There are some truths that you’ll need to face at some point in your life, one of the main ones being: You will never forget your first love. Not just your first partner, but also the first book that made you fall in love with stories, the first movie that you’ve watched a million times now and, well the first TV show you were obsessed with. In my case, that is MY SO-CALLED LIFE.
The thing about first love is this: It never really goes away. The feeling yes, but not how the memory of it felt. One of the reasons I was so obsessed with MY SO-CALLED LIFE back when I was 15 years old, was actually pretty superficial: Jordan Catalano, the love interest of the main character Angela Chase (Claire Danes), played by Jared Leto. If you take a look at the video from a scene in the series, you will understand why a 23-year old Jared Leto was absolutely devastating for the heart of a teenage girl:
How Jared Leto strolled into my heart
I am resigned now to the fact that I will always have a bit of a crush on Jared Leto. No matter how weird he gets or what roles he plays. The teenage girl inside my heart will always remember how dreamy he looked when he strolled down the school corridors as Jordan Catalano. Even though my adult heart knows that Jordan actually was a bit of a self-absorbed asshole and Angela deserved WAY better.
A TV show that really understands the teenage heart
My love for MY SO-CALLED LIFE doesn’t end with Jordan Catalano though. He is just part of it really. The thing about that series is that I have never – not ever – felt so seen and understood by a TV show. I remember myself when I was 15 years old: Blond hair dyed red, constantly worried about what other people might thing of me, my best friend since childhood just stopped talking to me, and the boy I had a crush on didn’t even know I existed (yet alone my name). Just your average teenage hell.
Now enter the premise of MY SO-CALLED LIFE: Angela Chase, 15 years old just cut her hair to shoulder length and dyed it red. Her best friend since childhood just stopped talking to her. Everything her mother says and does makes her want to scream. A giant pimple is growing on her face. And the then there is this cute guy she can’t stop thinking about, but he doesn’t even know that she exists. In case you were wondering: Yes, that guy is Jordan Catalano, played by Jared Leto who strolled right into my heart and never really left.
Keeping it real – really real
The difference between MY SO-CALLED LIFE and basically any other teen TV show I have seen so far, is its realness. Or shows about teenage life like GOSSIP GIRL, THE O.C. or RIVERDALE (I’m sticking to non-fantasy/science-fiction shows) are always so glossy and unrealistic. Every girl looks like a model, the make-up is always flawless, and the clothes always fit perfectly. I mean come on – who didn’t have at least one mayor fashion disaster a month when they were teenager? Yes, fashion changed since the 90s, but in comparison to those girls in shows nowadays, Angela battled realistic teenage disasters: Bad hair days, bad skin, and the constant feeling that the universe simply hated you. And oh yeah, first love? It was a nightmare.
Because Jordan Catalano also was as real as a teenage boy could get. Which meant his main focus was on: Sex, booze and trying to be cool. Well okay, and music. Yes, on top of everything, Jordan was also a musician. In order to get his attention, Angela does what every teenage girl did: She pretends to be a much cooler version of herself than she actually is. Which doesn’t always work out very well. I mean honestly – who really was as cool and confident when talking to your crush as those TV-barbies are nowadays? I certainly wasn’t.
First love is rarely perfect
Angela wasn’t either and so her first real encounter with her crush went just as awkward as mine did: He looked up, our eyes met, and I forgot what my name was or how to properly speak. First love rarely is perfect. Usually it’s a chaotic mess first, and if you are lucky it becomes slightly less messy as you navigate your way through it. MY SO-CALLED LIFE does a very good job navigating through teenage messes: Friendships, love, sex, identity, and even homosexuality. And all of that in just 19 episodes. It just captures teenage life absolutely perfectly – even 26 years after its initial release.
It’s a first love I still proudly stand by. And I will always be just a little bit in love with Jordan Catalano, and in extension Jared Leto. No matter how weird he gets. Like I said: You’ll never really get over your first love. At least the person you used to be will not.