Our So-Called Collective Adolescence

Illustration for article titled Our So-Called Collective Adolescence

When I was in college, I tried writing about how much My So-Called Life meant to me for a non-fiction class. I never handed in the paper because I couldn't manage to express how dreadfully important Angela Chase was to my coming of age without sounding kind of insane or aggressively sentimental. How could I describe the way that Claire Danes's voice would resonate through my head as I walked through the corridors of my suburban public high school (just like Angela!)? That when she said that Anne Frank was "lucky" because she got to be trapped in an attic with the boy she liked, I had thought the same thing? That I dyed my hair manic panic red in the eighth grade because I wanted to be exactly like her?


Good thing The New York Times was able to talk about Angela Chase this weekend without sounding nearly as gushy and obsessive as I do.

In a review of the newly released DVD box set of MSCL, Ginia Bellafante writes:

The series brought us the experience of adolescence outside the bounds of artifice, peril and pathology that had provided the context for nearly every other depiction of teenagers on television. Here what it meant to be 15 was not to discover that you suddenly had to raise your 6-year-old sister or that you might be pregnant with twins but merely that you suffered everyday indignities: overhearing people talk behind your back, the plop of a grim-looking lump of mashed potatoes on a pallid cafeteria tray.

Even more relatable to me than the quotidian humiliations of teendom was that Angela was always struggling between being a good girl and indulging her rebellious side. Unlike the late 90s version of teen sexuality, for instance, American Pie, where if you were "normal" you were having sex, Angela grappled with her decision to stay a virgin in the face of Jordan Catalano's overwhelming hotness. She was legitimately scared to have sex, just as I was for the majority of my high school experience. Though I must say, if there had been anyone nearly as sexy as Jared Leto in my graduating class, my virginity would have been tossed out the window quicker than you can say "where's Tino?"

My identification with Angela Chase was such that Claire Danes's personal life in the intervening years has seriously bummed me out. The Angela Chase... er, Claire Danes I knew would NEVER have fucked someone else's boyfriend, especially not while that someone else was seven months pregnant. In fact, I would go so far as saying that because of her dating foibles and overtly self-conscious obnoxiousness in interviews, ol' crumple face is dead to me. At least Ricky is still awesome.

A Teenager in Love (So-Called) [New York Times]
'My So-Called Life' Lessons — Q&A with Wilson Cruz [Entertainment Weekly]
Capital Danes [Telegraph]


Related: "Oh God. We Had A Whole Act Of Crumple Face" [Gawker]



I loved this show so much I wrote like 50 letters after it was canceled. God bless MTV for playing the reruns.

This is still my favorite line ever:

"Sometimes it seems like we're all living in some kind of prison, and the crime is how much we all hate ourselves. It's good to get really dressed up once in a while and admit the truth — that when you really look closely, people are so strange and so complicated that they're actually beautiful. Possibly even me."

Also the thing about Sunday nights making you want to kill yourself, and how that 60 Minutes clock sounds like it is counting down your entire life.

God, what an amazing show. I should buy the DVD, I know I could easily spend a weekend watching these shows I've seen a thousand times.