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A cheerleader, Heather, a vegan human rights activist, Beth, and the student body president type, Carrie, team up to bring down the guy that dated them all at once and then broke their hearts. Kate, a new girl at the school, has never dated a John Tucker but gives the trio advice based on her mother's love life. Together they hatch a plan to break John's heart the same way he broke theirs, using inexperienced Kate as the fake dater.

As the girls are molding Kate into everything she needs to be to win John, she's caught the eye of the "other Tucker," John's little brother. The first couple of schemes, from giving John estrogen pills to make him more emotionally sensitive and implying he has herpes through sex ed ads, do not work to ruin his reputation as a ladies man. As he gets closer to Kate he starts to fall hard and that's when she decides she bit off more than she can chew. When John's birthday rolls around everything comes out into the open and Kate has to stop pretending to be something she's not.

Tropes used in John Tucker Must Die include:

  • The Ace: John
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Heather. Kate later joins the cheer leading squad in order to get John's attention.
  • Alpha Bitch: Heather, a bit downplayed, but for sure she has some traits. Also Kate, but she gets better. However, Beth and Carrie are nearly as bad, in spite of occupying roles that would normally be more sympathetic.
  • Anti-Hero: Even accounting for their (pretty legitimate) Woman Scorned feelings Beth, Carrie and Heather come across as rather unlikable. Heather is the worst, smugly throwing a luckless cheerleader off her team to further the plan, but even the other two come across as patronising and insensitive towards Kate.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Heather
  • Becoming the Mask: Predictably, Kate ends up falling for John while pretending to date him in order to set him up to be humiliated.
    • Sort of. She grows to like him, particularly after she gets a glimpse of understanding as to why he did it, but it seemed mostly platonic, particularly seeing as she wanted his brother more.
  • Big Man on Campus: People see John as this.
  • Billing Displacement: The four girls are given pretty equal credit when Kate has a much larger role. Plus Scott, the other Tucker, isn't given any billing and he has a pretty large part.
    • Probably having to do with the fact that at the time, Penn Badgley was a relative unknown
  • Black Best Friend: Tommy, John's best friend.
  • Break the Haughty: What the girls try to do to John.
  • The Cheerleader: Heather isn't as outright evil as some movie cheerleaders but she's still pretty bitchy and shallow.
  • Cool Loser: Kate and Scott
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Kate slowly turns from the shy sweet new girl into an Alpha Bitch due to the influence of the other three.
  • Dawson Casting: All of the main cast. Jesse Metcalfe, who played John Tucker, was 28 at the time.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Kate changes her mind about humiliating John, but the other girls play the pre-recorded "I'm Dumping You" video anyway. Defying genre convention, he doesn't take Kate back afterward.
  • The Everyman: Scott, the other Tucker.
  • Five-Man Band Four Girl Band.
    • The Heroine: Kate. Self Explanatory
    • The Lancer: Heather. She's the who contrasts most with Kate. While Kate is sweet and good-hearted, Heather is Sexy and Bitchy.
    • The Smart Girl: Carrie. She knows a lot about technology, spends her time on extracurricular clubs and working on her college application.
    • The Chick: Beth. Vegan activist and the most "spiritual" of the four.
      • John is not part of the band, but if he was, he would, definitely fill The Big Guy role.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Kate, the naive one; Carrie, the smart one; Heather, the sexy one; and Beth, the motherly-ish one.
  • Girl-On-Girl Is Hot: Beth teaches Kate how to kiss. Although it wasn't pointless it was clearly for titillation. An then we have the appropriate reaction of a dorkish guy:

 Kiss her again!

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