There are many painful, moving stories about female friendship out there—Amy Hempel’s In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried, Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, Thelma and Louise—but even the most beautiful stories about teenage girls fail to capture the obsessive, all-encompassing infatuations I remember. That is, all except one: My So-Called Life. It began on the air in August 1994, the summer before my freshman year of high school, and it was as if someone had placed a mirror inside my bedroom and broadcast it on television. I was Angela Chase, more so than everyone else who was sure that they were Angela Chase. I was a freshman in high school and deeply in love with every doe-eyed boy at my school. I parted my hair in the middle and wore a choker made of string. I got pimples, cried for no reason, and (once Angela introduced them to me, I will admit) danced around my room to the Violent Femmes. And like Angela, I had my Rayannes. Because, of course, Jordan Catalano was not the most intoxicating character to roam the halls of Liberty High, no matter how prettily formed his mouth and eyebrows. That distinct honor belonged squarely to Rayanne Graff, Angela’s new best friend and erstwhile corrupter.
The show told the story of Angela Chase, a normal-looking girl from a middle-class family. She had an annoying younger sister who craved attention and parents who cared if she was out too late. Rayanne, her new friend, took drugs and had a bad (and likely well-earned) reputation. The show tried to focus elsewhere—on Angela’s gay friend, Ricky; her dorky neighbor, Brian Krakow; and, most often, on the obscene beauty of Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano—but the camera always came back to the tempestuous, obsessive friendship between Angela and Rayanne. I was riveted.