Hop on Pop Culture: Article of the Week

This piece was actually from last week but re: my My So-Called Life mania I thought I'd recommend it for readership (I'm usually about a week behind when it comes to newspapers or news in general.) I digress...

“My So-Called Life” appeared only 13 years ago but leaves one feeling nostalgic for a time when teenagers still communicated with pauses and half-thoughts, and were not perceived solely as an amalgam of their accomplishments. Angela was a bright girl who performed unspectacularly at school (she got a 59 on a geometry test, quit yearbook and didn’t play lacrosse or join the debate team). Even so, there was never a sense that her options for a prosperous and fulfilling adulthood would be foreclosed because of her reluctance to apply herself.

Angela Chase was 100% relateable. She was awkward. Her parents were annoying. Her crush was out of her league. She wasn't rich and model-perfect. She was relateable to all awkward teenagers. She wasn't someone we all wished we were. She was someone we knew we were, and frankly, were afraid of being. Because no one wants to be the quiet girl in the back row... Or the girl with the zit or the know-it-all little sister. Unfortunately relateability is something producers seem to have skimmed over in all teen dramas since. And that's too bad.

Because typical teenagers aren't like this:

Mischa Barton in "The OC"

Leighton Meester in "Gossip Girl"

They're like this:

Claire Danes as Angela Chase

Me as myself, awkward and brace-faced: Age 13.

Me as myself: madly in love with Jordan Catalano, Age 14

Teenage girls need real role models, not super models posing as such...

As the touchstone examination of adolescence in the ’90s, “My So-Called Life” rejected the Clintonian ethos of ambition: striving, perhaps, wasn’t better. And at the same time it linked itself closely to the feminism of the period, one that prized interiority, self-help and revolutions from within. It was a diluted notion of female advancement, but at least it was a modestly dressed one. Angela wore late-grunge-era flannels and baggy shapes. So there is another way, finally, that “My So-Called Life” looks like no other teenage series that succeeded it: We never saw our heroine’s bellybutton.
Gone are the days of celebrating the truth about adolescence, in all it's strange and fucked-up glory. And that just plain sucks, in my opinion.



Angel | 9:19 PM

It does NOT even look like you! I can't belive it. I'm an always lurker, sometimes commenter. I read all your posts. Play on. I will be buying your book. I'm SO curious. Don't ever stop blogging here.

Anonymous | 9:39 PM

One problem—that high school ID looks quite a bit like Mischa Barton...

Anonymous | 10:17 PM

oh my god! blondie :)

that's crazy, you look totally different w/ blond hair (yet the same)...

and on a less shallow note, never watched my so-called life (we didn't get cable...) but totally agree about this post.

L | 3:02 AM

I have to agree with anonymous - your jr high ID photos look very much like Mischa and not so much what I, or any of my friends, looked like in jr high... Life is so not fair :)

Anonymous | 6:04 AM

Another show, which I was late to and finally caught on netflix dvd, is "Freaks and Geeks". I obsessively watched all the episodes in about a two week period. That one's set in the 80's, but same feeling as mscl, minus the Jordan Catalano factor : )

Anonymous | 6:13 AM

duh, or I could read the article before commenting and see how they mentioned freaks and geeks. oops.

Anonymous | 6:39 AM

can't believe you were 14 in the last ID pic. you were blessed with the beauty gene. kiss your momma a kiss for that.

Anonymous | 7:56 AM

That is what was so amazing about that show - it was real, it wasn't candy-coated and plastic. It was almost as if Angela was your friend, her school was your school, her life yours. It was relatable. It sucks that kids now are missing out on that now, that they only have plastic 90210-type teenagers to look up to. We were lucky to have My So-Called Life, even if it was only briefly on.

Malice | 8:42 AM

I can't stand those shows and I can't believe that My so-called life only lasted one season. I'm not sure if you know, but its coming out on dvd...I know I'm excited. Love the old school id's.

Anonymous | 9:00 AM

What's really interesting about this post and the comments is that it doesn't matter what you look like at all--adolescence is a time of awkwardness whether you're blonde and willowy with perfect skin and inherent grace or whether you've dyed your hair non-natural-red in the sink on a whim with your new best friend by your side. I think what GGC is trying to say is that MSCL was awesome because it showed the awkwardness both inside and out, whereas teen shows now show awkwardness nowhere. Let girls be girls--goofy, dancing to "Blister in the Sun" like fools, arguing with their siblings, fantasizing about stabbing their mother in the eye with a fork--however they're portrayed, they should be real.


Word, NancyT. As for looking like Mischa, uh... I'm still trying to figure that one out. Weird.

KaritaG | 10:27 AM

You were hot in high school, admit it. So was I and I hated it, believe it or not - nancyt's right, being a teenager is awkward no matter what you looked like. It's so funny to me that you are posting on MSCL because my friends and I have recently been reminiscing about it as well - how we WERE Angela Chase. I agree with this post wholeheartedly.

Whit | 11:33 AM

I agree with everything, but it doesn't help that you look better in your high school photo than the fake actresses.

mrsgreen | 12:53 PM

You do look more like Mischa than Claire Danes! Seriously, I was no where near as hot at 13 or 14.

ImpostorMom | 5:58 AM

You know I never really thought about it that way. There aren't any shows that are just about normal teenagers anymore and there haven't been in a long time.

I watched the OC and I love gossip girl now but I'm an adult and honestly when I'm watching I don't think of these characters as kids. That in itself should say a lot.

Unknown | 1:32 PM

YES...you were gorgeous!! But wait...so was I, but that didn't stop me frmo rocking serious teenaged angst...and I can only say that my 14 year old self was gorgeous because I look at pics of my sadly tragic low-self-esteem carrying teenaged self and want to hug the snot out of her and say "Forget it!! You CAN do whatever you want!"

Okay...sniffle..I have to go read my collection of '89 Sassy magazines.

Unknown | 6:42 AM

I loved that show for all the reasons you mentioned, plus the fact that I had a huge adolescent crush on Claire Danes.

kittenpie | 3:28 PM

I totally agree with everything you say here... but I gotta say, that last ID photo kinda looks like you wouldn't have been out of place on the OC yourself!

Unknown | 3:46 PM

Great post. I loved My So-Called Life when it was on.

Your ID photos are very pretty! And wow, you were in junior high in 1995? I am so old. I'd already graduated from COLLEGE. time to go cry now! aaah!

Anonymous | 4:01 PM

I agree 100% and I also really liked My So Called Life.

It's also a small world, I went to Diegueno, back in good old 1986-1989...it tripped me out to see your IDs. I found your site through a link from Whoorl and it's just really crazy that this is such a small world. I enjoy your writing a lot.

Bethany | 5:09 PM

Jordan and Dylan McKay were my first loves.....

I too went to Diegueno, I graduated in '92! And I know JAB, she's best friends with my sister. Small world....

Anonymous | 5:01 PM

Word sista. I remember starting high school (in 96) and relating so much to Angela. Of course I also though because I lived in southern CA that everything would be like 90210.