My So-Called Life is probably one of the most talked about one-season shows and here at This Was TV we wanted to try and add something different to this conversation. Pop culture is constantly reusing and rebooting and the ’90s is on trend right now. With this is mind, Julie and Emma are going to have a bi-monthly look at MSCL and, as both went to high school in the ’90s, we will be using this nostalgia test to see how the show stands up now. Emma watched MSCL around the time it first aired and has strong positive feelings towards Angela Chase and this is Julie’s first watch; this is another aspect we want to incorporate into our discussion. We will also be looking at how MSCL fits into the high school show pantheon and watching the show as adults vs. teens.
My So-Called Life
Season 1, Episode 17: “Betrayal”
Original airdate: Jan. 12, 1995
Emma: So Angela Chase won another award, yay!
Now to the episode that went to a place I both wish it didn’t, but did so in a way that explains why this isn’t just another teen show. It goes a long way to explain why we’re still talking about it 19 years after it aired (yes I grimaced at writing that figure, feeling old). So Rayanne slept with Jordan, her best friend’s ex and the guy that Angela has been obsessed with for the entire length of their friendship. It’s not as simple as that though and it goes way beyond “oops I got drunk and did something stupid.” Angela declares at the start of the episode in voiceover, solo bedroom dancing (a staple of the teen genre) and to Rickie and Rayanne that she is finally over Jordan. This seems like a honest statement and I think that Angela really believes it at this point, but love and all consuming crushes don’t go away completely and so Jordan should still be off limits to friends. I don’t think Rayanne really buys that excuse she gives, nor should her drunken state excuse these actions.
The real reason Rayanne did it, is the one that makes this episode so heartbreaking and also stops this from being a stale story. It’s been clear for some time that things are strained between Rayanne and Angela. After the OD incident their power dynamic shifted, Rayanne was no longer the super cool adventurous friend. Over the season we have been informed by characters like Rayanne’s mother that Rayanne wants to be Angela and as Rayanne explains sleeping with Jordan was her way of fulfilling this. It all sounds a bit single-white-female, but it’s not that creepy, I promise. Comparing ourselves to others is something we do our entire lives, but it’s at such an intense level when we are teenagers—Angela is everything and has everything that Rayanne hasn’t; a stable home (though I’m glad Amber isn’t a complete single mum cliche), she’s “innocent” and she’s not chaotic. We’ve seen Rayanne look longingly at the Chase family set up and the start of the episode is layered with references to Angela’s innocence and that Rayanne has been studying Angela’s mannerisms (including the cry face!).
I haven’t even got to Jordan yet and I feel like I still have an essays worth of Rayanne comments to make, so I’ll add a few more for now. Rayanne is self-destructive so it’s actually not surprising really that Rayanne does this. Her speech to Angela about Angela losing nothing (a “lousy, selfish friend and a guy she never had”) and Rayanne losing everything, is the moment that destroys me. As we’ve said before, Rayanne and Angela aren’t going to be BFFs always and this is Rayanne’s way of destroying it sooner rather than later. The scene from Our Town is a tad on the nose, but works in this context (and gets more tears from me, damn the chin quiver). Rayanne is really excellent in this scene.
What did you think? Is Our Town performed at every high school?
Julie: I hope you got enough sleep after the Golden Globes 🙂
I don’t remember if we did Our Town while I was in high school. I don’t think we did. Probably just missed it by a year.
Call me heartless, but I did have a hard time feeling bad for Rayanne in this episode. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen her “start over” so many times this year—after the OD, on New Year’s Eve… was that it? It feels like there should be more. Anyway. She and Jordan both knew what they were doing, drunk or not, and they were both sabotaging their relationships with Angela because they can’t live up to the image of them Angela has created.
That said, I completely get what you’re saying about why Rayanne did what she did. I think that on some level she does want to be Angela. On another level, she wants to sabotage her relationship with Angela before they drift apart and Angela moves on to other people (i.e. Rickie). And on yet another level, this was a way for Rayanne to regain the upper hand in her relationship with Angela, by doing something that Angela was too innocent to do.
I feel like, as far as Jordan goes, this is just more evidence that Angela dodged a bullet by dumping him when she did. What a slimy jerk store, no matter how well he can sing.
So, then there’s the Rickie and Angela and Cory triangle. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little torn about this one too. Rickie has had a crush on Cory for a while and everyone knew about it. But Cory is straight and will never be into Rickie. So I guess, watching the episode, I felt less bad about what Angela did, but now I do think she was kind of a wang for throwing herself at Cory so vehemently in front of Rickie. Maybe I was just willing to give her a pass because she’s Angela and I identify with her more than I do with the other characters.
