Revisiting moments from My So-Called Life: Part 2
By Shoshana Greenberg (Lyricist/Bookwriter)
I love the pilot episode of My So-Called Life. It has so many beautiful moments-- Angela's dramatic exit from Yearbook, her attempt to get into the night club Let's Bolt with Rayanne and Rickie, her crying on her mother's shoulder after that overwhelming evening. One moment that's not usually talked about, however, is Angela's moment of oneness with Anne Frank, whose diary she is reading in English class.
When her English teacher asks the class how one would describe Anne Frank, Angela says (out loud without meaning to), "Lucky." Everyone is taken aback, including the horrified teacher who says, "Why would you say something like that? Anne Frank is a tragic figure! She perished in the Holocaust." Angela reluctantly responds that she considers Anne Frank lucky because she was trapped in the attic for three years with this guy she really liked.
(The My So-Called Life pilot. The Anne Frank moment comes at 3:42)
On the one hand, Angela is exhibiting that she is thinking differently from the rest of the class. But she is also thinking on a basic teenage level, one that Anne Frank might have thought on herself when she was trapped in that attic. Angela doesn't see Anne Frank as a tragic figure. She sees her as a teenage girl like herself, one that was probably excited (amidst all the horror) to be in the attic with that boy.
Later in the episode, Angela excitedly explains the book to the kind police officer who drives her home from the club: "These Nazis were gonna kill her, so whatever she'd been like with her friends or her teachers-- that was just over. She was hiding. But in this other way she wasn't. She, like, stopped hiding. She was free."
I think the writers were so smart and prescient to have Angela relate to Anne Frank in the first episode because, in a way, Angela is an Anne Frank.
In those terms, Anne Frank is the "any girl" who became "every girl." There must have been hundreds, maybe thousands of Jewish girls in Europe at that time who kept diaries of their experiences. Anne Frank's is the only one children and teenagers read, and she's become the voice of young girls who went through the Holocaust. Similarly, Angela is also that one girl out of thousands that we follow, and for no special reason. She became the voice of teenage girls at that moment in time. She was also an "any girl" who became "every girl."
Claire Danes as Angela Chase in My So-Called Life
Anne Frank is more than a tragic figure. She has become a mythic figure, eternally a young girl. Angela Chase and My So-Called Life itself have taken on a mythic quality. The show lives in many of our minds as one of the greatest television shows canceled too soon. Like Anne Frank, Angela never got the chance to become what she was going to be, what she was searching for. She will always be that teenage girl, and for those of us who watched, she will always represent that part of our lives. And Angela was able to see that through everything Anne Frank suffered and everything she has become, Anne Frank was just a teenage girl as well.
Read Revisiting Moments from My So-Called Life: Part 1: I'd Do It If I Could, I Hope You Know I Would
SHOSHANA GREENBERG is a writer, lyricist, bookwriter, and playwright. Her musical Lightning Man will be part of ANT Fest at Ars Nova this fall. http://about.me/shoshanagreenberg
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