My So-Called Life – Season 1: Review

My So-Called Life - Season 1: Review

My So-Called Life – Season 1 Review. By Christopher Patterson.

A Classic That, If You Haven’t, You Must Check Out

What so-called life, huh? My So-Called Life is a show that needs no introduction, but to introduce itself, it is about the character Angela and her high school years. Iconic in every way, this show has aged better than a diamond with its meticulous and poignant look at the teenage experience, with unique and clever writing and direction mashed up with the genius acting by every single cast member, the standout being the at-the-time teenage Claire Danes.



Mature angst. Simply put, that is this show. Everything from mesmerising direction to skillful acting goes here. Nothing has ever been as clear as it is here. To illustrate this, look at two of the unique teen dramas hitting the waves this decade. Euphoria and Never Have I Ever. Euphoria strives to enhance the mature elements to reflect the modern world, while Never Have I Ever adopts a more optimistic approach, with most characters’ problems appearing universal in nature. Both shows struggle to strike a balance. Euphoria attempts extreme, excessive, and deep, mature themes too steadfastly and takes it to unrealistic extremes that feel extreme for extreme sake.

Despite its value, Never Have I Ever retains a cheesy and wholesome feel that makes it feel too excessively happy to ever reflect real life. My So-Called Life confronts difficult subjects during a period when such themes were less clearly discussed but were so important. It steers clear of numerous clichés and captures a sense of authenticity, rather than phoniness, in numerous scenes. My So-Called Life, in other words, feels like some random so-called life. This show represents a phenomenon that has never happened before and appears unlikely to occur again.

One of the most unique and stunning elements of this series is its consistent quality for the amount of episodes it provides. This show wasn’t even finished before it was canceled; yet it feels more developed and powerful than any other teen show out now. 

If there was one great thing this show did that was remarkable, it touched on real issues without ever being excessive. It covers a wide range of topics, including teens struggling with drug addiction and managing their relationships, homophobia, bullying, double standards, affairs, and a plethora of other issues that would require a lengthy discussion just to name them all. What sets the show apart is its dedication and concern for these topics. The show dedicates many episodes to it, making it significant and not forced or shock-value. It treats such topics with care and detail. Even better, it handles difficult subjects with nuance and detail. Rayanne, a character in the show, struggles with drug use, which her mother both fuels and seemingly denounces.

When Angela’s mom shows up to talk with her about it, she simply shuts her down, discussing instead that she is a great mother. In a sense, she knows what she is doing. She knows what her daughter is doing and how she almost assists it through her behavior. Simply put, she may feel too hurt and scared to admit the damage she caused, or possibly she doesn’t care. This show grapples with unanswered questions due to their complexity and lack of clarity at the time and even now. Angela is a teenager, so not everything will make sense to her at that age, and since she is our focal point in the story, the narrative sometimes takes that viewpoint. When dealing with such topics, the show occasionally portrays a tragic side, symbolising the moments when action is futile and the characters simply endure what occurs.

After the episode where Rayanne’s drug use sadly takes a bad turn, we witness further developments. Her friends distance themselves due to their own witnessing of it, which further drives Rayanne to turn to drugs as a coping mechanism. Over multiple episodes, this evolves, and the realistic handling of it all is truly remarkable. In a way, this is life, and it hurts, but that’s what makes it life. The journey is filled with both highs and lows, but what matters most are the friends and memories you create along the way.

The characters here are real and human. Angela isn’t perfect at all. She can be rude, a bully, and a hypocrite, but she is an aggressive teen, and we see her thoughts twenty-four and seven. As teenagers, we all experience angst and make mistakes, and Angela embodies these emotions. However, she maintains her thoughts and avoids self-insertion for the sake of the audience, which makes her character so genius. She is a compelling wanderer. She bears a resemblance to Holden Caulfield, yet she possesses a timeless and refined quality that makes her truly unique. What makes this better is that the writing’s complexity and depth for the characters are everywhere.

For instance, Sharon is not the rude bully the writers could have stereotypically portrayed her as, but rather a broken and caring friend. To put it simply, she is that friend who was your best friend when you were a kid, but now that you are a teenager, your interests don’t align as much. She may not be perfect, but she simply wants her friend Angela back and longs for a different time. From Angela’s viewpoint, we comprehend why she perceives her as a villain almost, but there is also a sense of emotional distress felt between both that is difficult to say since it’s a universal feeling that is felt but not spoken. While Sharon may speak ill of Angela, she is also the one to take Angela’s sister trick or treat when Angela herself goes out with her newer friends, and that small moment alone says a million words.

Universal relatability is hard to capture. Being both timeless and made for the times is difficult, but My So-Called Life captured it better than any teen show. Many of the issues depicted in this season still resonate today, serving as a reflection of the prevalent issues in society. It is a work that looks society in the face. 

It is a work for the times that has remained timeless. It isn’t Freaks and Geeks, a show with a focus on capturing a different time period; instead, it focuses on the then and now, never feeling like it’s talking about topics that the older writers can relate to, yet somehow it is well articulated. It is talking about the then and now of that time with no care for what others think. However, it remains timeless, requiring no comprehension of the past. It’s a show that resonated with an unbreakable generation, since it simply captured them all.

Screenwriting and direction are hard jobs for a show. Here, the writing is quite perfect, with Angela’s thoughts feeling so perfectly relatable yet so distinct that it feels as if an actual teenager wrote it. The direction is stylish, but it doesn’t take away from the hard-hitting moments or any moments at all. It simply, brilliantly serves its purpose.

VERDICT

Those who know where to look will never forget My So Called-Life Season 1, an iconic, rebellious, spirit-filled, and rule-free gem in the world of television.

5/5 


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