One further thought -- The impact of MSCL

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
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One further thought -- The impact of MSCL

Post by oldguy » Mar 19th 2000, 4:01 am

I wonder what ultimately is the "message" of MSCL.

It's true that it's a great show, a great work of art, etc.
But it's also a creative force of thought --- It typically
manages to make me reflect on the meaning of my
life ---- or more directly, the meaning of my adolescence
and all it's intensities, foibles, dreams, ambitions, foolishness,
passion, failures, imaginations: basically everything that
shapes a life for the duration of a typical human timespan.

I'm partly asking this question in the context of what most
people look back on --- their teenage years as, well... frankly
"sucking" (to paraphrase Jordan Catalano, in one of his
more insightful moments). I mean, I think one of the reasons
MSCL resonates so well with many of us is the fact that it
reflects inherently painful and frustrating aspects of life (like,
for example, the inability of life to give us what we want, when
we most want it).

So, my point is: What is the positive or negative impact
(or message) of MSCL? What ultimately are we left with?

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Post by mia » Mar 20th 2000, 1:47 pm

I've always said this, but I was already in college when it aired the first time around, so I could be completely off base:

For me, the show was about how you remembered your high school years to be, not how they actually were. My high school years were horrible, and I would never want to revisit them, but somehow, when they're filtered through the lense of MSCL, they become an invaluable part of my life.

I once asked a friend, "Why couldn't I have friends like that in high school?" Her answer was: "Because people like that don't exist in high school." Which could be right. I mean, we do have to remember the show was written by adults. We may all remember our high school crushes, the betrayals, the exams, losing friends, gaining new ones, but the experiences are hightened by the camera somehow.

Does this make any sense? Like I said, I could be completely off base, but perhaps the beauty of the show is that everyone can have a different interpretation of it. There are different characters to identify with, different situations to reflect on....Ok, I'll stop rambling now. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents.


Re: Nostalgia

Post by Guest » Mar 30th 2000, 7:45 pm

All television shows and movies are like yearbooks. There just isn't enough time to depict the actual way it was, so you have to edit and you have to change. It's no one's fault. Angela Chase doesn't exist in real life. Neither do Forrest Gump or Randall Patrick McMurphy. The truth is, these people are far more interesting than real, everyday people. That is why writers and artists deserve respect and admiration. It is not easy to create witty dialogue and interesting plot twists, so it's okay to downplay how 'real' MSCL is and how 'true to life' Angela's adolescence is, because in reality they are neither of those things, and that's the way good art is.

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Re: Nostalgia

Post by angelika » Mar 31st 2000, 1:56 am

I don't know... I have to disagree with the fact that MSCL isn't realistic. Everytime I watch the show, I am amazed at the similarities between our lives, inner-thoughts, idiosyncrasies, parents... Especially just simple, little things. For instance: the fact that she is obsessed with reading the names of the people who were issued a textbook before her. I do that too!! Before I saw that episode, I didn't know that it was like, an issue. The fact that she says that spaghetti tastes better after it's refrigerated and then reheated--my dad and I discuss that all the time!! (Well, maybe not ALL the time...) :-) Her voice-over about watching the creepy 60 minutes clock, as if she is watching her life tick away. I can relate to SO MANY things in the show that it's amazing. I agree that, to a certain extent, some things are a bit made-for-television, but as a whole, MSCL has depicted my life unlike any other show ever has. All of this, of course, in my humble opinion... :-)


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Re: Nostalgia

Post by Joanna » Jul 11th 2001, 4:44 pm

I think MSCL is totally realistic - it was first aired in the UK when I was 15 (the same age as Angela) and I could relate to her character totally. Now I'm 22 and when I watch the videos of the 17 episodes I have it truely reminds me of so many of my teenage memories - I will love this show forever!

"And dance by the light of the moon!"

"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings!"

