characters and a kiss between two same-gender adolescents, it is one of the most banned children books in the United States.


Drama provides examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Bonnie. This is her first scene.
    Bonnie: Have you (Matt) seen your brother anywhere?
    Callie: Oh, we just saw him heading to-
  • Ambiguously Bi: West, Bonnie's first boyfriend and the boy who kisses Jesse in the play.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: This is Raina Telgemeier's first totally fictional and original story.
  • Art Evolution: Unlike Smile, Drama was created with the end goal of a graphic novel from the very start. Because of this, the character designs are more consistent. Furthermore, the colors are far more vibrant: Smile, which was colored by Stephanie Yue, looks slightly more Retraux (perhaps intentionally since its a flashback to the 1980s and 1990s) while Drama, which was colored by Gurihiru, has much bolder colors befitting a somewhat more modern aesthetic.
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  • Beware the Nice Ones: While Callie is generally a pleasant, kindhearted girl, she'll snap back at anyone who insults or condescends to her. When Jesse ditches her at the dance and tries to cover his ass, she goes ballistic.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jesse puts on a dress and plays the female lead during the play's last night when Bonnie bails on the play.
  • Camp Gay: Justin is a subversion: while he is gay and rather extroverted, he doesn't portray any of the other stereotypical characteristics.
  • Character Development: Callie at the start of the book has a crush on Greg, who keeps taking her for granted. She even admits it's ridiculous about liking a guy who doesn't treat her nicely. When he finally asks her out at the dance, after Bonnie ditched him, Callie politely turns him down because she realizes he doesn't actually care about her.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Callie is one to Raina:
    • Raina was 12 years old in 1989 while Callie is 12 years old in what is presumably 2012.
    • Raina was a shy, rather cynical and sarcastic Jerk with a Heart of Gold (prior to maturing a bit and meeting better people) due to her negative body images and bullying friends. Callie is a much more lighthearted and idealistic Nice Girl thanks to her supportive circle of friends.
    • More subtly, Raina is a bit shorter than Callie, as shown here. Raina has brown hair, usually pulled into a ponytail or a braid, while Callie has dirty blonde hair which she dyes purple.
    • Raina strictly drew and painted while Callie also builds sets for plays.
    • Both Raina and Callie crush on a geek and a jock at the same time and fail to date either. However, Callie is lucky enough to stay on good terms with Jesse. Poor Raina...
    • Raina was a bit of a Butt-Monkey while Callie never gets abused for comedy.
  • Drama Queen: Bonnie is this, and we see why it's a detriment. She's very good at making the play all about her, even mocking Callie for auditioning when Callie emphasizes that she did it for fun. Then she bails on the last night, causing everyone to call her out in the reception area. She probably won't be auditioning next year.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Callie's first scene in her theatre club shows that she is extremely enthusiastic about theater and is generally a positive girl.
    • When they first meet Callie, Justin is extremely excited at the prospect of being in the play and befriending Callie while Jesse is more reserved and awkward, apologizing multiple times.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Why West breaks up with Bonnie. He tells her off for using his tutor to attempt to cheat on exams.
  • Foreshadowing: Callie tells Jesse to audition, and even goes onstage to sing horribly so he won't feel alone. He later saves the show's last performance by stepping in for Bonnie.
  • Giftedly Bad: Callie cannot sing, as shown when she playfully auditions to cheer up a nervous Jesse. She says that stage crew allows her to help out with plays without needing to perform.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Jesse reveals that he's gay to Callie, to explain why he's not interested in her.
  • Irony: Liz says that while it's unlikely that Jesse is gay, Justin is probably gay. She's half right.
  • It's All About Me: Bonnie shows No Sympathy when West trips and falls onstage, injuring his leg. As the crew fusses over him, she says no one cares that she had to help him back to his feet. Everyone calls her out for this, naturally.
