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Charlie Monson

Claire Danes stars as Angela Chase in ‘My So-Called Life’.

My So-Called Life: the highly regarded show that changed television forever

"It's such a lie that you should do what's in your heart. If we all did what was in our hearts, the world would grind to a halt." ~ quote from Angela Chase

February 23, 2021

My So-Called Life was the first of its kind back in 1994, its main character took the form of 15-year-old Angela Chase (Claire Danes) as she narrates the ups and downs of her teenage life. Filled to the brim with high-school drama, boys, nagging parents, and new and old friendships, Angela learns a lot during the show’s short 19-episode first season.

It was one of the first television shows to have the main character be a female teenager, and even more edgy to have the show narrated by her inner monologue. Her words are often poetic, raw, and dramatic (of course), leaving you feeling deeply connected with her character; she migrates from saying things that actually make you think, to saying things any teenager on the planet can relate to.

Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes — even glaciers move. So why couldn’t he just look at me?”

— Angela Chase, main character on the show

Jordan and Angela, the one instance where the person you like, actually likes you back (but never wants to admit it). (Fair use photo from ABC)

Almost everyone at some point can relate to Angela. She’s not necessarily popular, more of an outcast who recently dumped her childhood best friend Sharon Cherski to start hanging out with wildcard Rayanne Graff and total sweetheart Rickie Vasquez.

In a beautiful opening monologue from Angela, she states that “-when Rayanne Graff told me my hair was holding me back, I had to listen. ‘Cause she wasn’t just talking about my hair. She was talking about my life” to which we see her dying her hair a beautiful dark red (or “crimson glow” as Angela would say). She starts to step out of her comfort zone, and really become her own person, instead of the personality that was decided for her by her parents and peers.

Besides new friendships, one of the biggest plot points of the show revolves around Angela and her love interest Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), with whom she is completely obsessed. He isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but he is a total heartthrob who sings and plays guitar, can totally get you a fake ID, and is in love with his 1972 cherry-red Plymouth Fury. While he may seem aloof and unbothered to show up for class, he’s actually been held back twice and struggles with dyslexia.

While their relationship starts off as nothing more than brief eye contact and short awkward conversations, it soon escalates to something much more intimate “My entire life became divided into kissing… and not kissing…” In the episode “Pressure” Angela becomes divided between wanting to be with Jordan, and not wanting to move too quickly which starts to set them apart.

Angela and her neighbor Brian Krakow, who is totally in love with her. (Fair use photo from ABC)

Along with Angela’s complicated love life, her new friends Rayanne and Rickie also start to stir up some drama. While Rayanne does add some much-needed excitement to Angela’s life, she also struggles with a drinking problem and is continuously sleeping around. In the episode “Other People’s Mothers” Rayanne’s drinking finally spirals out of control leaving Rickie and Angela in a tough spot. Rickie was also the first outwardly gay character represented on television, and because of this, his home life was complicated, which lead to trouble later on in the season.

Angela’s life isn’t the only one chronicled throughout the season, the lives of her parents, friends, peers, and younger sister all get the right amount of attention. Angela’s parents, Patty and Graham Chase, also have their fair share of challenges throughout the series; like trying to work together, still trying to follow their dreams, and handling their marriage. As much as we think parents know it all, they are still learning too. The relationship between Angela and her parents is constantly being tested, in many episodes, Angela and her mother often disagree with each other, but they have their moments (just like most mother-daughter relationships).

Her nerdy neighbor Brian Krakow has a whole episode narrated from his inner monologue, where he talks about how his obsession with Angela needs to stop, and how that seems to subside when new girl Delia starts to like him. He also talks about his home life and the relationship with his parents, “My mother’s a behavioral psychologist, and my father’s a Freudian psychiatrist, which basically means they fundamentally disagree on, like, everything.”, because of this, he is constantly coming up with excuses to go over to the Chase’s house, where things are more “normal”. 

You can still find fans of the show today showing their appreciation on social media. (Michele Nelson)

Anglea’s life, like most teenagers, is complicated and overdramatic. It’s real and makes you think about how it may seem like all of us are different, but in actuality, we have a lot more in common than we think. To quote Anglea, “-when you really look closely, people are so strange and so complicated that they’re actually beautiful.” For being made in the 90s, a lot of the topics are still relatable today and it shows a realistic interpretation of such a pivotal time in teenagers’ and adults’ lives. I think it is a show everyone should get to watch at some point in their lives.

The show was beloved by many and praised for the way they portrayed high school and how realistic it was. It also brought up tough topics like drugs, drinking, sex, homelessness, sexuality, different family dynamics, and cheating. Something that was almost too “radical” for television in 1994. With a first season consisting of 22-full episodes, the show was cut short and canceled on January 26th, 1995 with only 19-episodes. It was sad to see such a good show end so abruptly, especially when it meant so much to the creators, writers, and audience. But shows like Freaks and Geeks, Daria, Felicity, Gilmore Girls, and more wouldn’t exist without the angsty trailblazing story of Angela Chase.

The show is available free to watch on ABC, and for a price, you can watch it on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Vudu.

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