The show lasted only one series, but it rewrote televisions rules, breaking down conventions and giving teens an authentic voice
” We all felt that it was time for a teenage daughter to be front and centre .” It’s weird to hear that now, but it was even weirder to hear it then. My So-Called Life creator Winnie Holzman was one of the few who felt this route in the early 90 s. At the time, teen girls who were taught to be seen and not heard had started aloud rocking out to the feminist antics of the riot grrrls, but mainstream culture wasn’t playing along. The likes of Beverly Hills 90210′ s Brenda Walsh and Saved by the Bell‘s Kelly Kapowski were all they had for role models, conventional beauties stuck within an equally sparkling entourage. At that phase, on television, there was no one like My So-Called Life’s heroine Angela Chase.
Appearing for one season on ABC in the US and on Channel 4 in the UK from 1994 to 1995, My So-Called Life revolved around a 15 -year-old girl searching for her identity. Like The Wonder Years before it, MSCL was that rare series to use a adolescent as its narrator, but, unlike Kevin Arnold, Angela Chase was a highly unreliable one.” People say you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing ,” she’d say. With her, the personal was political; Angela’s revolution was within herself, a insurrection against her former identity- the one prescribed by her parents. Despite her attempt at maturity, however, her solipsistic view of the world laid bare her white suburban privilege and her often contradictory opinions within that.
” Trying to do a television indicate from inside of a person’s experience was a fairly new thing ,” recollects co-producer Marshall Herskovitz.” Television was externalised in a very special way, and having the subjective point of view of this daughter that was not afraid to show her pain, to display her terror, that sort of thing was very new on television- and, I think, in certain ways ahead of its time .”
The seeds of MSCL date back to the 80 s when Showtime assigned Herskovitz to write a series about teenagers; he conceived a” very personal, very internal” story about a son and called it Secret/ Seventeen.” It was my interpretation of my own experience of being that age and what it was like to go through all the tectonic changes that your intellect and your body go through at that time ,” he recalls.
But management changed, and his series was not picked up in the end. So Herskovitz and co-producer Ed Zwick moved on to thirtysomething, a dramedy about the angst of a bunch of delayed adolescents in their 30 s. There they approached writer Winnie Holzman about creating their next series, and when Herskovitz mentioned Secret/ Seventeen, she” genuinely triggered to it”, as “shes been” ruminating about her own adolescence.
She started with a diary. Holzman wrote from her own memories of high school- Herskovitz says she could conjure them better than anyone he had ever fulfilled- formulating what would eventually become the voice of MSCL’s narrator.” Everything that you love about that indicate was already there, simply in those words that she wrote from this girl’s point of view ,” says Herskovitz, who adds,” It’s not like she was doing herself; what she was doing was[ projected] the sensibility that I suppose every sensitive introspective person has when they go through adolescence .” Both he and Zwick read her notes and immediately responded,” OK, run. You’ve got a present .'”
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