hair as a metaphor

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
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Natasha (candygirl)
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hair as a metaphor

Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Nov 14th 2002, 6:54 pm

Hair often signifies a change beyond the physical act of cutting off one's tresses.

Patty cuts her hair in Dancing in the Dark - she wants to try something different from the haircut she has had since high school. Despite the fact that she has a teenage daughter, Patty herself still has some vestiges of her personality stuck in high school. Her dramatic short cut indicates her move towards admitting that those days are behind her and that she is now an adult.

Angela's move from dishwater blonde to Crimson Glow (because her hair was "holding her back") symbolizes her break with Sharon and her old self. More on Angela's hair later.

Rayanne's hair is a manifestation of her mercurial personality - one day she has three big braids, another day she has her hair all crazy with a few tiny braids, other days she has complex combinations. Her hair is an analogy of her wildness, but also of her different personalities and trying to find what she is most comfortable with, who she really is. At the end of the series, we see the transition from her crazy hairdos to just plain, unbraided, unadorned, and straight - an outward sign of her attempt to be Angela.

Conversely, we see Angela with tiny braids near her face in Betrayal - her attempt at being Rayanne when she tells Corey she wants to go drink. Aside from this one instance, Angela's hair is the same - red, stick straight, and unfettered - for the entire series. Never a ponytail, a headband, a barrette. Does this somehow symbolize her lack of growth? Or perhaps that she is trying to be free, just as her hair is loose and natural?

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Post by starbug » Nov 15th 2002, 8:08 am

Yeah, this is something I picked up when I watched the show for the second time or so...

I agree, the main characters certainly have hair metaphors going on all the time. I'm tempted to say something about the confused and unkempt hair Brian has and how it's demonstrative of the fact that although he's deeply organised in terms of school and overachieving, when it comes to his personal life he's confused. What other explanation is there for that mess of hair?
:)

Rayanne's hair is the most descriptive and interesting metaphor, and I particularly like your take on the straight plain hair towards the end of the series, Candygirl. It's so long since I've seen it that I can't remember how her hair is in the final episode - did she go back to intricate braids and does that reflect the break in her relationship with Angela??

I cannot wait to get my DVDs as I'm sure there are loads more things I haven't picked up before and now, watching the series as a 20-something, I hope I will...

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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Nov 15th 2002, 9:03 pm

Rayanne treats her hair as an accessory, something that she changes day to day like her clothes, to signify her mood or state of mind. Interestingly though, most of her hairdos require a good deal of time. Disregard the reality of television production and the fact that someone else did her hair for her. In the MSCL world, does it seem ironic that flighty short attention span Rayanne would commit a good 15-20 minutes each morning to her hair when she can't commit to pretty much anything else?

Angela treats her hair like her skin or teeth - something that is part of the overall package which requires daily care but nothing outside the daily routine of cleaning. Aside from dying it flaming red, she seems oblivious to her hair's presence. She takes it for granted because she expects it to maintain the status quo. Sound like her attitude towards Brian?

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Re: hair as a metaphor

Post by Nostradamus » Nov 15th 2002, 9:53 pm

candygirl wrote:Conversely, we see Angela with tiny braids near her face in Betrayal - her attempt at being Rayanne when she tells Corey she wants to go drink. Aside from this one instance, Angela's hair is the same - red, stick straight, and unfettered - for the entire series. Never a ponytail, a headband, a barrette. Does this somehow symbolize her lack of growth? Or perhaps that she is trying to be free, just as her hair is loose and natural?
Ah, but what about the end of "The Zit" -- at the mother daughter fashion show? I don't know what you'd call the style; it looks like her forelocks were tied around back like a living... umm, headband kind of thing. And she was doing her trademark inner dialogue about how it's good to dress up once in a while. Perhaps this was one of the few times she was confident enough to try to get noticed instead of blending into the background? Or maybe, as you suggested above, this just confirms her preference for a simple, low maintenance style; she only bothers to do it up fancy for special occasions.

Now for the men: Graham's hairstyle was pretty straightforward and didn't change much over the course of the series; likewise, Graham has one of the more stable personalities out of the main characters. Also, he dosn't take any extreme measures to cover up the early stages of a receding hairline (combovers, permanent hat wearing, etc.) reflecting his honest nature, unless you count his two near-miss affairs.

In the early episodes, Jordan takes the opposite course of Patty: his hair grows from short to long. Granted, the series wasn't set in the 1950's when such length on a male would have elicited jeers from his comrades, but it could still represent his continuing drift away from mainstream society.

Rickie's 'do is usually carefully trimmed and sculpted, matching his flashy wardrobe. You could chalk this up to the old "well dressed gay man" stereotype, but knowing the minds behind MSCL, I suspect there's more to it. Any thoughts?
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Nov 16th 2002, 5:03 am

I went back and watched "The Zit" again and you are right! Angela has one small braid on each side and then they are clipped together at the back of her head. Why this departure from her usual non-hairdo? Maybe because she knows that the focus will be on Patty and Danielle (and the other mother-daughter teams) on the catwalk. Maybe because she had one of those moments where she realized that she is beautiful too. Maybe because in accepting Rayanne as a friend with Most Slut Potential, Angela is accepting the part of her that wishes she could be a little more like Rayanne. I don't have an answer, but I do wonder since that blows my whole theory!!

