Discovering the Wonder that is My So-Called Life

We Bunn kids weren’t really allowed to watch much TV when we were kids. My older siblings complain that us younger were allowed to watch such “inappropriate” things when we were in school that they couldn’t watch until college. I feel like they exaggerate. We were all freaks. Our father hated The Simpsons. We couldn’t watch anything my parents weren’t watching with us. We only started watching Friends because we convinced them that it was hilarious and quality television (which I still believe whole-heartedly) though when I compare it to the original Beverly Hills, 90210 (with the annoying moral at the end of every story) or My So-Called Life, I wonder why we were allowed to watch Friends about strange twenty-somethings and were discouraged from shows about the struggles of high school students.

After watching My So-Called Life’s pilot episode it hit me: this is real. Kids in high school actually go through this stuff. They’re dealing with bullying, sex, relationships with their parents, and a certain curiosity about one’s existence that predominantly hits during your high school years. My students, the ones that drive me nuts at Nampa High School, are dealing these issues every day. They come to class to read, The Great Gatsby or Romeo and Juliet without really having any desire to learn about the book, and do so only because I freak them into it with all of my excitement.

Claire Danes’ Angela is such a relatable character. She’s so strange and confused. She doesn’t really get why she’s changing and she doesn’t know who to talk to, but she’s still so real and raw. I love her narrations throughout the show. Here’s one of them.

“Grown ups like to tell you where they were when President Kennedy was shot, which they all know to the exact second.”

I love this because I can relate. This is very similar to my reaction and stories about the September 11th plane crashes. I tell students about how I was editing a history paper during my freshman year of college here in Nampa when I called my mom to see if she’d been able to look over it and then she told me. I turned on the TV. I was shocked. I wanted to cry but couldn’t. It didn’t seem real. But it was. (This is the day I stopped relying on my mother to edit my papers. From that point on, I was pretty much a self-editor, like you’re supposed to be in college.)

Life doesn’t always make sense. That’s why we react strangely to things. When someone brought a gun to school in My So-Called Life (something that has a much deeper and scary meaning in 2013 after so many school shootings since the late 1990s), the kids all go see a counselor. Angela talks about herself without directly talking about herself. The counselor catches the gist. Angela is frustrated by the rumors going on about her. “Usually, people latch onto things when there’s a kernel of truth.” After she leaves, Angela realizes that she’s so upset by the rumors because she wants them to be true but they’re not. She’s actually quite chicken, a regular, scared teenage girl. Again, that’s why I like this show. Regular teenagers don’t have a clue about life. They’re not supposed to. They’re supposed to be working things out and discovering who they are. That’s why teenagers are so frustrating to work with. Nobody really knows what’s going on. And there can be a lot of awkwardness. I love this quote from Angela: “When I was twelve, my mom gave me the sex talk. Neither of us have recovered.” That’s what teenagers deal with, the awkwardness of their curiosities, the strangeness of teachers asking too many questions, the shirt that when you tried on in the morning looked good but now is creeping up in all the wrong places. High school is rough. That’s why it’s so awesome when it’s over.

I’m looking forward to my “graduation” from my current high school experience. Yes, it’s been fun. And yes, I’ve learned a lot, but now that I’m finally getting it enough to put the pieces together, I realize that there’s a reason I’ve ventured to all the ends of the earth: I’m still discovering my own life and I’d prefer to do this without the tardy bell.

Tata for now.



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