LadyGhosts of TV Past

My So-Called Life: Zits are Serious

After last week’s episode, which I admittedly didn’t like, it was nice to get back to some more natural-seeming character development, even if it did have a decisive theme: beauty. Angela’s insecurity about her appearance comes to a head just as former best friend Sharon Cherski starts to get some attention for hers. Ricky decides to stop using the girls’ bathroom because his presence there is making people talk about him.

In a fairly plausible development, the popular jocks of the sophomore class release a list of the hottest girls in their grade. There’s a numbered list as well as superlatives such as “Biggest Slut Potential” (Rayanne) and “Best Global Endowments” (Sharon). Sharon’s superlative was kind of hilariously worded, and I couldn’t tell if we were supposed to think the jocks were trying to be clever, or if the show itself was just trying to avoid using words like “breasts” or “boobs.” The release of this list coincides with two things: Sharon getting a new jock boyfriend and Angela getting a zit (OMG!). Angela also tried to pretend that it didn’t bother her that she wasn’t on the list.

Adding to Angela’s insecurity about her looks (as if things weren’t bad enough already) is the fact that her formerly gorgeous (?) mom wants her to be in the mother-daughter fashion show they do every year. First of all, it’s kind of weird to imagine Angela ever participating in such event, much less as recently as a year prior. I think that’s one of the tough things about this show; it tries to show you that Angela’s different now, in part because she’s figuring out who she is and in part because of the influence of free-spirited Rayanne. But other than a few glimpses at her dirty-blond past in which Sharon was her BFF, we don’t actually know anything about the old Angela. It was just weird to believe that she actually ever liked dressing up with her mom and parading down a runway. Moving on.

Angela and Sharon have an extremely realistic ““ almost painful to watch ““ argument in the girls’ bathroom, which starts because Angela asks Sharon if she is going to do the fashion show with her mom. (After all, the girls’ moms are still BFFs! Awkward!) Sharon tries to ignore Angela completely, which sets her off. They throw childish but very heated barbs at one another, and Angela ups the ante by revealing to Sharon her place on The List, which she hadn’t heard about. In a testament to the then-fifteen-year-old Claire Danes’ acting ability, the hint of remorse that flickers across her face right as she closes the bathroom door is pretty amazing.

Shortly thereafter, Sharon confronts Jock Boyfriend (I think his name is Kyle? He’s the most generic-looking early 90s jock dude ever) about The List. She declares that she had suspected he didn’t really like like her, and now she knows why he asked her out. Kyle doesn’t do himself any favors by only demanding to know what other guys had asked her out. Rookie mistake, Kyle.

Angela, still moping about her zit (okay, I’m giving her a bit of a hard time here, but she was kind of annoying this episode), sulks around as her mom excitedly prepares for the fashion show. Finally, she takes her self-doubt and lack of confidence out on her mom by yelling at her that she doesn’t want to be paraded around like some kind of show pony.

Younger sister Danielle from MSCL
Child neglect: less serious than a zit

The “Patty Used To Be Hot” subplot was one that struck me as weird even back in middle school when I first watched this show, and it hasn’t really improved with time. It just seems sort of strange and irrelevant; just a plot device perhaps to highlight Angela’s fears that she’ll never be as beautiful as her staggeringly beautiful mom.

There is, as always, some tentative resolution in the end. Angela and Patty realize that they’re both horrible for ignoring little sister Danielle and her desperate pleas for attention. While Patty’s upstairs griping to Graham that she’s losing her daughter, her younger, sweeter, more devoted daughter is running around the house screaming cheerleading cheers to get someone to pay attention to her. It’s kind of sad that Angela has to spell it out for Patty. The point is, Patty and Danielle end up doing the show together, looking adorably almost-80s in the process. Sharon, who has forgiven 90s Kyle for everything because he listed a bunch of superficial things about her that he likes besides her boobs, does the show with her mom.

Angela brings Ricky and Rayanne with her to watch the show, and because they’re all too cool for that shit, they stand in the back. However, Angela tears up watching her sister, and all the beautiful (and surprisingly diverse!) mom-daughter pairs as they strut their stuff. Who’s cool now, nerd?

Photos: filmspotting, veryspecialepisode

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