BY EVA LIAO Here’s one for the kids of my generation, the kids who grew up stuck between the loud, crude fads of the ’80s and the comparably apathetic, bereaved children of today. Here’s to the victims of a less dramatic, and all-the-more innocent decade known as the ’90s.
Last month the DVD series of My So-Called Life was released to the elation of the pathetically nostalgic, such as myself. It’s been 13 years since the show last aired on ABC, running only one season. The series came to an unexpected halt once lead actress Claire Danes, who was only 13 at the time, withdrew from the show due to the demanding film schedule. Despite mediocre ratings, the show had a rabid following and the cancellation came as a distressing shock to those left starved for Angela Chase. The five-disc set contains the complete remnants of one of that decade’s biggest cult shows.
I was in sixth grade when the series first came out, and Angela Chase was only two years older than me — in the show and in real life. She wasn’t some overdeveloped 19-year-old pretending to be an awkward, insecure, tortured adolescent, she was the real deal. It’s part of what made the show so great. “My So-Called Life” wasn’t “Saved by the Bell” or “90210.” There was no Kelly Kapowski or over-privileged white kids shopping on Rodeo Drive. This show was much too cynical and sarcastic for that.
I obsessed over the show then, and it pains me to know years later, I am obsessing over it still. Sure, the cheesy, melodramatic dialogue and plot lines (though arguably insightful and realistic by some accounts) are much more obvious to me now, yet somehow I still end up at the TLA renting disc after disc. For the past week I have been swooning over a past crush of mine, Jordan Catalano, played by a then-young, rebellious and gorgeous Jared Leto. I am reminded that some of my favorite albums are ’90s albums and all week I’ve been rotating among the likes of Pavement, Violent Femmes, Nirvana, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine and Ween.
And still, if you love the ’90s but hate television, even you can appreciate the show as an amusing homage to all the great and embarrassing things about the decade. Flannel T-shirts, purple overalls, maroon lipstick, white-out covered Jansport backpacks and chokers are all staples of the show. And each episode is graced with some particular song of the moment, from The Cranberries and R.E.M. to Daniel Johnston and Sonic Youth. In one episode they even show Kurt Cobain on the cover of Rolling Stone as a reference his death. Shit like that alone puts the show above the bar.
In any case, “My So-Called Life” is a show that’s important to me because it is a truthful and revealing reminder of how annoying, stupid, tragic and funny high school was. Besides, being nostalgic is a fun way to pass the time now that it’s cold out.