My So-Called Life
like, a fan site, or something
My So-Called Life 101
» Spoiler Warning: details on this page could spoil any surprise(s) in the story if you have not seen this complete TV series.
The titular (so-called) life belonged to 15 year old high school student Angela Chase. As the series opens, Angela has made some changes - dying her hair an unnatural red and dumping childhood best friend Sharon Cherski to hang with free spirit Rayanne Graff and passionate Rickie Vasquez. Brainy boy next door Brian Krakow quietly pines for Angela as she obsesses over the gorgeous Jordan Catalano. At home, mom Patty and dad Graham are concerned about Angela's moodiness, and Angela does her best to ignore little sister Danielle. Voiceovers provide snapshots of Angela's thoughts (which frequently express musings and frustrations shared by many) as she faces obstacles presented by her changing relationships, struggles with schoolwork, or endures the indignities of a family gathering. Although Angela is the focus, the other characters are not neglected, and we observe their agonies and ecstasies as well.
My So-Called Life: Recap and Review
What makes it so notable? The characters were impeccably acted in an appealing presentation of believable circumstances, and often with significant details added to scenes through the skillful use of visuals.
What are its weak points? More than once, distinctly supernatural plots were developed, which I found distracting in a show frequently praised for its realism.
Verdict: Casual Fan or Big-Time Fangirl? Big-Time Fangirl
Comments: Those of us who weren't (and still aren't) the prettiest, most popular, smartest, etc. can especially identify with Angela's efforts to just be who she is... as soon as she finds out who that is. Even when she succeeds where we failed - for example, winning the heart of her dream guy - we don't begrudge her, because she is, like, Everygirl, and we feel that somehow her victory is our victory.
- Quotes -
The good, the bad, the sad, the funny: the things we wish we'd thought to say first.
Rayanne: You wanna have sex with him.
Rayanne: Who. Jordan. Catalano. Come on, I'm not gonna tell anyone, just admit it.
Angela: I just like how he's always leaning. Against stuff. He leans great. Well, either sex or a conversation. Ideally both.
Angela: My parents keep asking how school was. It's like saying, "How was that drive-by shooting?" You don't care how it *was* -- you're lucky to get out alive.
Angela: It just seems like, you agree to have a certain personality or something. For no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?
Rickie: If you were about to do it, okay, what would you want the other person to say, like, right before.
Rayanne: "This won't take long."
Rickie: No, seriously.
Rayanne: "Do I know you?"
Rickie: No, like, for real. Like, romantic.
Angela: "You're so beautiful, it hurts to look at you."
Rayanne: "It hurts to look at you?"
Rickie: How'd you think of that?
Rayanne: Where would it hurt?
Angela: What I, like, dread is when people who know you in completely different ways end up in the same area. You have to develop this, like, combination you on the spot.
Angela: If Jordan Catalano is nearby, my whole body knows it. Like one of those dogs that point. I'll keep talking and stuff, but my mind won't even know what I'm saying. I keep wondering if there's a term for this.
Rayanne: Look, I was there.
Rickie: And I was practically there from hearing it so many times.
Rayanne: And he is definitely semi-interested.
Angela: So you think he...
Rayanne: I think part of him is partly interested in you. Definitely. I mean, he's got other things on his mind.
Angela: But that's the part that's so unfair. I have nothing else on my mind. How come I have to be the one sitting around analyzing him in, like, microscopic detail, and he gets to be the one with other things on his mind?
Rickie: That is deep.
Angela: When I was 12, my mother gave me my sex talk. I'm not sure either of us has ever recovered.
Angela: Mom, I'm not having sex, alright? Really! I'm not even close. To an embarrassing degree.
Rayanne: So, not to shock you, but your dad's attractive.
Angela: Oh, I'm sure.
Rayanne: Not that I'd attack him or anything, but I wouldn't leave me alone with him, either.
