Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Was it my so called life?

I think I had good teenage years.

I remember dying my hair red, getting into all sorts of crazy scrapes, all the partying and that boy. That beautiful boy. With floppy hair and dreamy eyes.

The angst. The confusion. It was rad. It was cool. It was memorable.

Weeellllllll, actually that wasn't so much my teenage years. I would have liked it to be - I mean there was hair dying (not mine - my friend Jo and her sister and I'm still in trouble with their mother I think), there were crazy friends and scrapes (the above mentioned partying and at least one other parent who possibly hasn't forgiven me) and there were some boys (not sure if beautiful would really be the word though) - but then that isn't my teen years described above, but that of Angela Chase (Claire Danes in her debut role).

My So Called Life was the show to define a generation of teens in the 90s. It centered around Chase, a 15 year old normal mid-American teen and her transition into adulthood dealing with changes in interests, friends, family and herself. It has an dynamic mix of characters - her A type mother, her emasculated father, the oversexed best friend, the gay other best friend, the childhood best friend now cast off and odd boy over the road. And most importantly, the new love interest - the divine Jordan Catalano (played by an unknown, Jared Leto, pre-emo makeover), who took wistful gazing into space to a new level and made it seen sexy and vulnerable and not just vague.

For the teenage me it was a revelation in programming. A teen focused show that had a deep level of realism, mainly driven by the fact that it didn't deal in happy endings or neat resolutions. Unlike the Gossip Girls or Glees of today, MSCL characters weren't those you wanted to be like, you were actually them. The story lines weren't exciting and alluring, but more like day to day - unrequited love, parental disapproval and just wanting to be treated like a grown up and not a child. And just to clarify, they may not have been aspirational, but didn't mean that they seemed more exciting than my own.

MSCL is a gem in the television hall of fame, much helped by it being a one series show. Due to poor ratings (which has always amazed me) and the fact that Claire Danes didn't want to do a second season (hmmm and if running off with Billy Crudup wasn't bad enough!) it wasn't renewed. It will never get old, dull or attempt to jump the shark. It's just liked an unopened 1970s Star Wars figurine - undamaged and retained its value. Sometimes (but only very rarely) being cancelled can be a good thing.

MSCL is now 15 years old. I recently bought the DVD and am re-watching for the fist time as an adult. For something I last watched over a decade ago, I can't believe how much I (a) remember and (b) still enjoy. It hasn't really aged, the story lines are still relevant (although I'm not a teenager, so maybe they aren't!) and they acting is still skillful and subtle. The only thing that has altered is the parents. They have changed from being the enemy to being unfairly maligned and very sympathetic. While Angela's mother, Patti is still controlling and critical, its now so apparent that is it driven from love and the desire to protect her daughter. She, and her husband Graham, are also attempting to deal with the reality that her little girl has grown up and changed. Angela doesn't want their comfort, and doesn't want to confide in them at all. There's a real undertone of sorrow at the dinner table and discomfort with the kitchen.

Just by coincidence I've been downloading by late 1990s CD collection onto iTunes. Ahh nostalgia. It brought it all back and I'm glad that is where is going to stay! Being a teenager was great, but better left where it was!

Later dudes.

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