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Re: One further thought -- The impact of MSCL

Post by Dengar » Jul 11th 2001, 8:34 pm

to me the show says that no matter how much high school sucks, its all a part of growing up. things happen in school that you will rember all your life, and also have an impact on how you react to certain social situations, such as friends, lovers, lies, ambtions. somtimes its says that you werent the only person who exspierenced that situation.
in the case of realism, one thing that always amazed me was that the episodes dont take place right after eachother. there is always a span of a few days, or even a single episode dosnt take place in a single day. life can be boring, something dosnt happen everyday. sure more exciting things happened to angela in a given week, but it has to be interesting becouse its a tv show.

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Re: One further thought -- The impact of MSCL

Post by Nevena » Aug 19th 2001, 6:22 am

I know this is a bit different from the replies other people have made but I thought I'd share it anyway. One of the things about MSCL that really stuck with me is the fact that this show didn't portray adolescence as either the best or the worst years of one's life, but accurately showed the ups and downs we all -- or at least most of us -- experienced during that stage of life.

I first saw MSCL when it aired in 1998 on MTV, and I was seventeen at the time. One of the things about MSCL that amazed me was that not only did it accurately portray the teenage experience through Angela and her friends, but it also showed the adults, the parents and teachers, as human beings as well. Most teen dramas try to show teenage characters the audience can relate to, with varying degrees of success, but how many teen dramas extend that to the adult characters, especially parents? Given the somewhat tense relationships between many adolescents and their parents, this is no small feat.

MSCL made it clear that the issues teens deal with are not merely teen issues, but life issues. In MSCL, we see that adult characters as well as teenage characters deal with problems in self-esteem, sexual temptation, pressure from peers, and problems communicating with their own parents. It seems that every major issue Angela and her friends confront is mirrored in the lives of the adults in the show. To me, that will always be a major part of MSCL's legacy: that it extended beyond being merely a teen drama and offered a bigger picture of life in general.

I know that probably isn't the most important message of MSCL, but it certainly struck me as I watched the show...anyone else feel the same?

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Re: One further thought -- The impact of MSCL

Post by lizardcub » Aug 19th 2001, 9:40 am

I really agree with this. Of course I remember many amazing moments with all the teenage characters in MSCL, but the older I get (I'm 18 now, and I've been watching, discussing, and thinking about the show on and off for nearly 5 years) the more I identify with the adult characters. Patty and Graham are so beautifully written. I think the most amazing thing about MSCL is probably that it really gives you a whole microcosm--you don't just learn about Angela, but you see *all* the major characters and even many more minor ones (Mr. Katimski, Abyssinia, even Ms. Lerner spring immediately to mind) as real, complex humans with emotions. In most TV shows I've seen, a large proportion of the players are only there to propel the plot forward for the main characters (who may or may not be well developed themselves)--basically, they're just props. In MSCL, nearly all the characters are really characters, and they nearly all matter.

And as Bill Blasias said in Angela's World (I hope I get the quote right), "Winnie Holzman never wastes stereotypes." MSCL succeeds, IMHO, not as a show about teenagers, but more broadly, as a show about people.

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Re: Nostalgia

Post by lizardcub » Aug 19th 2001, 9:50 am

As one person observed, MSCL does get a lot of little things right. Some of Angela's little voice-over observations are really dead-on. The little asides Patty and Graham make--"Amish Mom," "Get your own," and one billion others--are often brilliant.

Of course MSCL is not always realistic in the practical sense. Metal detectors appear at the end of Guns and Gossip, never to be seen again. No actual school would let Rickie be in the girls' bathroom all the time. No one would ever wear the ridiculous gym outfit Angela wears in Guns and Gossip when the boys are checking her out! (Although, on the subject of clothes, let me say how much I appreciate that the characters, much like real people, rewear clothes. It's amazing how TV shows tend to take it for granted that the characters should have unlimited wardrobes.)

The most important thing, though, is that the show rings true emotionally. Ultimately, the fact that I can relate to every character who is remotely developed, no matter how similar or dissimilar they seem to myself (well, maybe except Delia), indicates that there is at least one sense in which MSCL portrays people very, very realistically. Otherwise, why would they matter so deeply to so many people?

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