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.