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December 1994, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Jeremy Butler <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 10 Dec 1994 09:24:06 CST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Author:  [log in to unmask] (Jajasoon Tlitteu) at SMTP-LINK
Date:    12/10/94 2:42 AM
[Editor's Note:  This message was originally submitted to SCREEN-L by the
"Author" noted above, not Jeremy Butler, SCREEN-L's moderator.]
The MSCL thread has ceased for a few days, but it rages onward on my local
listserv, so I though I'd pass along my post from there.
Here's the some criticism on MSCL from the Isthmus, an alternative weeky in
Madison, by Laura Stempel Mumford, their most excellent TV critic:
"Although 'My So-Called Life' has broken some important ground by presenting
prime-time's first recurring bisexual teenager (Angela's second-best-friend,
Ricky), it's a profoundly conservative program in other ways, celebrating
the traditional nuclear family as the only reliable source of comfort and
security.  It's hard to think of two more intensely contrasted domestic
situations than Angela's cozy home and the life-endangering disaster over
which Rayanne's irresponsible single mother (Patti D'Arbanville-Quinn)
That position on family life is no surprise, either, given 'Life's'
pedigree.  It comes from the same people who created and produced
'thirtysomething,' a series that deserves the prize for the 80's Drama We
Most Loved to Hate.  More important, though, 'thirtysomething' was one of
TV's most insidiously conservative series, and 'My So-Called Life' performs
the same tricky sleight-of-hand, offering what appear to be challenges to
convention that are inevitably undermined by invocations of traditional
social and family structures.  Angela may often seem smarter (or at least
more alert) than her parents, but when she faces major trouble or tough
decisions- about sex, about school and, most dramatically, about Rayanne's
problems- she always seems to do what they've taught her.  In the end,
father and mother still know best."  (Isthmus, December 9, 1994, page 54)
Just a few additional words that LSM above does not address.  The thing
that also annoys me about this show (and many many others) is the
reification of angst.  Sure, often life sucks, especially from the
perspective of an adolescent girl.  But none of the problems presented on
this show (or most TV shows) are as significant as the treatment they are
given.  Contrast this to Roseanne, which deals with some pretty heavy
issues (mental illness, child sexual abuse, domestic battering, poverty),
but always retains a sense of fun about it.  Shit happens: people on
Roseanne use their buoyant humor to survive it, while Angela et al attach
the ball and chain of angst to sink them deeper into the sewage of their
own creation.
jajasoon tlitteu  ([log in to unmask])
"Academic training was instrumental.  You have to understand the language
of society before you can start stretching and subverting it and ripping
and tearing it and burning it and watching the plastic drip on the ants."