My So-Called Life
By Jill Murphy,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Mature teen angst at its best.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show portrays the realities of teen life, stressing the importance of friendship and staying true to oneself and one's values. Honesty, communication, and trust are also critical when it comes to both marriage and parent-child relationships. Themes include integrity, humility, and empathy.
Positive Role Models
Characters are fairly typical and relatable teens, portrayed realistically rather than idealistically: They sneak out of the house, throw parties when parents are gone, date the "bad boy," try to mend old friendships, and create new ones. While some of Angela's friends struggle with serious problems and issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, premarital sex, and physical abuse, she manages to steer clear of most negative influences and stay out of trouble. More often than not, she makes the right choice -- and when she doesn't, there are negative consequences.
Violence & Scariness
One character is physically abused; a gun is found in a school locker.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Casual sex, comments about having sex ("it will help [with schoolwork] if you have sex with me"), horny teenagers, a girl uses her boyfriend for sex but wants to break up with him, a daughter finds porn video in her parents' room, sex in a parked car is caught on tape.
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Very mild ("damn").
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking and smoking. One character has an overdose.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My So-Called Life is a classic teen series that tackles mature topics including casual sex, homosexuality (including a teen who struggles with coming out), drinking, drugs, child abuse, young love, infidelity, divorce, death, homelessness, and manipulation. Each storyline is handled in detail, delicately, and often with parental involvement.
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My So-Called Life
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What's the Story?
Only 19 episodes ever aired of the 1994 cult favorite MY SO-CALLED LIFE, but those same 19 episodes are still airing in reruns, entrancing a whole new generation of teenagers with their realism and intensity. For teens Angela Chase (Claire Danes), Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz), Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall), Sharon Cherski (Devon Odessa), and Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer), life in high school is, like, hard -- or whatever. Angela's story follows the true transition of a suburban girl from a middle-class family as she breaks off from her best friend from junior high (Sharon) and the geek next door (Brian) and begins to discover herself in high school. Angela dyes her hair, befriends the school tramp (Rayanne) and her gay best friend (Rickie), and falls for the epitome of the dumb, hot upperclassman, Jordan Catalano (his first name is rarely spoken without his last name following).
Is It Any Good?
This show handles standard high school woes with delicate insight. It covers everything from zits, a gun at school, and the cool kid who can't read to censorship in the classroom, best friends' betrayal, a teen boy's struggle to come out, and other situations that run the sexual gamut.
My So-Called Life made TV history by being the first show to include "like" and "ya know" in its teen characters' dialogue. Unfortunate as that may be, it is relatable for the average American high school student -- My So-Called Life is a show that actually speaks their language. Also, the series' topics (and the maturity with which they were handled) put My So-Called Life ahead of its mid-'90s time -- which ultimately may have been part of the reason for its quick demise. But it has rarely left the airwaves since, airing over and over in repeats, a fact that speaks to its lasting quality and ability to deliver both entertainment and conversation for teens and their parents.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about a wide range of issues in My So-Called Life, including fitting in at school, divorce, first crushes, homosexuality, drugs, parties, drinking, and dating. Each episode presents an opportunity to have a dialogue with your teen.
Parents might use the series as an entry point to set some ground rules about curfew, sneaking out, and dating.
Does making new friends mean losing your old ones? What are some unexpected things your teen has experienced in high school?
How do the characters in My So-Called Life demonstrate integrity, humility, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?
- Premiere date: August 25, 1994
- Cast: Claire Danes, Devon Odessa, Jared Leto
- Network: TeenNick
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Humility, Integrity
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: October 13, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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