Other things of note that I don’t want to forget: The “subtle” masturbation hints. Angela was dancing to “Blister in the Sun.” Krakow was writhing around shirtless in his bed. Also, Krakow getting a shot of Sharon’s ass at the same moment that Sharon says the word “but.” And the fact that Krakow is doing so much filming in this episode when he, in the future, goes on to become a film student on Felicity. Foreshadowing the actor’s career.
Sorry, I went off on a Brian Krakow tangent, as I am wont to do. What did you think about the Rickie/Angela situation? True confessions: Have you ever been in this crush-stealing situation?
Emma: I have not pulled an Angela and while I have definitely had crushes on the same guy as a friend, I never did the full blown flirting mission. How about you?
It’s hard to feel mad at Angela and her Cory fake lust, it’s really unpleasant in terms of Rickie and I get why he voices his feelings about the situation but her actions are fueled by the earlier betrayal. Angela is also trying to act in a less sweet manner to counter what she thinks that Rayanne and Jordan think of her; this demonstrated by dark lipstick, Rayanne-like braids, and attempts at smooching. Cory seems several shades of dumb (he can form a club with Kyle), and both Rickie and Angela could do so much better anyway. Angela’s response to Rickie’s good advice of “You’ve got to lead your life” is misguided in her Cory flirtation, but I’m glad that Angela makes mistakes as we should want our protagonist to screw up sometimes.
I’ve got a couple other Rayanne related points to make. First up, her confrontation with Sharon in the bathroom (drink!). Rayanne’s skewed thinking is that Sharon will be happy with what has happened as she will be proved right in her original assessment of Rayanne. This is far from the case and not only because Angela has been hurt, but because Rayanne and Sharon are friends and this is something that has come between them too. Sharon is close to tears when she leaves the bathroom and I think it’s because she’s genuinely sad that she has lost a confidant.
The Patty/Rayanne scene and subsequent Patty confession is also great and it gives Patty another reason to like Rayanne, despite Rayanne hurting her daughter. I wondered why Patty was being sheepish with Camille about what has gone on, thinking that she was being kind and not spilling Rayanne’s secret. Nope, Patty just didn’t want to dreg up old history. I kind of want a MSCL prequel where we get to see this less buttoned up version of Patty. Camille is wonderful in her accurate and quick assessment of Hallie. Every time Hallie is on screen I wish she wasn’t and the fact that neither Graham or Hallie mention to Patty that there is no longer a Brad is worrying.
The Brian shirtless scene is hilarious and one that I knew you would instantly love. It’s such an awkward moment and it’s a shame that Angela’s giggles turn to a rage spiral so quickly. What do you think about Brian filming the Rayanne/Jordan moment? I think it crosses a huge line, but considering how much of a voyeur Brian is, it isn’t a surprise either. Oh and we got to hear his dad yelling that Angela was there, still haven’t seen them yet and I think that is a deliberate decision.
Jordan has pretty much ruined all the good work that he has done in the past few episodes and not that I necessarily feel too sorry for him, but he clearly doesn’t normally get emotionally close with any of the girls he dates (or sleeps with) and so I think his feelings for Angela are probably completely new and confusing. Sleeping with Rayanne was his way to connect to Angela.
I also can’t believe that Rayanne lives in a castle in real life (thanks Andy for that wonderful gem).
Julie: A Patty/Camille MSCL prequel! Add it to the fanfic vault. We can finally see all the betrayal and the basket case former roommate and When Patty Met Graham. I love it. And now with The Carrie Diaries a real thing, can this be far off? I think not. (Though the Gossip Girl prequel show did not fare well. But maybe the world was just not ready for that sort of thing.)
I actually did pull a Rayanne, or I, should say, almost pulled a Rayanne back in high school. Actually, maybe it was more of an Angela/Rickie/Cory situation. I found out that a guy whom one of my friends had been jonesing for a while was interested in me, and I kind of started talking to him. I thought I was in the right because my friend never even spoke to this guy and just kind of worshiped him from afar. And even though the thing with this guy never went beyond the talking/flirting phase, it was still a shitty thing for me to do.
Man, I’m always confessing about what a bad friend I’ve been in these pieces. It’s very therapeutic.
Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I wasn’t mad at Angela about what she did to Rickie was because I do kind of get it. Rayanne can and does get any guy she wants. She didn’t have to go after Jordan because she could’ve just turned to the next guy at the bar and gotten her jollies that way. For Angela (and high school me), the fact that a guy might be at all interested in her is a new thing, and she doesn’t have lines of men waiting for her. I don’t begrudge her wanting to explore that, even if Rickie’s feelings are collateral damage. Sorry, Rickie! Kisses!
Brian probably should’ve stopped taping the hook up, but at the same time, Sharon told him to record the good stuff. He was just following orders! Brian Krakow can do no wrong!
And I can’t even with Jordan Catalano right now. I can’t excuse his behavior by saying he slept with Rayanne to get closer to Angela. I mean, I get it, but I can’t. Have some self-control, sir.
Hey, we’ve predicted the future lives of every one of the MSCL characters except Jordan. (Though maybe him becoming a Taylor Swift casualty counts.) What do you see for Jordan? Does he make it through his 20s? Does he open a B&B in Vermont with his partner, Chad?
Emma: I had just watched The Carrie Diaries prior to my last email, so prequels could have been on my mind. I see Jordan heading to L.A. or New York and ending up in that new Lindsay Lohan movie, that might be thanks to Lohan mentioning him in that New York Times piece (my thoughts are easily influenced). It doesn’t end well for Mr Catalano—except for the Taylor Swift song of course.
What do you think of the restaurant shenanigans? Or is your lack of words on the matter showing how you feel? Also restaurant opening stories tend to be terrible (I’m thinking of Desperate Housewives, but I’m sure there are more). The only good one that springs to mind occurs in Curb Your Enthusiasm (featuring one of my all-time favorite insults).
I love that Brian turns to Rickie for advice and his confidant, though this being high school nothing stays secret for long.
Julie: Shoot! I completely forgot about Graham and Hallie. It was my favorite part of the episode! Ha ha ha. No. Camille was right on about Hallie. She’s no good for Graham. She’s no good for Patty. She’s no good for us viewers. I can’t think of any good restaurant opening stories. Does the Peach Pit After Dark count? Because everything that happened at the PPAD was pure genius.
Jordan is gonna break Taylor Swift’s heart so hard. She kind of deserves it after she gave Adele the stinkeye at the Golden Globes.
I also love that Brian turned to Rickie because there was no one else to talk to. When are those two going to admit they’re best friends? Also, what happened with Rickie and Meredith Grey’s father, who is starting to look more and more like Jeremy Renner, which I am finding distracting? Is Rickie still living at his house? Is he back on the streets? We need to talk about Rickie!
Emma: I think it briefly gets mentioned that Rickie is still living there, something about him putting in a good word for Rayanne, but it wasn’t a particularly explicit reference. I can totally see the Jeremy Renner thing too, now I will be imaging that Hawkeye is their teacher.
I’ve got one more thing to add to this discussion and it applies to not just this episode, but Claire Danes’ performance throughout. It’s in relation to some remarks that Danes makes in the new issue of Elle (an interview that reveals that she is still best friends with Devon Odessa, who plays Sharon—they were bridesmaids at each others weddings). The interviewer brings up the Claire Danes cry meme, and Danes comments on this with some annoyance, saying:
“I have to say, I find it very odd that it’s been sort of objectified. It’s just the way feelings register on my face. It’s not calculated; it’s not an aggressive gesture. It’s been isolated from the rest of my work, like a tacked-on thing. It’s not.”
Now, I think that Danes has misinterpreted this as something that people mock her for (though I guess I might not like it if my raw emotion became a meme). I’d say rather, that it is something that has come from viewers being not all that used to seeing an actress or actor completely going for it with this much disregard for how they might look. I’ve never seen anyone suggest that it is a calculated move, nor would I call it an aggressive gesture. I would say to Claire (because I know she’s probably reading this, right?): We point it out on here so much because of how it can have an effect on the viewer—your chin quiver makes my chin quiver. So you should embrace the love and not see it as something negative.
In related news, something I submitted to the Claire Danes Cry Face Project got posted yesterday on Tumblr. We love you Claire!
What do you think of Danes’s assessment of a nation’s obsession? Are we wrong to focus on this aspect of her work?
Julie: I loved that Rickie and Rayanne actually made fun of Angela’s cry face in this episode. Who knew that meme has been around for so long. If only the internet had been more prevalent in 1994. (And congratulations on your Tumblr post!)I think Claire needs to understand that we say these thing sout of love and if it makes her feel bad, she should go home and hug her Golden Globes and Emmys and hot husband.