LadyGhosts of TV Past

My So-Called Life: Moms

There was a LOT going on in this week’s episode. There were two parallel themes: parties and moms. Angela deals with her mom. Angela’s mom deals with her mom. Rayanne deals with her mom, and we get to compare all the moms (as does Angela). Also, there are two big parties: one at the Chase house and one at Rayanne’s house. Oh, and out of the blue, we find out Angela’s mom is adopted!

Building on previous episodes, we begin to take a closer look at Rayanne’s problems. I don’t know if it’s my age, the time that’s passed, or the fact that the early 90s were just so damn earnest, but something about this whole plotline didn’t really work for me. Because, you know, Rayanne’s really wild and fun but she has a dark side too. She’s a substance abuser and her absentee dad sends her money sometimes, that she flails around the ladies’ room. (That scene, by the way, seemed to exist purely to allow Sharon Cherski and her bad hair to look at Rayanne with disapproval and concern.)

Angela goes to Rayanne’s house for the first time. They don’t really address why, considering they’ve been friends for “half a year” and have spent plenty of time at Angela’s, Rayanne’s only bringing her to the Graff residence for the first time now. Rayanne’s mom, adding to her appearance in an earlier episode, reveals herself to be a tarot card-reading x-ray technician. OK! (Case in point about the 90s being devoid of snark: it’s impossible to watch Rayanne’s mom, who you’re so obviously supposed to love, and not think of Amy

Rayanne, her Mom, and Ricky
I'm not a regular mom. I'm a Cool Mom.

Poehler’s Cool Mom from Mean Girls.)

Meanwhile, Patty’s mom suddenly starts showing up a lot to discuss the upcoming anniversary party for her and her husband, who’s in the hospital. She does terrible things like move candlesticks and buy a turkey. The Chases hide in their bedroom. The Grandma thing felt a little weird, especially because an earlier episode dealt exclusively with the dad (who was also controlling). It’s almost like they cast the dad, then wanted to cast this icy overbearing mom, and thought the two wouldn’t work onscreen together, so they manufactured reasons for him not to be there: first he’s in the hospital, and then he “just doesn’t like parties.”

So anyway, Rayanne decides to throw a huge party with the birthday money from her dad and invites everyone in the school while on some kind of bender. Because, get it? She has a void inside and she’s trying to fill it with booze and pills and parties. I’m sure you got it because this episode really shoves it in your face. Too bad it’s on the same night as Angela’s grandparents’ lame anniversary party!

Angela starts getting a little bratty about the fact that Patty won’t let her go to Rayanne’s party instead of the family one. Maybe it’s just because I’m old now, but I found it totally unreasonable that she felt so entitled to bail out on a family party. And any attempts by Patty to keep her at the house were painted as, “You’re a hypocrite! You just don’t like Rayanne!” I mean, I’m impressed with Angela’s tactical maneuvering, but if I were Patty I’d be pissed.

So after moping around the party for a few minutes in a tie-dye shirt, Angela heads off to Rayanne’s. Not much else happens at the Chase party that’s noteworthy, other than the fact that we’re supposed to either be annoyed by (or feel bad about?) the fact that Patty has to pretend she’s happy everyone’s there.

Rayanne, of course, is happy to see Angela. Angela has the unfortunate experience of showing up at the party way too late. There are too many people there. People are too drunk/high. Ricky’s too coddling with Rayanne and always seems to come over to her right after she’s done something dangerous. Just moments after Angela’s arrival, Rayanne’s mom comes home and promptly kicks everyone out. To our great relief, she’s not an unabashed Cool Mom and is angry at Rayanne for letting things get out of hand.

The problem, of course (so many problems!) is that she’s too mad/preoccupied/tired to notice that while she’s yelling at her daughter to clean up the house, her daughter is ODing on drugs. Oopsies! But she has to go on a date, so later. Angela’s sobby, “Mommy I need you” phone call was really all I needed to see to let me know I’m not ready to be a parent. Because my first thought was “Oh, now you need your mommy?!” which is mean and not how moms would react.

It’s not how Patty reacts, to be sure. She shows up at Rayanne’s, calls an ambulance, and helps figure out what exactly it is Rayanne is on (ecstasy! Oh, 90s). Rayanne gets her stomach pumped, and she’s going to be OK. Anyone willing to bet that next week Rayanne’s going to laugh it off and pretend everything is fine?

When the dust settles, Patty and Angela find themselves in the Chase driveway having a heart-to-heart. Patty knew exactly what to do with Rayanne because she had a friend just like her in college … who died of a drug overdose. Because the episode ends in two minutes and I guess there needed to be one more crazy thing! Actually, this revelation at least justified all of Patty’s feelings about Rayanne and her mom that have persisted the whole season. And Patty’s tears alone in the car were heartbreaking. This one felt earned, and it felt real, and it’s actually kind of unfortunate that it had to be tacked on the end of an otherwise ham-handed episode.

5 replies on “My So-Called Life: Moms”

I love that in your advanced age you’re siding with Patty and not the kids! I think I would be the exact same way if I rewatched them now. I remember at the time thinking that Angela was totally within her rights to be pissed about having to go to the family party, but in retrospect, as she grew older the family party probably would have been more important than Rayanne’s birthday party. It’s so funny how perspective changes as you grow.

That’s exactly it. NOT that friends aren’t important! But it wasn’t a close, intimate gathering with friends. If Angela was paying any attention, she was aware it was going to be a huge blowout of a party. Meanwhile, everyone at the Chase party was like “Where’s Angela? Where’s she going?”

When I was younger, I was mixed on them. I felt like Angela should go to the party, since her presence wasn’t entirely important, but also felt she should’ve stopped whining about it when her mom said no, and to quit pestering her about it while she was busy with the party details. Moping around during the party and wearing her tie-dye shirt instead of something more formal was immature, and Patty only gave in just to get her out of her hair.

My mom would have smacked me if I had acted that mopey and childish, and shown up to a family party dressed in crappy clothing and looking miserable. Basically would tell me to suck it up and deal with it.

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