Angela: You know how sometimes the last sentence you said, like, echoes in your brain? And it just keeps sounding stupider? And you have to say something else just to make it stop?
Angela: It had become the focus of everything. It was all I could feel, all I could think about. It blotted out the rest of my face, the rest of my life. Like the zit had become... the truth about me.
Angela: 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.
Angela: Love is when you look into someone's eyes and suddenly you go all the way inside, to their soul, and you both know instantly. I always imagined I'd fall in love nursing a blind soldier who was wounded in battle. Or maybe while rescuing someone in the middle of a blizzard, seconds before the avalanche hits. I thought at least by the age of 15 I'd have a love life, but I don't even have a like life.
Angela: Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes, even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?
Angela: This life has been a test. If it had been an actual life, you would have received actual instructions on where to go and what to do.
Angela: Why is Dad playing catch with Brian Krakow?
Patty: I guess if you live with three women, that would make any man desperate.
Rickie: Kyle was probably her Popular Jock phase. Now she's probably moving into her Awkward But Sensitive Guy phase.
Brian: So, you're saying I'm, like, someone's phase?
Rickie: Hey. I wish I was.
Jordan: Why are you like this?
Angela: Like what?
Jordan: Like how you are.
Brian: My mother's a behavioral psychologist, and my father's a Freudian psychiatrist, which basically means they fundamentally disagree on, like, everything.
Brian: I became yearbook photographer because I liked the idea that I could sort of watch life without having to be part of it.
Angela: Wait. You're comparing me making out with Jordan Catalano to you getting your stomach pumped?
Rayanne: You don't see the connection?
"Okay, should I rat it, spray it, tease it, freeze it, spike it, shave it, or shove it?" Rayanne, with the question we all consider when starting to fix our hair
Angela: There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away.
Angela: The truly frightening thing is that, even after everything that happened, Jordan Catalano left a note in my locker to meet him in the boiler room... The nauseating part is that I went.
"Don't say hello, or anything." Angela, to Jordan when he starts to kiss her in the boiler room
Angela: Why are you like this?
Jordan: Like what?
Angela: Like how you are.
Angela: You can't, like, treat me one way in front of your friends, and the next minute leave me some note.
Angela: She's someone Jordan used to, umm...
Rayanne: Yes. Jordan used to umm her.
Angela: Sometimes someone says something really small and it just fits into this empty place in your heart.
"Can you imagine what that's like? To have to sit around trying to figure out what someone else is, like, thinking?" Jordan, to Angela
Angela: See, I had this dream last night, and he was wearing a towel, but it was, like, this really weird towel, made of like, Saltines, and it kept crumbling.
Angela: Mom, I've been alone with Danielle before.
Patty: Yes, and I can't help but recall the time you put her in the dryer.
Angela: Oh, Mom! That was so long ago. I can't believe you're still talking about that... Anyway, she *begged* me to do it.
Patty: Whoever's idea it was, I don't want to come home and find anyone in an appliance.
Rayanne: See, when I look at myself I see everything in like slow motion and I think, *something* has to happen. Only it never does, so I have to make it happen.
Brian: Nothing. It's just ironic.
Jordan: Well SO WHAT?... What's "ironic"?
Brian: When you realize the, like, component of weirdness in a situation.
Delia: You're gay, right?
Rickie: I try not to... um... I don't like, uh... yeah, I'm gay. I just don't usually say it like that.
Delia: How do you usually say it?
Rickie: I don't usually say it. I mean, I've actually never said it out loud.
Delia: Wow. I feel kind of honored.
Delia: I guess I'm just sort of in the mood to have a crush on somebody where it can't hurt too much.
Rickie: Well, if you must know, she's in shock. Once again, something Jordan Catalano did has left her completely and totally mystified.
Brian: It was me. I mean, I told Jordan what to say.
Brian: I can't, like, defend it. It's undefendable.
Rickie: Brian, I don't believe this. You're using Jordan Catalano.
Brian: What? He's using me.
