October 10th: My So-Called Life

Dress for brooding.

Um, excuse me? Yeah, those are not going to fly at this blog-party. Like the general rule of no street shoes on the gym floor, this blog has its own guidelines, and they are 1.) Doc Martens at all times, or 2.) Chuck Taylors at all times. There are to be no gym shoes on the blog floor.

Haha, did I get you? Did you feel judged and rejected by your peer, who, providing you are not a 97-year-old Burmese woman, is me? Because, peoples, let's face it: school is kind of a lot like that. Especially school in the 90s - oh yes, if you Millennials (you know, all 30 years-worth of you I will now marginalize by referring to as one name, because I'm sure that covers it) wanted a taste of life before your pocket-phone, back in the good ol' days when bullying was not only not cracked down on but, in a way, almost passively encouraged, I am here to tell you all about...

My So-Called Life

Well, not me exactly - at this point, I was still rapidly transitioning from Animaniacs over to the alternative nation - but Angela Chase definitely knows all about it, and through her so-called 'struggle,' we shall all learn how to so-called 'get by' in this, like... life.

I'm sorry - go when? Oh, go now, I see!

Space: Three Rivers, PA
Time: October 27th, 1994
Episode: "Halloween" Season 1, Episode 9

So much not going on in this episode, where do we even reluctantly begin?

Okay, it's 1994, it's Halloween, it's time for internal-monologues. Seriously, you guys? You know the early-90s? They were so all about wondering about what a 'Shoop' was, and internal-monologing. And it was awesome. For example, Angela ponders the nature of Halloween at school.

'I should've worn a costume... but who would I be?'

Ah, you've hit that nail right on the head, Angela Chase - I mean, like, who are any of us really, right? Angela's quest for identity is promptly dealt with as a set of vintage clothes from the early-60s is foisted upon her in the never-ending lounge-period forum known as the Liberty High Ladies Room.

Rickie's breath is taken away: "Oh look - mohair!" Rickie, you are adorable. Yes, teens of the early-90s were totally into one textile and one textile only, and to this day, we still associate the word "grunge" with "mohair."

This is followed by some tall-tale about Nicky Driscoll, a greaser kid who died at the school under mysterious circumstances, and I'm sure you can fill in the rest - think of a plotline one step removed from your average Are You Afraid Of The Dark? episode, and you're pretty much there.

Meanwhile, Angela's sister, Danielle, throws down what has proven to be the most evergreen gag of any of these programs we've been visiting, dressing up as the brooding Dame Danes herself:

You see, kids? Not only were the 90s a time of free-thought and mohair, they were also totally self-aware. What, you think you can inspire people to rock the vote without at least acknowledging how fucking lame it is to exercise your franchise? There's, like, so much paperwork! But if Chris Cornell can get his shit together long enough to register with his district, then so can I. It's also worth noting that little sister Danielle was played by a Wilhoit - you know, of the Full House Wilhoits? Yeah, she was Nicky and Alex's cousin, the poor thing.

Meanwhile, Mom and Dad, who are still working through a rough-patch of Dad-almost-cheating, have been so obsessive about Halloween that they've actually forgotten to obsess over the one detail worth obsessing over: costumes for Camille's party! I'm surprised by this scattershot-planning only until we're offered this glimpse at the Chase Family's crazy-wall:

There are simply not enough surfaces upon which to pin the many, many facets of our complicated, so-called lives! Quick, honey - let's start work on an addition so I can have more wall-space to attach shit to!

This leads them to a visit to your local enchanted costume mistress, who offers them a pirate outfit and a Rapunzel dress. For whatever idiot-reason, Dad scoffs at this notion: "You as Rapunzel? Come on..." Please drink in the face of a woman who has just been told by the man she committed her life to, and was recently almost-cheated on by, that she cannot be Rapunzel:

And where are these preconceived notions about Rapunzel even coming from!? I hear 'Rapunzel' and I think of two things: 1.) I immediately confuse it with Rumpelstiltskin, and 2.) oh right, the girl with the hair. Nowhere in that spectrum of acknowledgment is it written that a woman must be of a very particular timber in order to pull off the Rapunzel-look. Basically, you just need to be a woman, preferably with hair, though we can work around that.

From there, everyone breaks into school for... pranks, or something? These kids - they spend all day waiting to get out of school, only to spend their evenings breaking back in - bah! (does dismissive old-man two-handed wave-away gesture). "Why are you doing this?" mega-nerd Brian asks Angela as he ushers her carefully inside.

Brian, don't ask me stupid, sensible questions - it's the early-90s, didn't anyone tell you? Nothing we do is going to make any "sense," you know? You can't expect me to just explain myself, it's way more complicated than that. In fact, everything's way more complicated than that (early show-title proposal: My Way-More Complicated Life). Ours is a generation that's going to look at the world from a totally different viewpoint, you know? I mean, we don't even carve pumpkins in a traditional way - look how wacky this one in the background is:

See, it's totally breaking down our idea of what a carved-pumpkin can be. It's like we can't even help ourselves! To wit, even as Angela wanders through the haunted halls of school, doing the ol' time-travel to see the reason behind someone's haunting-thing, one can't help but note how so not 1960s these Halloween decorations are.

Paper products hanging from the rafters without any sense of style or purpose, the grim party balloons suspended with an equally devil-may-care attitude, not to mention the random piles of shit on the floor... no, this Halloween dance just screams of early-90s dishevelment - what one would be tempted to call 'grunge.'

Alas, how sad it is to think that by this time, the dream was already in its final death-throes. The stoic visage of a freshly-dead Kurt Cobain grimaces from that copy of Rolling Stone that was in heavy circulation in all schools at that time, a prophet of things to come. By '96, it was all over, the final albums having been put out, or about to be put out, by the traditional 90s bands, before their overdoses and break-ups and the ultimate flying-too-close-to-the-sun of MTV and the record industry. I look at Angela, Brian, Rayanne, Rickie, and whoever the hell else was around, and I wonder what could've been had they - and the entirety of the early-90s vibe - not been cancelled.

Within four years of these mohair-clad revolutionaries being booted from the airwaves, an unbearable blond kid named Dawson would take over, white-washing away that scuzzy 90s bathroom graffiti with his chinos and his private boat-launch and his goddamned Katie Holmes bedroom-visits - what kind of world was that? You tell me a show that prominently features competitive yacht-racing is going to go for 6 seasons and then tell me that it's somehow more real than the one with the Halloween ghost time-travel and the Christmas angel? Well then, stop this so-called world, I want to get off.