05/08/2015

YS Obsessions: Carina Santos on ‘My So-Called Life’

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I was too young to catch My So-Called Life when it first aired between 1994 and 1995, but a friend on LiveJournal kept referencing it well into 2006. I had just left high school but Angela Chase, brilliantly played by Claire Danes, spoke to that tiny part of me that wasn’t quite ready for college just yet.

My So-Called Life was a highly introspective television show that revolved around high school student Angela Chase. It received low ratings during its one-season run but fueled the first online “Save the…” campaign from mourning fans everywhere. Though unsuccessful in bringing it back for a second season, “Operation… Life Support” was just the beginning of what would be the Cult of Chase. To this day, 20 years later, “think pieces” and “listicles” periodically come out about what was and what could have been. In 2010, a Jordan (played by Jordan Catalano) and Angela reunion happened at the Elle Style Awards in London, and the Internet imploded on itself.

For most of My So-Called Life‘s niche fanbase, it’s still a little hard to leave that 19-episode run. And it’s easy to obsess over something so small that lasted so quickly. You replay the same things over and over again — the boiler room, Brian Krakow’s look of longing and distress, the poem, Big Red, the ghost, Rickie’s multi-leveled displacement, the letter, the way Jordan Catalano leans — and you end up memorizing all the dialogue, reserving valuable cranial real estate for things like “You’re so beautiful, it hurts to look at you” instead of studying vital information and learning how to be an adult. You reach the end of the series, that godawful cliffhanger, and you start all over again. Because you can afford to. Because as Angela Chase, you can.

In one episode, Angela says: “Sometimes, someone says something really small, and it just fits into this empty place in your heart,” and that’s exactly what My So-Called Life has been to most people who’ve over-thought as much as and felt as purely and intensely as Angela, Rayanne, Rickie, Brian, and sure, even Jordan.

Here’s to all the short-lived series that never even stood a chance against the Friends of the world. To all the one-shot single seasons that I’ve loved before, we had a time, didn’t we?

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