Rickie: Yeah, but you're using him, too. To, like, express your true feelings towards Angela.
Angela: I can't believe I fell for it. It's obviously a total lie.
Brian: No, I meant every word -- I mean the person who wrote it meant every word. Probably.
Brian: You liked it though, right? It made you like... happy.
Brian: Cause that's probably all that, you know, matters.
Angela: To who?
Brian: To, you know, the person... who wrote it.
- Lessons Learned -
What can we learn from this TV series?
* Sometimes beautiful people aren't so nice.
* School is a battlefield for your heart.
* People tell you to be yourself, like yourself is some defined thing.
* The one you want isn't always the one you need.
* Before using a pair of handcuffs, make sure you have the key.
* People won't wait for you forever.
* If we all did what was in our hearts, the world would grind to a halt.
* Seeing a teacher's actual lunch is, like, so depressing. Not to mention, her bra strap.
* The school cafeteria is the embarrassment capital of the world.
* Everybody's an act. Including you.
* People throwing themselves at people is, like, the basis of civilization.
* It's amazing the things you notice.
* It's weird how something has to happen sometimes to see how you actually feel about someone.
* I bet people can actually die of embarrassment. I bet it's been medically proven.
* There are some times in my life where being me, right now, where I am, is just like, enough.
* Sometimes it feels like we're all living in some kind of prison, and the crime is how much we hate ourselves.
* When someone compliments your parents, there's, like, nothing to say.
* How did locking kids in their room get such a bad rap?
* I cannot bring myself to eat a well-balanced meal in front of my mother. It just means too much to her.
* To raise a girl is to walk on eggshells half the time.
* Maybe teachers have a hidden life, where they're actually, like, human.
* If only there was some button that I could just push to force me to stop talking.
* They say that colleges really like it if you play more than one instrument.
* There are so many different ways to be connected to people.
* Halloween is your one chance all year to be someone else.
* Walking into someone's house for the first time is like entering another country.
* The only really great foods are appetizers and desserts.
* When you're yearbook photographer, you're, like, never in the picture.
* Boys are less afraid of being wrong.
* Don't get caught up in labeling people. Each of us is so much more than one word can describe.
* A person can have feelings for someone even if they're not like, THE person.
* It's always tempting to lose yourself with someone, who's maybe lost themselves.
- Favorite Scenes -
Also known as "moments"
Angela left the classroom during a test after being alarmed to see her father out in the hallway. Jordan watches her leaving, and that simple look reveals that the attraction Angela feels for him is not entirely one-sided.
Patty, Angela's mother, was thinking of cutting her hair short. Her friend advised against it, saying that men want women to "have long hair and wear red." Patty does decide to get the short haircut, but when she meets her husband to reveal the hairdo, she wears red. (It's, like, although she got the haircut for herself, she wants to let him know that she still values his opinion.)
In "Self Esteem," trying to prove that her making out with Jordan means something, Angela lies that Jordan invited her to the Buffalo Tom concert. At the concert, Angela, Rayanne, and Sharon finally spot Jordan and his friend in a side section, playing pool. Jordan's friend spies Rayanne and "that weird girl she always hangs out with." Jordan looks through the crowd and sees Angela looking at him. For a split second Jordan appears glad to see her, but then he turns back to the game. Angela excuses it that he's busy, but Sharon is indignant - "He asked you to meet him, right?" At the others' insistence, Angela walks over to the pool table and greets Jordan. After a somewhat annoyed "hi," his sole acknowledgment of her is that she's "kinda crowding" him. Angela lingers only a moment before running off, hurt and embarrassed. Sharon goes to console Angela, while the furious Rayanne marches up to Jordan, snatching the pool stick out of his hands to fully get his attention before calling him out. "You know you like her... Would it kill you to admit it?" Jordan says nothing. Rayanne continues that Angela deserves better, and she cautions, "She's *not* going to wait around for you forever."
