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Things Only Adults Notice In Troop Beverly Hills

Troop Beverly Hills didn't do well during its 1989 theatrical run, but it's gained a following in the decades since. The story focuses on Phyllis Nefler (played by Cheers veteran Shelley Long), who copes with her splintering marriage by leading her daughter's Wilderness Girls troop, and the cast is stacked with '80s star power. The girls in the troop are played by emerging stars like Jenny Lewis (who you might know better as a singer, particularly from Rilo Kiley), Carla Gugino, and Kellie Martin, while Tori Spelling shows up as a member of a rival troop — and the movie's rounded out by cameos by Robin Leach, Cheech Marin, Frankie Avalon, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (among many others). Add in Poltergeist and Coach star Craig T. Nelson as Phyllis' husband Freddy, and it's quite the blast from the past. 

It's also a sweet movie that sends up the wealthy, materialistic world of Beverly Hills without really criticizing it — instead, it tries to show that even outrageously pampered people are capable of having heart and pluck. Still, despite the movie's genuine heart, it isn't so much a movie for kids as it is a movie that features children in the midst of adult problems. With a sequel in the works, now seems like a good time to take a look at things only adults notice in Troop Beverly Hills.

Lots of divorce talk

Troop Beverly Hills' entire plot revolves around the divorce of Phyllis and Freddy Nefler — she doesn't want a divorce, but he feels she's no longer the woman he married and he wants to start over with his young, flashy real estate agent. 

Phyllis' reaction to all of this is to volunteer to lead their daughter Hannah's Wilderness Girls troop, which has a history of leaders who lose interest in the activity quite quickly. Throughout the movie, but particularly at the beginning, there's a lot of discussion about divorce, especially between Phyllis and Freddy. A lot of what they discuss in relation to their divorce are things that kids aren't really going to understand or be capable of grasping. What kid really understands the nuances of adult romantic relationships? 

While the ultimate outcome of the movie in regards to Phyllis and Freddy's divorce is pretty saccharine — Freddy sees how Phyllis has changed and decides to call off the divorce — and definitely what many children would like to see happen in the event of their parents divorcing, it's the earlier discussions of the reasons behind the divorce, the glimpses into the proceedings, and how Phyllis handles Freddy trying to move on that really won't resonate with a younger audience.

Kids in therapy

Many kids are in therapy, so it's not a super shocking revelation for a kid to hear other children talk about seeing a therapist. But the fact that multiple young characters, including Hannah Nefler, talk about therapy in a very mature and seemingly distanced way is not necessarily going to be something a lot of kids will connect with. 

The girls of Troop Beverly Hills seem to have more maturity and intelligence than the adults in their lives, and this extends to how they talk about mental health. Early in the movie while she's doing gymnastics, Hannah calmly tells her parents that their arguing will be something to talk about with her therapist, as if it isn't surprising or all that stressful to her. Clearly, the Beverly Hills parents in the movie are raising their children to be miniature adults, but there's never a point at which the movie offers a judgment on that fact — it simply is. The average child watching this movie won't be able to pick up on the mature but almost desensitized way the girls view being in therapy.

Racial stereotypes

As is the case with many '80s movies, some racial stereotypes are depicted in Troop Beverly Hills. For example, the Nefler family maid is a Latinx woman named Rosa, the gardener is an Asian man named Ho, and the parents of a Filipina troop member are clearly based on the real-life dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda. 

Troop Beverly Hills isn't as insensitive in this area as other movies from the era often were, but these details still haven't aged well — and only adult viewers are really likely to notice the many ways in which Hollywood's approach to cultural differences have changed in the decades since the film was originally released. It's worth noting that while it may not register with kids that these are stereotypes, it might be helpful if an adult is viewing Troop Beverly Hills with a child and addresses what's happening. It's a movie of its time, but that doesn't mean it doesn't require a bit of explanation for young, modern audiences.

