Wednesday, 7 December 2011

My So-Called Life - When she's excited like this... it's kind of dangerous.

My So-Called Life: 1x14 On the Wagon. 

This is kind of a dangerous time. 

So, Rayanne Graff. I’ve spent so much time feeling bad about not writing more about her. It’s like… she’s always there, a presence in the background, but even when she was supposed to be the centre of attention, she wasn’t, really – which is absurd, considering how she just automatically draws all the attention. What Rayanne has been doing the entire time that Angela has hooked up with Jordan, spent awkward moments of silence with Jordan, and finally broken up with Jordan, Rayanne has remained sober. 33 days of sobriety, 33 days of counselling, 33 days of Angela avoiding her, both for Jordan and because it is difficult to find the right words when your mum has saved your best friend from dying of an overdose. This whole episode… kind of breaks me. Rayanne, on the surface, is such a loud, lively character, that it’s easy to forget that behind the fa├žade, she never says what she really wants and needs. 
Counsellor: I just need to know that you have a support system in place.
Rayanne: I don't need a support system. I got friends.
Counsellor: That's exactly why I'm raising this. I mean, didn't you mention to me that you've had some feelings of distance from your friends since, you know the incident?
The episode is unusual, too, because Angela’s voiceovers don’t really tell you much about her perspective until the very end. She is pre-occupied with Jordan and resents Rayanne for coming between them, because every time Rayanne turns up and tries to connect with Angela, Jordan disappears. At the same time, Rayanne is unable to communicate how much she needs Angela now that her sessions have ended (and she’s decided not to continue them because IT’S NOT SERIOUS, right?) – “Oh, just kidding. Get outta here! I see you too much, don't flatter yourself.” Patty and Graham see more of her – one day, she turns up at their house and Angela simply doesn’t show up, so she cooks with Graham instead and makes Patty concerned about her (who still holds a grudge because Rayanne never really thanked her for saving her life). 
The Chase’s are a dire contrast to her own home: Amber’s idea of dinner are mixing a drink for herself in a blender, appetizers and left-over Chinese – and this is something MSCL always handles so incredibly well, all the things that Angela simply takes for granted, even finds grating, while her friends live in way more precarious circumstances. Amber assumes that Rayanne’s issues with Angela were caused by her (“What did you do?”) – but at least she knows her daughter well enough to realize that Angela isn’t just another friends who “come and go”, but someone “special”. 
Everything Rayanne does in this episode is meant to get her closer to Angela. Trying to get into Jordan’s band – an attempt to sneak back into Angela’s life, even if it means dealing with the massive and horrible disappointment of Angela’s half-assed recommendation to Jordan. Rayanne is setting herself up for a disaster (because it’s kind of clear from the beginning that whatever she does, Angela won’t be there – regardless of whether or not she eventually becomes the lead singer of Frozen Embryos, Angela won’t be there for the grand concert, she won’t be there in the crowd to help Rayanne deal with her stage fright, with this horrible, horrible fear of failing). Rickie knows. He sees this moment coming from the beginning (“I just want to make sure you don't make this into a bigger deal than it is.”). Sharon compliments Rayanne’s singing rather surprisingly in another unexpected restroom encounter (“I’m sorry, did I say you could listen”), but as awesome as Sharon is – Rayanne cares about Angela. Angela is her notoriously absent friend. 
This is one of the horrible truths about friends in high school. As intense and essential these friendships are (and remember how Angela and Rayanne started out in the beginning of the season?) – sometimes that guy just seems more important, and then you’re not there for the actual crash, but always to pick up the pieces, if that makes any sense. Angela is distracted, so she misses this moment when she still could make a difference, and all that remains to be done is deal with the aftermath. 
Rayanne’s attempt at being a singer for Frozen Embryos goes awry, she runs off in panic and Rickie convinces himself that she is drinking herself to death because she is unreachable, and the day after, after a terribly humiliating encounter with Amber, Patty drives Rayanne to school and they finally have that conversation that has been looming above their heads for a whole season now.

