10 Things I Learned From Watching My So-Called Life

1. Being a teenager basically means you’re going to cry a lot

Whether it’s being pressured to lose your virginity by your hot deadbeat boyfriend or just getting a zit, teenagers are experiencing intense emotions every single day. They’re professional feelers and criers who just wander down the halls of their high school feeling a vague sense of depression. Angela Chase taught me that. Angela Chase warned me that I was going to lose my mind and I did! Boy, did I…

2. Parents have their own secret dreams, hopes, and fears

What was interesting about My So-Called Life is that it dedicated a major portion of its time to the parents’ inner lives, which was almost unheard of in a teen show. In the past, shows about adolescents have tried to include the parents but they’re often treated as an afterthought. Graham and Patty — Angela’s parents — however, were actually given rich strokes of character. We got some real insight into what it feels like to raise a teenage daughter while navigating a marriage. Spoiler: it’s not easy.

3. Being gay is hard

Sweet Rickie Vasquez — the eyeliner-wearing, girls bathroom frequenter, and fiercely loyal friend. I loved him! Honestly, the fact that he was even included on the show in 1994 is remarkable. There wasn’t even a Very Special Episode pertaining to his sexuality. The audience simply understood that he was gay and it wasn’t until the Christmas episodes — when Rickie was kicked out of his house for being gay — that we got a peek into his terrible home life and struggle with acceptance. Everything about his character was treated with the utmost care and respect. He could’ve been the token gay character with issues but the show’s creator, Winnie Holzman, gave him so much more than that.

4.  Everyone will have a Rayanne Graff in their life at some point

Rayanne Graff is the best friend everyone has dealt with at some point. She’s the friend that’s magnetic and you want to spend all your time with them, but they also happen to be bad influences and incredibly selfish. This type of friend is a parents worst nightmare because they know how the dynamic is going to play out. But as much as they beg and plead their spawn to not hang out with them, they know it’s fruitless. This is one of those lessons they have to learn on their own. In Angela Chase’s case, she learned it when Rayanne slept with her on-again/off-again boyfriend, Jordan Catalano. It’s not like Rayanne was a terrible person. She just was a troubled 16-year-old alcoholic who was incapable of not hurting the ones she loved.

5. When your BFF overdoses on Ecstasy, you should call the ambulance before your mother

When Rayanne overdosed on E at her house party, Angela decided to call her mom for help before she called 911. I mean, I get it. You’ve never seen anyone OD before and you want your mommy but, like, please just get the poor girl medical attention first.

6. Having a little sister is totally annoying

Was Angela’s little sister, Danielle, meant to do anything on the show other than annoy? It seemed like every scene she was in, she was doing a cheer or begging her parents to pay attention to her. As the youngest child, I suppose I was guilty of doing the same thing, but dear God! Chill out, Danielle!

7. If you get locked inside your high school, you will have hallucinations of a teenager who died thirty years ago

My So-Called Life was constantly praised for its realism. While other teen-centered shows relied on more tawdry elements, this show consistently kept it true to life. That is, until their Halloween episode, which had Angela, Rayanne, and Brian trapped inside their high school on Halloween night. While Rayanne and Brian hung out in the basement, Angela presumably took some mushrooms and hallucinated a student named Nicky Driscoll, who died thirty years earlier on Halloween night. Okay, it sounds psychotic and lame but it was actually genuinely creepy.

8. You will fall for jerks who look like Jared Leto

Angela engaged in a relationship that we adults are all too familiar with: The “I’m dating an emotionally unavailable jerk who might be borderline-retarded but god, he’s hot!” We’ve all dated a Jordan Catalano. Maybe he wasn’t as hot as Jared Leto (Or stupid. Remember Jordan couldn’t read?) but we understand the dynamic all too well. The shy smart girl falls for the bad boy who’s going to be a used car salesman in five years. That, or become a successful model in New York.

9. Cheerleaders lose their virginity first

Sharon Cherski — Angela’s BFF before she dyed her hair crimson glow and wanted to be alternative — is the archetypal sorority princess. She’s totally annoying and obsessed with school spirit but we forgive her for it mostly because she’s hot and boning a football player. Sharon Cherski had some major S-E-X with her dopey boyfriend and the show was not afraid to explore that. It was actualy refreshing to see such a candid approach to teen sex. Sharon wasn’t left in ruins because she lost her virginity. In fact her and her boyfriend Kyle had sex all the time. Usually while watching Brad Pitt movies.

10. Don’t reject chubby shy girls who ask you to the high school dance

Brian Krakow — the socially-challenged nerd who pined over Angela — got an opportunity to actually have some physical contact with a girl but he blew it! Deliah, the chubby sweet new girl in school, immediately set her sights on Brian (ew) and asks him to the high school dance. Brian accepts her offer but later rescinds it to spend some one-on-one time with Angela. In the end, Brian got neither girl and spent the dance either hanging out by himself or with a gay guy. TC mark

image – My So Called Life

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • Mike

    I learned form Jordan Catalano that being aloof and leaning against walls is the best way to get girls.

  • Cassieboorn

    I have never watched My So Call Life and up until now I had never had the desire to. You make it sound so good.

    • http://twitter.com/missalmazan Isa Almazan

      I personally think that this is a shallow take on the show. If this convinced you to watch the show, you’ll fall in love with it.

  • http://twitter.com/ronariffic Sharona

    One of my all time fave shows. I have the series (just one season) on DVD. I’ve been Angela and I’ve been Rayanne. I still gravitate towards Jordan Catalano. God. 

  • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

    I was (am) the Rayanne in my group of friends. Sorry, friends.

  • Ryan_sola

    Please proofread before publishing. The usage mistakes were too distracting for me to appreciate your mediocre commentary of a legendary show. Also so unoriginal.

  • http://twitter.com/missalmazan Isa Almazan

    I personally think that this is a shallow take on the show. I think you missed out the purpose of Danielle, Brian, and Sharon. Danielle wasn’t just annoying, Brian was just a jerk (because when you think about it, whatever Jordan was doing to Angela was the same level of fuckery Angela was doing to Brian.) And Sharon, I don’t think you appreciated the important role of Sharon provided. 

  • Ryan_sola

    I also agree that your commentary was lacking any meaningful analysis. I didn’t read this to get a summary of an old show. I thought there would be some greater depth which you deemed important enough to publish. You totally undermined everything which made that show great with your lack of maturity in thought.

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