Despite Jordan's ignoring her at the concert, Angela still meets him in the boiler room at school after he leaves a note in her locker. Perhaps she expected an apology, but when he only wants to make out, she pushes him away and wonders aloud why she came. She asks why he wanted her to come, and why he is the way he is. There's an awkward silence until he finally challenges, "So leave." She starts toward the door but stops, wanting him to first admit that it all happened, and that he can't treat her differently when other people are around. Jordan doesn't reply, and Angela sees that he's not going to. She wraps up the conversation with one last statement. "By the way, I spell my name with one L."
Katimsky (reading to the class): "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. Coral is far more red than her lips. If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun. If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, but no such roses see I in her cheeks. And in some perfumes there is more delight than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know that music hath a far more pleasing sound. I grant I never saw a goddess go... my mistress when she walks treads on the ground. And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare as any she belied with false compare." What kind of girl is Shakespeare describing here? Is she, is she the most beautiful girl?
Katimsky: Is she a goddess? Physically perfect? The kind of girl who... uh... stops traffic when she walks down the street?
Katimsky: So, he's... not in love with her?
[Jordan has been hanging on every word of the discussion - and *not* thinking about Shakespeare. He surprises the class by answering.]
Jordan: Yeah. He is.
Katimsky (addressing Jordan): Well, why is that? Why is he in love with her?
[Jordan seems to be searching for words, so Katimsky tries to lead him.]
Katimsky: What is it? What is it? What is it about her?
[Jordan is about to say something but doesn't get the chance.]
Brian: She's not just a fantasy. She's got, like, flaws. She's real.
Katimsky: Thank you.
Not long after the Buffalo Tom concert (and the English Class Revelation), amid the activity in the bustling school hallway, Angela, Rayanne, and Rickie arrive at their lockers, chatting. Jordan is not far away leaning on his locker and listening to his friend from the night before. Jordan seems preoccupied by noticing Angela - and, no doubt, Rayanne and Rickie shooting him a few dirty glances for his recent rudeness to Angela. After turning to look their way a couple of times, he suddenly leaves his spot to walk toward them. As he approaches, Angela coolly watches him, glancing away a few times, not daring to expect anything. When he stops right next to her, her expression is mostly of being stunned that he's really there. With all of their friends looking on, Jordan leans in and says quietly, "Can we... go somewhere?" Angela softens and replies, "Sure." As they start together down the hall, Jordan steps closer and wordlessly catches her hand in his, holding it. At this, Angela smiles up at him, lost to everything else, and they continue walking hand in hand.
In one scene, Angela is waking up. She's thinking - in a voiceover as she often did - how she "loved Jordan Catalano so much and thought about him so much... " Beaming, she thinks happily, "And then one day... I got over him." And she gets up and starts dancing around her room to the upbeat "Blister in the Sun" by the Violent Femmes as she's getting ready for school.
In another less happy scene, Angela is crushed at having been stood up by Jordan. Having put on a brave face while waiting downstairs with her parents, she finally retreats to her room where she falls to the floor in front of her closet, sobbing. (I can relate!)
When I first saw the final episode, I didn't like the very last scene. To me, Angela's being affected by finding out that Brian wrote the letter ruined her big win of finally getting Jordan, after all they'd been through. But watching the scene again more recently, I loved it, because I realized that Brian was willing to give up his own happiness and stay out of the picture so Angela could be happy. Such a sacrifice is rare, and in one instant, Angela saw a whole new Brian, one she'd never even suspected. In that context, her response was quite appropriate.
- Afterthoughts -
* Trivia: In June of 2009, the episode "Self Esteem" ranked at #44 on TV Guide's Top 100 Episodes of All Time.
Credit: Some quotes were found here. Quotes were also found at two MSCL pages which have closed but can still be viewed here and here at the Internet Archive. A few quotes were transcribed or added to by me. Pictures used in the banner are from the now-closed jared-leto.org.
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