When I began watching My So-Called Life during its all too brief single season on ABC, I remember strongly identifying with Danielle, Angela’s younger and often forgotten sister. It made sense. We were both roughly the same age, wore overalls incessantly and borderline worshipped our infinitely cooler older sisters.
Entering high school coupled with MTV airing My So-Called marathons seemingly every weekend lead to Angela being my emotional touchstone in the show. Who hasn’t identified with Angela? I think any girl who has been fifteen with a crush and questionable fashion choices (boxers with tights? Really, Angela?) can relate.
Now? I totally feel for Patty Chase. Of the signs that I am getting older and becoming more and more not only like my own mother, but anyone’s mom really, this one hit me particularly hard. I remember watching My So-Called Life during high school and thinking how irritating Patty was. She seemed like a perennial wet blanket and nag. I pretty much thought she should be arrested for child abuse for trying to pressure Angela into being in that mother-daughter fashion show. (Side note: Why were mother-daughter fashion shows a frequent plot point in the television of my formative years? Brenda found out Kelly’s mom was a complete cokehead on 90210. Emily hammed it up on the runway in Nancy Reagan suits with Lorelai on Gilmore Girls. Did this trendy fundraising device completely bypass my Pennsylvania community?)
I pitied Angela—and the entire Chase family really. Why couldn’t Patty give it a rest about meeting Jordan Catalano? Why couldn’t she be more supportive of Graham’s shifting career aspirations? Why did it seem like she never liked any of Angela’s friends but Sharon? Why did she care if Angela dyed her hair?
One day home sick, though, I found myself indulging in my own My So-Called marathon. As I watched episode after episode, I still empathized with Angela’s experience, but also strongly began to see things from Patty’s point of view as well. It’s actually not the first time that I’ve realized I more readily identify with ‘adult’ characters. I’ve watched the show Parenthood off and on and feel more connected to the storylines of the adult Braverman siblings than any of their offspring. However, it doesn’t feel that unnatural seeing as how I began watching the show as technically an adult. And by adult, I’m applying a broad definition of the word. I vote, I have a job, live on my own, remember to shower regularly, etc.
But this thing with Patty Chase was different. It wasn’t just that I found myself thinking that Angela could act like a total brat to her mom, it was realizing that my perspective had shifted. It’s still Angela’s show, but Patty deserves a some credit. I know it’s a very motherly point to say, ‘See it from her side.’ Yet, I’m going to accept my mother half and ask you to do just that. Here’s why you should give Patty Chase is actually kind of awesome.
She had a full-time job, but still made time to be everyone’s mom.
I’ll say it and stand by it: Patty rocks as a mom. Not only to her own kids, but to almost any friend of Angela’s, random neighbor and stray she comes across. And I won’t even get into the Rayanne stuff until later. The woman runs her family business, and still manages to take care of pretty much every character on the show.
I often viewed Rickie as the third Chase child. Patty admitted that he initially made her a little bit uncomfortable, but that still didn’t stop her from giving him the care he needed. She was the one to comfort and calm him after Rayanne’s overdose. When she finally recognized that he was in serious trouble at home, she welcomed him into the Chase house. Even after he moved in with Thatcher Grey, she was still happy to let him stay for any family meal or weekend. She actually let a lot of kids treat her house as an unofficial clubhouse. She worried about Brian Krakow being alone over Christmas, and made the Chase house one big holiday hotel with Brian and Rickie invited to celebrate the season alongside the family. Hell, she probably would have brought Juliana Hatfield’s homeless girl home had she not realized she was an angel.
She was patient with Graham’s mid-career crisis.
I know that marriage vows probably cover sticking with your spouse through shifting career ambitions, but Patty brings that love and devotion to a new level. She fires Graham when she realizes how unhappy he is working at her printing business, so he can figure out what he really wants to do with his life. Graham gets to be the laid-back parent, but it’s also easy to be laid-back when you have someone supporting you financially and emotionally. Patty’s the one who signs him up for the cooking class that eventually leads to the plan to open his own restaurant. She gets a bad rap for asking questions along the way, but give the woman a break. She’s in her forties and gamely indulging her husband during his mid-life identity quest. Plus, the woman can let loose. She throws back whiskey and gives bedroom handcuffs a try. If that’s not living your marriage vows, I don’t know what is.
She got Rayanne’s back.
True, Patty more or less hated Rayanne on sight. But you could get why Rayanne made her nervous. This was a girl who got her wholesome daughter to dye her hair and stole beers out of the Chase refrigerator. Then she threw a rager and overdosed. But oh yea, PATTY SAVED HER LIFE! In an act of supreme cool, Patty came running when Angela called, got Rayanne to the hospital, comforted her freaked out friends, and handled Rayanne’s mom’s freakout as well. To top it off, she didn’t ban Angela from seeing Rayanne either. My mom is very understanding, but I don’t know if she would have been really enthused about me being besties with a teen addict.
Patty also managed to give Rayanne a break on the whole hooking up with Jordan thing. To this day, I can’t do that. Yet, Patty understood from her own experience that sometimes you make mistakes that unintentionally hurt people. She even heard Jordan out over milk and sandwiches in her kitchen and acknowledged the same to him. She’s sympathetic and saves lives. She deserves a little love.
Plus, how many people can pull off that short hair?