Claire helping her mom write a romance novel

Toward the beginning of the movie, there's a montage of all the troop members being dropped off for the first Wilderness Girls troop meeting led by Phyllis. One of these girls is Claire Sprantz, daughter of Phyllis' romance novelist friend Vicki. As Claire and Vicki sit in the car after pulling up to the Nefler house, Vicki is dictating the contents of her romance novel into a tape recorder. She pauses and looks to Claire for assistance — and Claire makes reference to a "throbbing" part of the male anatomy. Rather than look shocked at her tween daughter talking in such a way, Vicki thinks a moment before dictating into her recorder that very phrase with her own adjective thrown in for a bit of extra flair. 

Like many of the girls in the Beverly Hills Wilderness Girls troop, Claire is mature for her age and doesn't bat an eye at helping her mother write a smutty novel — and like many of the parents of the girls in the troop, Vicki expects her kid to be mature beyond her years. Depending on the age of a young viewer, they may or may not understand what's being said in this scene, but adults — particularly those who've read their share of romance novels — will definitely get the joke.

Phyllis waking her daughter to talk about her divorce

At one point in Troop Beverly Hills, Phyllis enters a sleeping Hannah's room and notices there's a woman at the guest house where her soon-to-be ex-husband is staying. Her immediate response is to wake her daughter to demand help with the situation. Hannah explains that the woman is her father's real estate agent and while she does try to talk her mother down, she also ultimately tells her that she's going back to sleep. 

Phyllis then goes on a reconnaissance mission that goes awkwardly awry, but it's the complete disregard for the fact that her daughter is sleeping and the way she demands Hannah act as an adult to help her with her marital issues that's really beyond the grasp of kids who might be watching the movie. Sadly, some young viewers might also have been put into the middle of their own parents' divorces, but hopefully most kids watching haven't dealt with it quite to this extent. It's yet another situation in which the adults of Troop Beverly Hills expect their kids to parent them or at least to be mature beyond their years, and only adult viewers are really going to understand the problem inherent in that.


A quick Google search on "parentification" will tell you all you need to know about why this is an issue in the real world. Basically, it's when a child is forced to take on the role of an adult, particularly in relation to their own parents or siblings — and it's rampant throughout Troop Beverly Hills between many of the young Wilderness Girls and their parents. 

Most, if not all, members of the Beverly Hills Wilderness Girls troop act as the adults much of the time. From Jasmine scolding the cop who pulls her father over to Chica constantly being left alone by her parents, as well as many other examples, it seems that the trend among Beverly Hills parents in 1989 — at least in this movie — was to push their kids to not just be mature beyond their years, but to take care of their own parents. For kids watching Troop Beverly Hills, one of two things will happen: either this will be completely foreign to them and they won't understand what's happening, or it will be all too familiar, but they still won't understand why it's a problem or how to escape it. Adults, especially adults who were victims of parentification by the adults who raised them, will definitely understand why this is a problematic approach to raising kids.

Caffeinated kids

This is a pretty minor thing in comparison to some of the other problematic plot points in Troop Beverly Hills, but throughout the movie, the girls drink cappuccino with regularity. It's supplied by Phyllis, of course, but they also get it when they're out and about at places like the Beverly Hills Hotel or a spa. Most experts recommend kids under the age of 12 avoid any caffeinated beverages, including cappuccino. While many parents are aware of this, it's not always easy to keep caffeine away from kids, particularly when soda is around. But even in 1989, when Troop Beverly Hills came out, it wasn't normal for kids to be drinking cappuccino, particularly not in the volume that the Wilderness Girls imbibe it. Kids today watching might not see anything wrong with it, especially if they occasionally like to go to Starbucks with their parents and get a drink of their own, but adult viewers will know why it's not exactly encouraged for kids that age to be drinking that much caffeine.