As far as her comment about how it's nice to dress up, notice that when she dresses up again in the same red velvet dress (which I LOVE) for the World Happiness Dance, she does not repeat the hair thing. Instead, it's the usual straight down unadorned non-hairdo. And when she gets dressed up for Jordan's Meet the Parents night, she puts on the black dress but I think that she leaves her hair down as usual.

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Post by Neptin » Nov 16th 2002, 11:10 am

She also did the gurl thing to her hair thefirst time Jordon was supposed ot come over so he could meet her parents. I foget which episode this is.
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Nov 16th 2002, 10:46 pm

Smack my ass and call me Billy - Angela did curl her hair when she thought Jordan was coming over in "Why Jordan Can't Read."

My straight hair theory is getting blown apart!

As for Rayanne's hair - in "Weekend" she has her hair half up (the way Sharon often wears her hair).

During "In Dreams Begin Responsibility" Rayanne has some small braids at the beginning (when she is bending over talking to Rickie) but later when she talks to Rickie about the Our Town posters, her hair is half up again but her blonde streak is red. :shock:

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hair metaphors

Post by likelife » Nov 18th 2002, 6:54 pm

-- has anyone mentioned the episode in which sharon's hair looks a little funny and (i think) rayanne says, "what happened to your hair?" it's very funny because sharon is always so put together, but just has this one day... also, it might signify the beginning of sharon's "change" throughout the show. she no longer knows all the answers and is always sure of herself.
added to that, i love seeing the moments that sharon and rayanne share. very funny and very heart warming.

-- ALSO, jordan has hair that is very soft in the back. nice to touch. comforting in a way that angela can't explain.

-- the crowning moment of danielle's halloween costume is wen she puts on the red wig. THAT's wen se changes into angela.

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Post by Nostradamus » Nov 22nd 2002, 6:40 am

After reviewing The Substitute I have another hair metaphor to contribute. This was the first episode in which we have an indication that Sharon has been intimate with Kyle (Haiku For Him). It has already been mentioned here that Angela imitated Rayanne's braids when she made her attempt at seduction. Towards the start of "Substitute" Sharon can briefly be seen getting Rayanne-esque braids from a classmate. This coincides with her wearing of Kyle's orange jacket, another metaphor with the haiku (mentioned in Angela's World at MSCL.com).

Damn, those writers packed in the literary symbols like sardines! :wink:
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Post by starbug » Nov 22nd 2002, 6:45 am

I cannot WAIT to be getting my set, then I'm going to be watching sooo carefully for all those clever little things.

I have been depriving myself in order that I can watch my DVDs with a fresh brain, but I am constantly amazed at how these little quotes and scenes just stick in my head. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, but MSCL just goes in there and stays...

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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Nov 27th 2002, 2:57 pm

I forgot to mention this earlier, but in Patty's dream about Tony Poole (In Dreams Begin Responsibilities) her hair is long. Is this because she associates Tony with high school and therefore pictures her younger self? Or is that her longer hair is a mark of her immaturity and a time when she was able to make selfish decisions and indulge her fantasies? Or just because Tony has never seen her short hair?

:?

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Post by Megs » Nov 27th 2002, 11:47 pm

I think that we need to discuss Patty's obsession with Princesses, mainly Cinderella and Lady Di. They are both referred to throughout the series (most notably, the presence of Diana in her dream with Tony Poole - "Princesses don't get divorced.").

Any thoughts?
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Nov 29th 2002, 7:39 pm

I just watched Other People's Mothers (or Mother, singular, according to the box set menu) and noticed that Angela has a small braid on the side of her face when she goes to Rayanne's party. My hair theory is getting blown to bits. :D

The tie-dyed shirt seemed to come out of nowhere, considering the rest of Angela's plaid wardrobe, and it was one of the few things that she wore only once during the entire show. I did like the fact that the characters wore the same clothes throughout the season, unlike other shows where they would have us believe that everyone has a bottomless closet that fills up with the latest trends each morning.

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Post by Megs » Nov 29th 2002, 9:45 pm

candygirl wrote:I did like the fact that the characters wore the same clothes throughout the season, unlike other shows where they would have us believe that everyone has a bottomless closet that fills up with the latest trends each morning.
That was one of my favorite aspects of this show, as well as Once and Again. It made the characters easier to identify with. It made them seem more real, somehow.
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Post by Nostradamus » Dec 4th 2002, 6:46 am

candygirl wrote:Angela did curl her hair when she thought Jordan was coming over in "Why Jordan Can't Read."
Having just seen it again for the first time, may I say that with her hair done up and wearing that close fitting black number, Angela nailed the 1940's film noir seductress.

Rrrraaarrr! :D
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