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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 little singing talent, 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:

  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Matt and his brother Greg are at loggerheads owing to the fact that Greg made a move on Callie to spite Matt's crush. When Bonnie tries to ask Matt where Greg is, Callie is happy to volunteer the information only for Bonnie to be rude to her. They find out that Greg is not speaking to Bonnie, and Callie snidely asks if she should pass messages along. Despite himself, Matt can't help but smirk as Callie apologizes for interrupting him, saying he doesn't mind missing a conversation with Bonnie.
    • During auditions, Callie tries to coax Jesse to audition. When he refuses and sarcastically suggests she should, Callie goes onstage and shows she has a terrible singing voice. The kids in the audience certainly find it amusing, as does Jesse.
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    • Neither Callie nor Jesse are thrilled that Bonnie got the lead as Maybelle. They start giggling, however, when Jesse snarks he ought to be tutoring her in manners instead of science.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The play is a success, with a few ups and downs along the way. Callie doesn't get either guy — she turns down Greg at the dance and it turns out Jesse is gay and has a thing for Wes. But because ofher hard work and determination, the crew unanimously nominates her to take Loren's place as stage manager next year, meaning it wasn't a total loss. Matt also apologizes for being an ass to Callie, confesses that he likes her and Greg used that knowledge to kiss Callie and spite his little brother. She forgives him and thanks him for telling her because she needed to hear that news after Jesse turned her down. Callie also asks if they can talk about it later, to completely clear the air.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: In a Funny Background Event, Matt does this to his brother Greg when the latter looks down on Callie. The reason is that Greg only kissed Callie because Matt confessed his crush on her, and Greg wanted to spite his little brother.
  • 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.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: At the dance, Callie shouts this among other things when confronting Jesse for ditching her. She asks why he asked her out if he was going to spend the whole night talking to Wes. Callie would have understood if he loved someone else, and is angrier about the fact that he mislead her. The next day, Jesse admits that she had every right to be mad at him and that he shouldn't have led her on while figuring out his own sexuality.
  • Didn't Think This Through: West had a little bit of bad timing when breaking up with Bonnie before the play's last performance. The end result is that Bonnie locks herself up in the Janitor's closet during Act Two; the stage crew is willing to comfort her at first but they get frantic and irritated when she refuses to even change into the costume. Jesse has to step in and replace her.
  • 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.
  • Hereditary Homosexuality: Justin is gay, as is his twin brother Jesse.
  • 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.
  • Kick the Dog: The way Greg treats Callie certainly counts as this when he gives her a kiss and then shoos her away from where his friends are sitting at lunch. He also looks down on her for being on the tech crew. Thus, it's fitting that Callie turns him down at the dance. Callie gets an Everyone Has Standards moment when Matt confesses that Greg knew that Matt had a crush on Callie and kissed her to spite his little brother. She tells Matt no hard feelings since Greg hurt them both.
  • 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, as the show must go on. 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.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Jesse has this issue with Callie. He spends a lot of time with her and is eager to learn more about theater from her. Jesse also turns their bookstore "date" into a trip with Justin, while inviting Callie to a theater-specialty bookstore. Callie tries to hint that she wants Jesse to ask her to the 8th-grade formal, but he clamps up. Jesse does ask her out, but he ditches her at the 8th-Grade formal to talk with Wes for several hours. After Callie blows up at him and walks him, she and Jesse talk the next day. He admits that he was trying to make it work with her because he did think he liked her for real, but it was still pretty stupid to lead her on and not be upfront about his confused feelings and discovery about his sexuality.
  • 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.
  • 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 Versus 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).
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • During a School Play in kid's media, it's seen as the protagonist's glowing achievement when they immediately step in for someone who can't do their part. Here, Bonnie locks herself up in a closet to cry and refuses to come out for Act Two... and due to her replacement being M.I.A., it's nothing short of an inconvenience that almost ruins the play. After Jesse puts on the dress and replaces her, the whole crew yells at her for her selfishness and causing unnecessary 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 broken up with him, he expects Callie to instantly want a relationship with him. Instead, Callie turns him down. While Callie was previously hung up on her former crush, the story's ensuing drama got her to stop thinking about him. If anything, she realizes at this point that Greg was hardly worth it.
  • 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.
  • TV Teen: Despite most of the characters being around 12-14 years old, the character designs and the cast's focus on dating, personal vocations, and discovering their sexual orientation is more akin to the anxieties and issues faced by older teenagers in their junior to senior years of high school.note .
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • At the reception, everyone calls out Bonnie for allowing her personal issues ( West broke up with her) to get in the way and nearly ruin 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.


Alternative Title(s): Drama

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