The amazingness of the '80s fashion

Fashion is cyclical and some trends return, but the majesty of late 1980s fashion, particularly as worn by a group of wealthy Beverly Hills kids and adults, is something that's pretty unique to its time. Every one of Phyllis's outfits is completely over the top, and she won't acquiesce to using the standard Wilderness Girl uniforms so she has custom ones created for herself and the girls. The true pinnacle of the 1989 fashion explosion, however, comes in the dance scene, when all the girls and Phyllis are in aerobics gear of the era. It's silly and ridiculous — and actually accurate to what was being worn at the time. Modern kids watching the movie, on the other hand, might not believe that any of these outfits are realistic because of how different they are from current fashions. Adults, however, especially adults who lived through the era, will know the truth... and might even recognize some of these styles as ones they themselves wore.

Here, old man, have a Penthouse

During one sequence, the troop visits a retirement home to help the elderly in pursuit of a Wilderness Girls patch. They do this in their characteristic way — a little tongue-in-cheek and a little off — exemplified during the bit when two of the girls offer one resident a few different magazines, which he declines before they produce a Penthouse that he gladly accepts. The girls then watch as he opens it to the centerfold and their eyes widen in shock at what they see before it cuts away. 

A few elements of this gag won't be understood by most kids, particularly the weirdness of two tween girls having a Penthouse in their possession and the creepiness of an old man looking at a Penthouse in front of them. It's one thing for a kid to know that pornography exists, but for them to have it as an option to hand out at a retirement home, as well as watch while someone else looks at it, is all very strange. Hopefully, most young viewers won't know what that magazine even is, and will miss the purpose of the whole scene altogether.

Down and out in Beverly Hills

Emily's dad is an out-of-work actor who must've been popular at some point, but is currently struggling to land any roles — or make ends meet. From the moment viewers are introduced to Emily, we see her father not have the money for the troop meeting. When another fee is brought up in a separate meeting, Emily flees, distraught, because she's too embarrassed to admit she can't afford it. Phyllis goes after her, and Tiffany gives her the money she'll need to pay the fee. It's a sweet moment, yet while kids might understand the difficulty of not having money and why it's kind that Phyllis and the girls try to help Emily, they likely won't understand the full implications. 

For the average person, not having money is a regular challenge, but in the world of Beverly Hills, for a formerly popular actor and his child, the situation is a little different. Money means everything in the culture depicted in this movie, and if she doesn't have enough to do little things like troop activities, it could lead to Emily being shunned by her peers. Being broke for most people is very different from struggling in Beverly Hills, and it's clear Emily fears that — which your average kid will not understand.

Money laundering

When Lily, the daughter of Dictator Bong Bong and his wife Karina — the characters based on Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos — stands up for the badge ceremony, Phyllis goes over the badges she's earned, including one in International Relations for teaching the girls about money laundering. That's a reference and joke that's going to go way over the heads of pretty much every kid watching the movie. For one, money laundering is a complex concept that a lot of adults don't even fully understand; if you're not aware, it's the process of taking money gained through illegal means and trying to legitimize it so that illegal activity can't be traced back to someone. For another, how that plays into International Relations is another complex issue. And finally, how that all relates to Lily's ex-dictator dad is going to be something that only adults will grasp, especially as it is a direct reference to the money laundering that despots have frequently been accused of in real life.

Cancel the divorce!

In the final moments of Troop Beverly Hills, Freddy shows up to tell Phyllis that he's changed his mind about the divorce. This is probably the most unrealistic scene in the whole movie. Sure, sometimes people who start divorce proceedings — or even go through with a divorce — get back together. But generally, when it comes to the point of engaging in the legalities of divorce, minds are pretty made up and there's no going back. Especially for a wealthy Beverly Hills couple, the cost of a divorce would've been immense and the challenges of splitting assets and everything that goes along with it would've been quite complicated. Not something one undertakes lightly, to say the least. But Freddy is happy to scrap all that after watching Phyllis lead a troop of girls out of the wilderness because he believes it's a sign that she's changed, and Phyllis is apparently extremely eager to take him back. Young viewers might watch this and think it's sweet and romantic, or think about how they'd want their own parents to act, but adults will watch it and only think about how unrealistic it all is.