  • Kiss Diss: When Greg tries to lean in for a kiss, Callie puts a hand up and stops him. Considering he previously rejected her, it's clear this is an appropriate reaction.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Bonnie invites this a lot. She asks Jesse to cheat for her on a test where she's failing. He refuses and tells West, who breaks up with her. Then she locks herself up on the play's last night after West breaks up with her. Everyone is persuading her to go out, but eventually, Jesse steps in and plays the part, saving the show. Predictably, this leads to the cast calling her out at the wrap party reception. At the very least, she could have called for her understudy to do the part that night.
    • To a lesser extent, Greg has spent the better part of the story treating Callie like a leper and an embarrassment to avoid. And this is despite that Callie showed interest in him, while Bonnie (by comparison) creates drama, never supports his interests and broke up with him. In the later part of the story, he tries to show interest in Callie to make up for losing Bonnie. Instead, Callie turns him down.
  • Lighter and Softer: Ironically, Drama is the most lighthearted of all of Telgemeier's work (except maybe her adaptations of The Babysitters Club. There's little focus on body insecurities or poor family relationships, anxiety or the weight of mortality. Even the snark is turned down compared to Sisters.
  • Mood Whiplash: The scene at the 8th Grade formal where Callie finds Jesse having a heart to heart with West, after kissing him in the play starts off slow and somber, with heavy shadows turning Callie bright pink and Jesse a shadowy blue. Then Callie tears Jesse a new one for ditching her at the dance.
  • Nice Girl: Callie is a total sweetheart. Just don't piss her off...
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Justin and Jesse. The former is extroverted, goofy and friends with everyone. The latter is shy, awkward and struggles with social cues.
  • Reality Ensues: During a School Play in kid's media, it's seen as the protagonist's glowing achievement when they step in for someone who can't do their part, which is usually caused by illness or injury. Here, Bonnie locks herself up in a closet to cry and refuses to come out for Act Two. Between this and her replacement being M.I.A., it's nothing short of an inconvenience that almost ruins the play. As a result, though Jesse puts on the dress and replaces her, the whole crew yells at her for her selfishness and drama.
    • Greg has spent the better part of the story brushing off Callie for Bonnie, despite the former showing genuine interest in him. When he essentially comes crawling back towards the end of the story after Bonnie's long broke up with him, he expects Callie to instantly want a relationship with him. Instead, Callie turns down his affection. While Callie was previously hung up on her former crush, the story's ensuing drama did eventually get him off her mind. If anything, she realizes at this point that Greg was hardly worth it.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The stage crew is in Stunned Silence when Jesse walks onstage in a dress, replacing Bonnie. After they get over the shock, Callie and Justin both give a Smile of Approval from their little corners. Afterward, the audience gives Jesse a standing ovation and he's mobbed for autographs.
  • The Show Must Go On: Everyone freaks out when Bonnie locks herself in the janitor closet and won't come out for Act Two on the last night of the show. They try to find her alternate, who's MIA. Jesse goes onstage and saves the show by acting as Maybelle.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Squarely on the idealistic side. Most characters are friendly and goodhearted, even if they make mistakes, the tone is mostly light and comedic with lower stakes compared to Smile, and - much like Smile - even the ending is more happy than sad.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Justin and Jesse (see above).
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Jesse is scared of performing because he is shy and wants Justin to shine. When he goes onstage to replace Bonnie, he gets a standing ovation and a group of admirers who ask for autographs.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • At the reception, everyone calls out Bonnie on allowing her personal issues ( West broke up with her) get in the way and nearly ruining the play. After all, the show must go on.
    • Callie also gives this to Jesse for ditching her at the dance to talk with West. He apologizes later and helps her make up with Liz, whom she ditched in turn.
  • World of Snark: Far less prevalent than in ''Smile'' or ''Sisters'', as the characters are a bit younger and/or more idealistic.
  • Victim Blaming: When Callie finally finds Jesse after he ditches her for two hours and he basically confesses that he's gay to her, he offers up this turd of a defense: "I guess you shouldn't fall in love with every nice guy you meet?" She doesn't take it well. Luckily, he realizes how lame of a defense it is.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Callie's natural hair color is light brown (look at her eyebrows) but she chooses to dye it purple and pink.
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