“Go, Now, Go!”
Angela Chase is fifteen years old and lives in quite suburbia with her parents and younger sister. She is in grade ten at Liberty High and is in the midst of, well, something. A something even she is not sure of what it is.
She just knows she needs a change.
Thus begins the one season wonder, nineteen episodes in total, of My-So-Called Life. Launched in 1994 on ABC, this classic series brought the angst, emotions, turmoil, love, laughter, betrayal, and ultimate friendships that envelops and thrives in the teen years to vivid life. Very scary vivid life.
“My whole life is waiting for something to happen.”
Within minutes of the opening episode, Angela has already started hanging out with her new best friend, the loud slightly obnoxious very boisterous Rayanne. This goofy public tomfoolery leads to Angela pulling the next great change to her boring status quo.
She dies her hair red.
This deed, along with her new fraternization with Rayanne, and a young man tagging along named Rickie, causes Angela’s pent up controlling mother to react a slight bit negatively.
This new rollercoaster Angela is journeying on also has a love/lust interest. A loner slacker dude, let back twice legend has it, who slouches against the lockers in just the right way. This one man wrecking ball of Angela’s emotions is Jordan Catalano. So much of the new her is channeled into figuring out who he is.
“I, like, love Jordan, I think.”
This life of Angela’s is now a real life play with a motley mix of new and old characters inhabiting her existence.
A father smothered and watched over by his wife. Danielle, the younger sister, who desperately wants to be Angela. Her former best friend, the eternally perky Sharon, who just wants to know what she did wrong. The neighbour across the street, the intellectual and emotionally hindered Brian, who harbours an intense crush on Angela.
They all existed before, in the old, non red, days.
With Rayanne, the girl with no boundaries and limitless freedom, Angela sees and experiences excitement that thrill and scare her. Along as a helper/enabler is the sexually ambiguous, but everyone knows is actually gay, Rickie. The man of her dreams, Jordan, stays mostly on the periphery, only interacting with Angela’s new/old friends when it seems warranted.
“School is a battlefield. For your heart.”
The tableau of what is new/old Angela breathes through the entire series. How she relates or does not relate to her family and friends, and in strange and wonderful ways, how her new/old friends brush up against each other and find common ground, makes each episode, each storyline, each moment something special and unique. Like when Rickie and Brian become friends, all because of a scary event at the school, everything takes on a slightly different dimension.
To help illustrate the ups and downs and in betweens Angela lives and breathes, the series has our heroine narrate her life. All sorts of bits and pieces, major and minor, of what Angela witnesses or lives through becomes fodder for her inner monologue. The poetry of her soulful confessions brings another layer of truth to the tapestry of Angela.
The power of this wonderful show cannot be underestimated. I have yet to meet anyone who has seen it, lived it, and breathed it, who has not fallen in absolute love with Angela Chase and company. This snapshot of people still has impact even almost twenty years later, with new fans constantly finding the series to this day.
Multiple creative geniuses gave us My So-Called Life. The brilliance of Angela was a gift from actress Claire Danes, who was only thirteen when the pilot was filmed, and shows maturity and silliness well beyond her years. The force behind the camera, who gave Claire the voice of Angela, was the incredible writer Winnie Holzman. Also starting out in the field of television on MSCL was writer Jason Katims, who years later provided us with the magic of Friday Night Lights and the drama of Parenthood.
“What’s amazing is when you can feel your life going somewhere. Like your life just figured out how to get good. Like that second.”
My So-Called Life is about Angela Chase dyeing her hair red, and all that comes after.
My So-Called Life is about Angela Chase finding her way around and about adolescence.
My So-Called Life is about Angela Chase becoming Angela Chase.
…is currently reading The Death And Life Of Superman by Roger Stern.