It was the “snip snip snip” heard ‘round TV land in the Fall of 1999. Never before had a single haircut garnered such an explosive reaction as when Keri Russell chopped off her magazine-worthy cascade of honey-colored curls for the second season of the popular WB series Felicity.
Almost immediately, pop culture revolted against her new-do—and rightly so. Even network executives addressed her fallen locks as an oversight and apologized for not paying closer attention to their star.
Like many diehard fans of the show, my heart shattered the day magazines and newspapers featured Russell’s new tightly wound pixie cut. In the eight short months it took season one to air, Felicity had become my best friend. She was a hero — a living legend — to the countless high school girls who followed her weekly moves with bated breath. I was blindsided and felt betrayed by this revelation—never was I even consulted in such a momentous decision. In today’s age, Russell would have at least taken to Twitter to poll her followers.
Sure, Felicity Porter was known for making rash decisions (like throwing away an ivy league education to follow her high school crush to New York City on a mere whim), but surely Keri knew better. Those fairy-tale curls weren’t just ornamental — like Joey Potter’s signature pout or Buffy Summers’ wooden stake — they were her defining characteristic.
Without them, could I even take Noel Crane’s infatuation seriously? Would I even buy her hot-and-cold romance with Ben Covington? What would her folks say about this new development? I mean, who was Felicity with no hair?
I didn’t stick around to find out. What was once appointment television became an afterthought—and I wasn’t alone. Viewership for the series declined by nearly half in its second season (but regained some popularity in its final two—which has to be because her hair became somewhat palatable again). Perhaps if DVR or OnDemand features had been available back then, I would have taken a few months to grieve and eventually return to Felicity (like I did with Real Housewives of Orange County after they finally booted Gretchen and Slade). But by the time the series DVDs were released years later, the damage had been done and I had moved on. Keri Russell ruined Felicity for me — and she was on my s**t list.
An avid FX viewer (Justified, Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story), you can imagine my surprise when promos started running in late 2012 for the network’s new drama series The Americans starring none other than Keri Russell. It had been more than a decade since our falling out, but the feelings bubbled up inside me. There she was, whipping her long, slightly darker, definitely sleeker hair around the screen as undercover KGB officer Elizabeth Jennings. Did she think that taking a flat-iron to her once voluminous mane would make me forget 1999? In my head, the series’ only saving grace was that her co-star Matthew Rhys already seemed to corner the market on curly cropped hair. Despite the critical-acclaim the show was receiving, I initially chose to boycott the series.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…
Eventually, I caved. At the behest of my husband—and the need to fill a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to London—I downloaded season one.
Not 30 seconds into the first episode, Russell appears on-screen sporting a short, platinum blonde wig. Of course, I thought. It was almost as if she was taunting me. Five minutes later Russell’s character rushes into a car, plops herself into the front seat and removes her disheveled straw hair to reveal her infamous, silky mane. Tease.
But as one episode became two, then four, then six and so on, I started to forget my sordid history with Keri and began my infatuation with Elizabeth Jennings.
Where Felicity Porter was my BFF, my angst-riddled young adult counter part, Elizabeth is my alter ego. She’s who I dream of becoming every time someone cuts me off in the Whole Foods parking lot. She pistols whips, she karate chops, she slams people’s heads through drywall and she rocks 80’s-style Guess jeans like a BOSS. You don’t mess with Elizabeth Jennings.
If Elizabeth Jennings were to ever run into Noel, she’d barely notice him (unless of course Noel somehow transformed into Scott Foley’s character on Scandal, in which case, they would totally MFEO). And Ben? She’d kick his indecisive butt to the curb. She’s the no-nonsense ninja spy of my dreams and, when I have a daughter, I’d rather have her kicking ass (thought not literally) and taking names like Ms. Jennings than crying over Ben’s baby mama like Felicity. And while Elizabeth may not necessarily consult me before any major life decisions, she wouldn’t need too. Elizabeth’s a grown woman who knows what hairstyle best frames her face. Obviously.
I can’t say that the scars of Felicity’s lost locks have completely vanished, but I can safely say that they’ve healed considerably. It took some time, but I’m finally trusting Keri Russell with my TV heart again. And as for those short curls? Matthew Rhys can work that look, honey.
I’m happy to report that when the second season of The Americans premiered just a few weeks back and all three of us returned: me, Keri and her resplendent hair.