When people ask me what's going on in my life, the first thing I say is that I've been watching a lot of My So-Called Life recently (which is kind of sad and pathetic in it's own right). 80% of people I tell this to have never seen a single episode. That statistic shocks me. Because My So-Called Life is such an important show. And it's not just important to me (although it really is,) it's important to the greater pop-culture landscape as a whole. I believe that MSCL is the most authentic and relatable teen drama that has ever been on television. When explaining it to someone who's never seen it before, I'm quick to compare it to Degrassi, because MSCL also goes there. But really that's an unfair comparison, because MSCL is so much more relatable than Degrassi. Maybe that's because I've only seen Degrassi Junior High and I'm not a Canadian middle schooler in 1987, but still, I argue that MSCL has a leg-up on any other teen drama for the following reasons:
1.) The language. Winnie Holzman's writing is brilliant for so many reasons, and her use of language is key. If you took a shot for every time someone said "like" on the show, your veins would run a river of Jack Daniel's. Which is perfect, because when real people talk, they tend to say things like "like" and "um." Real people also tend to think about weird stuff and ramble. Ergo when Angela says stuff like,
"I couldn't stop thinking about it. The, like, fact that - that people - had sex. That they just *had* it, like sex was this thing people - *had*, like a rash. Or a - a Rottweiler. Everything started to seem like, pornographic or something. Like, Mrs. Krysanowski has sex. So does Mr. Katimsky. They both have sex. They could - have sex together. Like right now."it's so perfectly perfect.
2.) The characters manage to be archetypal while not becoming parodies of themselves. Which happens so quickly on other shows. Let's take Gossip Girl for example. Chuck Bass is the rich, sociopath, womanizing character of the show, right? Well that's all good and fun to watch until Season 2 when the writers have exhausted every semi-incestual sexual relationship between the characters, so they make Chuck move on to an elite Eyes Wide Shut style sex club where members have to wear masks and have secret matching tattoos. Because frankly, what the fuck? I understand womanizing the entire Senior class and maybe some of the help, but an elite masked sex club? Really? It was at this moment that I came to the sad, sad realization that Gossip Girl had jumped the shark. The archetypes on MSCL never got out of hand. Sure Rayanne was The Drunk, but she only needed her stomach pumped once, and who hasn't been there? Relatable. She didn't shank a hooker, steal a car, drive to the Anheuser-Bush factory and drown in a vat of Budweiser.
3.) The show explored both major and minor teenage issues. Sure it tackled drug abuse, child abuse, sex, infidelity, depression, sexuality and homelessness (to name a few,) but more importantly, it also showed those small, universally relatable stupid teen moments that we all had. Like when Angela wakes up and realizes she's finally over Jordan Catalano and dances around her room in her boxers blasting
4.) The show's Nihilistic attitude towards conflict resolution. This is probably my favorite thing about the entire show. Nothing ever gets resolved. And it's perfect. Let's go back to the Gossip Girl comparison again. Blair and Serena get in this huge fight and spend the first half of Season 1 trying to destroy each other's lives, right? Then they have one teary conversation, hug it out and are instantly biffles^max again? That's really not how it works. At all. Because you and your friend can have that make-up conversation and chalk it up to miscommunication and cry about how much you missed each other and hug and sob and giggle, but things never really go back to the way they were. Because as much as it sucks, you can never really forget what happened. And it's going to be awkward and weird for a while. That's why I appreciate that Rayanne and Angela, although technically past their teary conversation/hug it out moment, weren't really on speaking terms for the last third of the series. And that in and of itself is never really resolved! It's just accepted that their relationship has changed and things are different. Every time their characters interact, it's only in a "Hey...Yeah...This is awkward. Welp! Good to see you!" kind of way. Because that's how it is in life.
Likewise other major issues are explored but never really resolved. Like Ricky's homelessness. He gets beat up, disowned and subsequently has to bounce around staying with various friends. And that's that. His long-lost grandmother from Puerto Rico never shows up to adopt him. Because although that would close out that plot line nicely, what are the odds of that really happening? Or the fact that Jordan Catalano also sort of has a drinking problem and comes from an abusive home. That fact is presented, but never resolved. It's just sort of accepted that he's the trashy kid from the townhouses down the street. So there's that. Or Rayanne's drinking. Yes, she drinks too much and overdoses on X one night, and sure she goes to some counseling, but soon she's right back to drinking. And the show sort of treats that like, "Ooof...that's probably going to suck down the road one day...Oh swells!" and that's that. There's no tender, touching, Hallmark THIS IS FIXED, LET'S NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN moment (Cough, Blair's bulimia problem, cough). Because in life, not everything can be fixed. There are just some shitty things that will always be shitty because that's the way the cookie crumbles. Like Danielle! She's Angela's annoying younger sister, a character I can relate to in a big way. She's bored and left-out and desperate for attention, but guess what? That's just the way it is. There's never an episode where Angela and Danielle talk their issues out and decide to make a conscious effort to make Danielle feel more included. Because that would never happen. She's going to feel lame and left-out for a while, but then she'll get older and things will get better. Because that's just how it works. And I respect the show for recognizing that and not forcing convenient, yet completely unrealistic resolutions.
So that's why I love My So-Called Life. That and the fact that Jordan Catalano couldn't read. Which is endlessly funny to me for some sick and twisted reason.
So lace up your Doc Marten's, tie a flannel jacket around your waist and get ready to share your emotions―it's time for The Ultimate My So-Called Life Drinking Game!
- Music from any of the following bands is played: Violent Femmes, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, Soundgarden, The Cranberries, Radiohead or Jane's Addiction
- A character refers to another character by their last name only (ie: Catalano, Krakow, Chase or Cherski)
- Jordan Catalano struggles to read (LOLZ!)
- Jordan Catalano calls Brian "Brain" because he has dyslexia (DOUBLE LOLZ!)
- Rayanne takes a drink
- Rayanne overdoses
- Rayanne gets stage fright
- Rayanne's mom calls her "Raynie"
- Angela cries
- Mr. and Mrs. Chase have sex
- Patty Chase wears a blouse buttoned to the very top button
- Graham Chase cooks something
- Danielle interrupts the conversation with a non-sequitor
- Tino is referenced
- Sharon organizes something school-related (ie: World Happiness Dance or the Christmas Eve Suicide Hotline)
- Sharon and Kyle make out
- Angela and Jordan make out
- Jordan pressures Angela to have sex
- Brian Krakow is called to save the day
- The soap dispenser in the girl's bathroom is out of soap
- Hallie Lowenthal inappropriately flirts with Graham
- Something supernatural happens (ie: angels or time travel)
- The band breaks up
- One of Angela's friends turn to her mom for help or advice
- Ricky doesn't have anywhere to stay (WAMP, WAMP)
- Jared Leto sings a non 30 Seconds to Mars related song
As always, thank you so much for reading and spreading the 2b1b word via twitter, facebook and your votes! Have a great weekend and we'll see you back here Monday morning!