The most important Gen X pop culture dye job happened 20 years ago today.
On Aug. 25, 1994, Angela Chase colored her mousy hair Crimson Glow in the pilot episode of ABC’s My So-Called Life, and so launched 19 practically perfect episodes of television that captured the strange mix of fearlessness and terror, tenderness and rage, euphoria and heartbreak that make up high school.
Under the deft touch of creator Winnie Holzman, Angela’s struggles with vexing teenage boys and the frequent waxing and waning of friends-turned-enemies (and enemies-turned-friends) was so real and raw that it was almost hard to watch, no matter how far removed from high school you were.
The teenagers from Liberty High would all be 35 now — except for Jordan Catalano, of course, because he was held back twice. So, 20 years later, where are our favorite residents of Three Rives today? (And no, wise guys, Angela Chase didn’t join the CIA.)
Angela Chase attended Penn State and, ever the practical idealist, studied business and photography. (She became a shutterbug in high school when she took over after Brian Krakow quit taking photos for the yearbook.) After graduation, she did a semester of law school before realizing a legal career wasn’t for her. She bounced around a bit, waiting tables at her dad’s restaurant then moving to California to live with Rayanne for a while, before landing a job as a photographer at The Baltimore Sun. She now splits her time between photojournalism assignments and freelance art photography, which allow her to travel extensively. She’s married to a writer named Tom, and they have a 5-year-old daughter who Angela both hopes and fears will turn out just like her. Angela’s hair is now blond, and she shudders a little when she thinks about those plaid baby doll dresses she used to wear.
Rickie Vasquez landed a scholarship to Penn State, where he and Angela lived together in an off-campus apartment with questionable carpeting and a perpetually leaky bathroom faucet. Thanks to the kind influence of Mr. Katimski, he realized the importance of empathetic teachers in the often-brutal high school setting, so he majored in education. After graduation, he got the heck out of Pennsylvania and is now a high school social studies teacher in the New York public school system. He’s beloved by the students, although his focus on social justice issues in the classroom makes the administration nervous. He’s married to the high school’s track coach.
Rayanne Graff graduated from high school, then moved to L.A. and became a party scene staple. After a few blurry years, she realized that she needed stability and a regular paycheck, so she charmed her way into a temp receptionist position at an indie rock radio station. Her perseverance and enthusiasm landed her an on-air gig when one of the DJs called in sick. She didn’t freeze that time, and she’s been hosting her own late-night show ever since. She drinks less now, and she lives with a guitarist 10 years her junior. They fight a lot, but they make up a lot, too. Rayanne’s fashion sense hasn’t changed a bit in 20 years. She, Rickie and Angela try to get together once a year, although it’s gotten harder as they’ve all gotten older.
Sharon Cherski studied public relations at Rutgers and moved back to Philadelphia to take a job with Penn Medicine’s PR department. She’s now the public information officer there and manages a staff of 20 people. She divorced her high school sweetheart Kyle after 12 years of marriage and shares custody of their two children, a boy and a girl (naturally). She and Angela get together for drinks when Angela’s back in town to visit her parents.
Brian Krakow attended Stanford and earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He moved back home and is now the lead clinical researcher specializing in endocrine disorders at Penn Medicine. He and Sharon don’t cross paths very often at work, but when they do, he’s as exasperating as ever. His wife is a sweet and patient woman, whom he loves very much, although he still feels a tinge of irritated fondness when he thinks about Angela. (Which isn’t terribly often, and definitely no more than the normal amount for a childhood neighbor. Once in a while is OK, right?) He spends an hour every weekend tweaking his novel about a bittersweet teenage romance. He’s been working on it for 18 years.
Jordan Catalano and Angela continued their on again/off again dance throughout high school, but once she left for college, their contact fell off, particularly when Angela began to meet men who shared her interest in things such as two-way conversations. Jordan rejoined the Frozen Embryos, although the band didn’t do much more than play a few open mic nights at Club Vertigo before breaking up for good. Because he hung around the bar so much, the manager eventually pressed him into service as a bartender and occasional bouncer. He’s still working there, and he’s still handsome, if a little soft around the edges. His dreamily taciturn style is popular with certain female Vertigo-goers. He’s got a 10-year-old daughter he sees every other weekend. When Angela bumped into him last year on a visit home, she briefly wondered whether things would’ve been different for him if he’d gone with her to watch The Bicycle Thief.
Danielle Chase is the youngest state senator ever to be elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. (Who knew, right?) She and her husband have a son, so Graham finally has a boy in the family to play catch with.
Graham Chase’s restaurant was a hit, and he opened three more locations in the Pittsburgh area. He was a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement and, over the years, has developed a bit of a reputation as a bad boy chef. This success did far more to repair his relationship with Patty than any amount of marriage counseling; turns out, he just needed the ego boost to be more content with his home life. Once it became clear to Hallie Lowenthal that Graham wouldn’t ever act on their flirtation, she ditched him for greener fields. Despite his personal and professional success, Graham is still occasionally bewildered by his two daughters.
Patty Chase sold the family business, Wood & Jones, when it became clear how tough it would be for a small business to compete with online vendors (and when it became equally clear that neither daughter wanted to join her in running the business). She now manages the financial side of Graham’s restaurants. The two have a strong marriage today. Angela calls to chat with her mother a couple of times a week because she (like many viewers who re-watched the show two decades later) came to realize that Patty wasn’t the bad guy and was instead just doing her best to make sure her daughter made it through the adolescent hellscape that was high school with her heart and self-esteem intact.
Tino is dead.
Agree? Disagree? Either way, we had a time.