THE WISDOM IN BEING A LOUD BROAD | CAROLINE CONTILLO
I wasn’t allowed to watch My So-Called Life when it first aired due to the fact that it had a gay character (Way to go, parents! That one sort of backfired, didn’t it?). Once a week I would pick up a VHS tape of the current episode from the twins who lived down the cul-de-sac. I’d take the coveted tape to my friend Courtney’s house where we’d watch it in her basement. Courtney’s favorite character was Angela, because she could relate to her commentary, peppered with ‘likes’ and ‘whatevers’. I, on the other hand, was infatuated with Rayanne. Impulsive, loudmouthed, hedonistic Rayanne, saying whatever popped into her head and satiating her oral fixation with a cigarette, a beer, a joint, a pill, whatever. She reminded me of every ‘bad’ girl I’d attached myself to since preschool. Did I want to be them or be with them, or could the two bleed into each other to form some kind of delinquent feedback loop? I was in awe of women who confidently did and said things that were considered ‘wrong’ and who did so seemingly without the obsessive hemming and hawing I tended to apply toward every single decision to the point of paralysis. Rayanne fit the bill perfectly as the archetype of energy that could temper these tendencies.
ODE ON A 90S TEEN CATALOGUE: RAYANNE AND THE "COOL GIRL" PROTOTYPE | ABBEY BENDER
I recently turned twenty, so I’ve been spending a lot of time (some may say too much) ruminating on adolescence. As a child, I was fascinated by representations of the cool adolescent girl. The day I picked up a copy of the Just Nikki catalogue at Claire’s Accessories in the Willow Grove mall with my mother and grandmother will be forever seared in my consciousness. Each page was filled with carefree teenage girls wearing space dye sweaters and cargo pants. I was hooked.
Every time Just Nikki came in the mail, I’d excitedly flip through it over and over and think about how cool those girls seemed. They seemed so far removed from me, but at the same time, I thought I would magically morph into one of these cheerful beacons of late 90s fashion as soon as I possessed the all-important “-teen” suffix. Just Nikki inspired me to make my first collage- a big piece of white board on which smiling girls in crop tops appear as though in suspended animation.
I probably came to MSCL later in my own life than most of the people who will weigh in here. I sought out the series because I kept seeing references to this Rayanne Graff character and she sounded somewhat like a character I’d written. After watching a few episodes, I realized my character does resemble Rayanne, but not so closely that it should ever be a problem. But what I found more interesting was how many of my friends resembled Rayanne way back in the 80s – and how many of my teen daughter’s friends show some semblance of Rayanne today.
The writing and content on these posts are mind-blowingly amazing. I enjoy reading them so much. Please, please, please keep it up!
Glad you’re enjoying! And everyone else — please do continue to send us your submissions! We have so many great pieces and still want to hear what everyone else has to say! You can email us at therayanneproject[at]gmail or simply send us a post through the submit page.
THINK WHAT YOU WANT, YOU WILL ANYWAY | SARAH JAFFE
Roseanne Barr, in a recent piece in New York Magazine, pointed out that there’s next to no television these days about working-class people, much less working-class women. It’s certainly true now and was true then, in the 80s, when she got started. And in the 90s, when teen television took off, the flagship show was Beverly Hills, 90210—not exactly a blue-collar zip code.
Yet there was one show that did deal with class and teenage life, the struggles not just of economic pain but of the difficulty for working-class and middle-class kids to understand each others’ problems. A show that knew that the struggles of surviving high school were sometimes just that—literally a struggle to survive.
I love to make bad decisions. They come to me so easily, and at the heart of every one is the same fundamental thesis: that more is always better. There is this thing in me, this thing that means that one of anything will never be enough, that once I’ve started it will be impossible to stop, that deciding something is not a good idea and doing it anyway is infinitely more satisfying than anything else in the world. The moment of letting go, when you stop fighting your impulses and plow ahead with another big fucking mistake, is what is at the heart of so much in my life, from the music I love to the book I just finished writing to the friends that I’ve chosen, to the point that I am often perplexed by people who are afraid to get hurt or make mistakes, things I consider to be pretty much the price of admission for this, the human experience. I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing other people who regularly seek out the magical catharsis that can only be brought on by one’s own stupidity, and I can assure you that Rayanne Graff has got it bad.
When Sarah and I decided we wanted to talk about teenage girls, especially using a quirky sidekick character from a short-lived television show of the mid-nineties as the conduit to the discussion, I have to admit, I hesitated. Who in their right mind would ever take us seriously?
The thing people always miss about Rayanne is her joy. We’re so busy obsessing over her clothes, worrying about her drug habits, tsking about her wantonness, being shocked by her drinking, that we overlook the reason Rayanne is such a compelling character: she’s having a really, really good time, on her own terms, by her own rules. And yeah, it’s not always pretty—because being a human being, let alone being a girl, is sometimes a rough go. And yeah, she fucks up, and yeah, she makes some bad calls. But Angela Chase doesn’t want to be Rayanne Graff because Rayanne is a sad sack of a girl. Angela wants to be Rayanne because, out of everyone, Rayanne is having the most fun.
Holy crap you guys, thank you so much for your interest in the Rayanne Project! We were blown away by the enormous and enthusiastic response — so blown away, in fact, that we realized this project needed (at the very least!) its own corner of the internet in which to flourish, which is, well, what you’re looking at right now.
The site here will officially launch June 1st, when we’ll put up our first content — but you’re welcome to submit work before then. Like, you could send us something today, if you wanted. In the meantime, you can also follow us over on the tweeeeeter too, if you just can’t get enough.
The guidelines for submitting are pretty simple: we’re looking for media — writing, photography, videos, essays, photocollages, some amazing thing you came up with that we haven’t even thought of — that will use the lens of My So-Called Life (and, in particular, the character of Rayanne Graff) to talk about female adolescence, punk identities, and marginalized persons or subcultures. Some topics people have already suggested: looking at what it feels like to identify with Rayanne as a working-class teenager from a single-parent home; self-portraits taken as a teenager; why MSCL’s characterizations of teenagers still resonate so strongly, and why there are so few complex portrayals of teenage girls in the media over fifteen years after the show aired; talking about Rayanne’s mom and how her parenting is characterized on the show; the complexity of friendships between teenage girls like Rayanne, Sharon, and Angela; Ricky and the representation of queer youth of color. That’s just a sampling to get you started — we’ve received so many awesome ideas and we’d love to hear more!
You can submit prospective posts directly here through the SUBMISSIONS page, or to firstname.lastname@example.org. We don’t have strict guidelines or length requirements—that’s up to you. When you submit, please be sure to include any contact information and/or a link to your blog or website, so we can be sure to credit you. We will only post your contribution on this tumblr, and will never reuse it anywhere else without your written permission. We will not edit or alter your work without your written permission. Your content will belong to you, and you are welcome to post it anywhere else you like. We absolutely want to make a space for as many voices as possible, but due to the overwhelming (and amazing!) response, we may not be able to post everyone’s submission.
Thank you again for your interest in this project, and we can’t wait to see what you have to come up with!
So a few weeks ago The Rejectionist and I were having one of our weird long gmail conversations about, like, this thing pissed us off and should we buy these pants and have you seen this cool thing on the internet and OMG the 90s, which naturally progressed into lengthy discussions about…