Patty: Why didn't you tell me that you had stopped seeing your counselor?
Rayanne: I don't know. Maybe just 'cause I wanted you to think I was okay, so you wouldn't mind if I, you know, stayed friends with Angela.
Patty: I guess she means a lot to you, huh?
Rayanne: I guess that's, like, the one thing you and I have in common. Thanks for the ride, Mrs. Chase.
Patty: Rayanne?
Rayanne: Yo.
Patty: Apparently you and I are in the same karass. Call me Patty.
Rayanne: Patty, thanks. For, like... for my life.
This is all about “I have friends, I don’t need a support network”… because sometimes, friends fuck up. Angela fucks up because her priorities are all messed up due to Jordan, and Rickie can’t deal with being the only person who actually carries the burden – he is the only one realizing how awful this could get. Amber doesn’t know. 
Rayanne: You didn't miss much, just me making a fool out of myself, and you've seen that plenty. Right? Anyway, I knew you wouldn't show. I can't stand these looks anymore.
Angela: What looks?
Rayanne: You and Rickie looking at me like I'm gonna lose control, like any minute I'm gonna go on some jag or something. I just can't stand knowing what you're thinking about me.
Angela: What? What am I thinking?
Rayanne: I'm messed up. That I'm too messed up for you to be my friend anymore.
Angela: Rayanne, that's not true. I never… I'm still your friend. Nothing's changed.
Angela (voiceover): But that wasn't completely true either. And we both, like, knew it.
Rayanne: Maybe it was just easier, you know? You'd come to me for advice and stuff, like you used to before.
Angela: I should've been there. Last night. I should've been there no matter what.
Rayanne: Miss you.
Angela: I know. I missed you, too.
Rayanne: Rickie, I'm sorry.
Rickie: I swear to God, I'm gonna kill you.
This tiny, tiny moment, of Angela finally acknowledging the whole situation in the voiceover, of us realizing that Angela has been thinking about this, does know that something has been wrong for quite some time, that it’s not okay that they can’t talk about this thing, about the elephant in the room, about “you almost died”. I think Angela is so preoccupied with Jordan because dealing with Jordan is way easier than facing the fact that your best friend almost killed herself, and really, who can blame Angela, becomes sometimes these things happen to us and we aren’t equipped to handle them, and the best we can do is try and grow and learn and become stronger. 
Finally, Rickie, Angela and Rayanne go out, have a happy night at the movies like they should… and Rayanne has her grand moment, performing in front of an enthusiastic audience… and then she takes a swig out of a beer bottle. And Rickie knew, all this time, and Angela knows now, too, that things are never as easy as you’d like them to be. 

Random notes: 

Ironically, Jordan and Angela are now talking about feelings. Jordan is even calling 
Angela at home to talk about his emotions. Downside: he seems way more sad about his band breaking up than about Angela dumping him (but he still “knows the combination to her locker”!). 

Angela (voiceover): You need me. You must have me as your own. You can't live another second knowing others could possess me.
Jordan: I could kill Tino.

Patty face at her entrance into her kitchen with Rayanne preparing dinner was hilarious: “There is an alcoholic in our kitchen! Cooking dinner!”

The band-trash-talk had me giggling on the floor: “NOW YOU’RE GONNA EAT, THAT’S ALL YOU EVER DO, MAN.” 

So apparently you can be too punk to sing I wanna be sedated. Also, I’m sorry, it’s not like I don’t appreciate Jordan Catalano’s voice, but it’s not well-suited for The Ramones. A.J. Langer, on the other hand – holy fuck. If you ever wondered how it would sound if Pattie Smith sung The Ramones – there it is. 

I absolutely love Patty in this episode. She makes a really hard decision – to cross this boundary that tells her that she can’t tell another parent about how to deal with their kid (“Why, why is it that, that you can't speak to people honestly about their children?” – Graham’s response is “Nobody wants to hear they may have made a mistake with their kids. Nobody wants to be accused of not being a decent parent. I mean, it-it is, it is an unwritten law, whatever goes on in your family is your business, period. Nobody else's.”), and she is humiliated for trying. She cares about Rayanne, both because she is just a good person, so she would, and because she knows how much Rayanne means to Angela, but in the end, Amber has her grand moment of demonstrating what a good mother she is, because after all, she was there to eat raw cookie dough with her sad daughter. Except… except Rayanne has already started drinking again. Except Rickie was completely right. 

Patty: Yeah, so I hear. So, um, you're certain that, that she's not drinking?
Amber: About as certain as you are that Angela and cutie-pie are just friends.

The moment when Angela finally shares her concerns about Rayanne with her parents is absolutely adorable. “It’s something between Rayanne and me I can’t even describe, but it's there, and it's been there for, like, a while, since that night when you had to drive her to the hospital. It's this thing that we never talk about.” – and Patty and Graham are too stunned about their daughter finally sharing something about her life that they can’t respond to it. Graham’s dead-pan reaction “She'll ignore you for another month just to make up for it.”

BRIAN SHOWS UP FOR RAYANNE’S CONCERT BECAUSE RICKIE ASKED HIM TO. They are like the most adorable non-couple ever. 

We are between names is such a cool, hipster name for a band. Also, look, it’s ‘90s hipsters!

Rayanne: Rickie, that hurt.
Rickie: Not enough.

UGH. UGH. Fuck. 

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