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Festive Rewind: My So-Called Life “So-Called Angels”

10 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

Today join me as I discuss the My So-Called Life episode “So Called Angels”

MSCL ep15 church

As with Halloween and Thanksgiving, the festive period gives teen dramas an opportunity to explore the wider themes of impending adulthood; Halloween can enhance the exploration of who the characters are and want to be through costume and as with Thanksgiving, Christmas opens up the idea of what a family is. Family can mean many things and the extension of friends as family is an important component.

My So-Called Life heads into “Very Special Episode” territory with “So-Called Angels” as Rickie is beaten up and kicked out of his house; the opening scene is Rickie bleeding into the snow and it’s a very bleak intro to a festive themed episode. This is another thing about the holidays and TV drama; bad things happen and the resolution tends to be a happy one after a series of trials and tribulations. MSCL deals with a wide range of issues in this outing including teen homelessness, religion, privilege, prejudice, holiday related depression and domestic abuse. It’s one of the cheesier episodes thanks to the presence of an actual angel (more on that below) and a well telegraphed message, but at the same time it’s a Christmas episode and so sentimentality is expected.

MSCL ep15 angela phone

Angela has new boots and these become a symbol of the things that people have and don’t have. This goes from sibling jealousy to conversations with dead people; for a show that is grounded in reality there are two episodes in which Angela talks to the dead (the other being Halloween). Singer Juliana Hatfield (cue raspy, sad sounding music which you can hear below) guest stars as a girl who died on the streets because of the cold, a girl who appears to both Angela and her mother to impart an important message. Angel Juliana Hatfield tells Angela that her good boots were stolen and now she can’t get warm. This conversation is all about showing the vast socioeconomic difference between Angela and this girl, Graham has already emphasized how warm Angela’s boots look. Angela leaves her boots for Angel Hatfield and they must be magical as Angel Hatfield manages to wear them even though she is dead. Yes I am only questioning the logic of this aspect.

MSCL ep15 guitar wingsJuliana Hatfield is a guardian angel of sorts for Rickie; she’s there to show Angela where Rickie has been sleeping so she can come to his aid. It’s a Wonderful Life is the quintessential guardian angel Christmas movie and as MSCL’s production company is called “Bedford Falls” it all makes sense. Angel Hatfield is also there to dish out some words of wisdom to Patty; Patty who is wary of Rickie because she doesn’t know him in the same way she knows someone like Brian Krakow. Angela and Patty get into a fight about the Rickie situation and Angela turns the tables exclaiming that “This girl [Juliana Hatfield], she could be me.”

Patty can’t reconcile this comparison until she meets our guitar winged visitor. This is where the episode takes a sharp turn cheese avenue, but it’s also the point where the misty eyes kick in. I’ve seen this episode countless times (it is part of my present wrapping watching playlist) and the tears hit at the same point every single time. I am a sucker for heavy handed comparisons that layer it on with emotions. That’s right Angela could be Angel Hatfield. If that wasn’t enough the combination of the choir and Patty embracing Rickie in the church sends me over the edge.

MSCL ep15 helpline

The B story of the episode is on the lighter side, even if Brian Krakow is on the verge of tears thanks to his feelings of perpetual loneliness. It’s ok because Sharon has enlisted Rayanne to help with the help line (in the all important bathroom location – those who read the This Was TV MSCL posts will know how much I love this) and she distracts Brian by turning his plea for help call into something to distract him. Denying us the future chronicles of Sharon and Rayanne is one of the many reasons why I’m still bummed out that this is a one season show. This plot is an extension of the friends as family notion and the only person alone in the montage is Jordan Catalano, who I assume is lighting a candle for Rickie.

While the Rickie situation has been solved in the short term and he won’t be sleeping in an abandoned building for Christmas there is still a long way to go. The episode ends of a hopeful note and yet it doesn’t suggest that it’s all tied up in a bow; this is why My So-Called Life can indulge in fantastical elements because the next episode will face up to the reality of the situation.

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One Response to “Festive Rewind: My So-Called Life “So-Called Angels””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Teen TV Halloween Episode Round-Up | TV Ate My Wardrobe - October 26, 2017

    […] from dead students that are very similar to Angela’s crush—Jordan Catalano—to angels at Christmas. I have written about MSCL a lot and the impact this show had on me when I was a teen cannot be […]

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