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My So-Called Life: "Halloween"

Illustration for article titled iMy So-Called Life/i: Halloween
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Illustration for article titled iMy So-Called Life/i: Halloween

"Mom, Sharon Chersky and I exist in, like, two different worlds, okay? I can't just hand her a dish, okay. I mean, it's just not that simple."—Danielle's Angela costume also includes Angela's brain.

And so we've arrived at the much-maligned Halloween episode—an episode that, along with the Juliana Hatfield Christmas Angel episode, threatens to pop the bubble of adolescent realism that is My So-Called Life. After all, real adolescents aren't usually participants in the aftermath of 1960s ghost sock-hops. Then there's the inherent dangers of doing a holiday-themed episode at all: how to sidestep the Halloween clichés. But despite the fact that, yes, Angela does interact with a ghost greaser, and the fact that Patty and Graham succumb to the seductive delights of Halloween costume role-play, "Halloween" somehow remains true to MSCL's commitment to realistic high school life–Even if sometimes it feels like an episode of Goosebumps. (Still, if there's any TV teenager who could convince herself that she's seen a ghost, it's Angela Chase, the one who spends most of her time in her head anyway.)

In a way, Halloween is the perfect holiday backdrop for this show, because it is a holiday that belongs to both kids and adolescents, and how you spend Halloween defines which side of the kid/adolescent line you fall on. If you're a kid, you dress up and go trick-or-treating with friends, acquisition of candy being your main goal. If you're an adolescent or teen, you may still dress up, but your main goal shifts to mischief and partying. Still, both sides are envious of the other. In this episode, Danielle represents the kid side, though her Angela costume betrays her longing to cross over to the other side, or at least to be tolerated by the people that reside there. Sharon, in her rat/cat finery, is on the teen side, though the obligations of her teen life (fun-sucking jock boyfriend, going out, parties) pale in comparison to the joys of dressing up and trick-or-treating. ("I forgot how much fun this is," she remarks to Danielle/Angela, though she could just as easily be talking about hanging out with "Angela" as trick-or-treating.)

Also on the teen side gazing longingly at the kid side is the real Angela, who is so afraid of looking stupid in front of her peers she refuses to wear a costume to school on Halloween, even though all she wants to do is wear a costume. When she arrives at school and sees the sea of biblical figures, rat/cats, and foam heads that surround her, she realizes she miscalculated. So much so, that Brian is now trying to commiserate with her, "I can't believe people are walking around dressed like idiots," he tells Angela, conspiratorially. "I wouldn't talk," she replies. Zing.

Turns out, costumes are okay to wear, as long as they're the right costumes: Ricky dresses like his sartorial opposite, Brian Krakow. Rayanne dresses up like a sexy vampire, constantly shaving her legs or adjusting her red fishnets, much to Brian's interest. And Rayanne gives Angela the appropriately "cool" costume of a 1960s vintage ensemble, complete with cat's eye glasses, and ghostly tie-in. Almost as soon as Angela puts on the musty old angora sweater, her Goosebumps-esque plotline begins to unfold, though the way the ghost story is revealed–passed second and third hand through the high school myth making gossips of the girls' bathroom–is highly enjoyable. See, Angela's English textbook belonged to Nicky Driscoll, who died a violent death in the gym on Halloween in 1961, because he might have been hanging a banner for the girl he loved, or he might have just climbed the rafters and accidentally fell and landed on a spiked heel, but either way that night the lights went out, and later on everyone found out they went out at the EXACT moment Nicky died.

"When someone dies young, it's like they stay that way forever. Like a vampire." Romantic that she is, Angela is naturally fascinated by Nicky, and retreats to the library to look him up in old yearbooks, while Rolling Stone's Kurt Cobain cover/obituary looks on. Nicky, you see, is a lot like Jordan–at least in Angela's eyes. And if that point isn't driven home by Rayanne's "He's just your type." line in the library, then it certainly becomes obvious when Angela has her first Nicky ghost sighting on the landing: one minute it's Nicky leaning against the window going nowhere with his life, the next, it's Jordan.

Eventually, Rayanne suggests a Nicky Driscoll seance of sorts for Halloween night: Tino will help them break into the school and they'll write "Nicky Driscoll was here" on the floor of the gym in red lipstick. Of course, Tino, the real ghost of MSCL, never shows up so Angela and Rayanne have to rely on Brian's "chess club way" of getting into the school: crawling through an open window into the AV storage. One glance of fishnetted leg later, Brian accidentally lets their exit door shut, and all three are locked inside the school. From here on in, all the teens make their own mischief: Angela follows some ghosts around and tries to stop Nicky Driscoll from becoming a ghost, while Rayanne and Brian sleep together (only in the literal sense). Meanwhile, Ricky runs into Jordan underneath the bleachers. As he watches his drunk friends do wheelies on their motorcycles around the track, Jordan is longing for a different kind of Halloween, and a different kind of life. Every year they do the same things, he laments, "But you come because you think what if something cool happened…And you missed it?" And that is the adolescent condition in a nutshell: waiting for something to happen that never really does, at least until high school's over.

The next day, Angela convinces Jordan not to skip English class and get expelled and therefore become the next Nicky Driscoll with these words: "I know you think how could someone like me understand. Only I do." She doesn't continue that sentiment with, "Because last night I had a vision of a ghost sock hop in the gym." but that's implied.

Grade: B

—The Patty/Graham Rapunzel/Pirate storyline is played for pure comic relief in this episode, and it is funny. Especially their exchanges with the costume shop owner: "Look, Dollface. I've been doin' this a long time. They'll fit like a glove."

—"My hobby is photography, so I'm, like, trained to notice stuff." "Well, being the stuff that people notice is kinda my hobby." Speaking of comic relief, Rayanne and Brian were very funny in this episode as well.

—I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition of Angela's thoughts about the question "Does anybody know Jordan Catalano?" ("Does anybody know Jordan Catalano. That question, like, got to me. I mean, I had had seven conversations with him, and one really bad kiss, and one amazing one. But did I like know him?") to Angela's actual verbalized answer, "Sort of."

—"Dad, Madonna peaked." It was true then, and it's still true today.

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