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From Sassy Mag to 'My So-Called Life'

After recently finishing a 40-page section of the book on the Pilot, I spent this past week putting together the next chapter, which covers what was going on in the few years leading up to its creation.

After this deep dive, MSCL has a slightly different vibe for me now. I’m thinking specifically of the Let’s Bolt scene where Rayanne is assaulted, and Angela’s flippant description of it to Brian later:

ANGELA: These guys started hitting on us.
BRIAN: What, like sexual harassment?
ANGELA: Like guys.

The shooting of the Pilot in March 1993 came during a time when women in the U.S. were kicking down society’s barriers and demanding to be taken seriously. While not overtly feminist in tone, My So-Called Life still managed to be so by viewing adolescence through an unapologetically female lens.

Here’s a rough outline of what was going on just before the Pilot was made:

  • 1988 - Launch of Sassy Magazine. As authors Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer put it in their book How Sassy Changed My Life, “While teenagers who obsessed over 90210, lipstick, and just wanting to have fun had long been denigrated as silly and fluffy, the magazine made being a girl seem vital and important, creating a new kind of female persona – one that very much still exists today.”

  • 1990: Formation of the hugely influential punk band Bikini Kill and the launch of “Riot Grrrl,” ushering in other bands including Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy among others. (For a fascinating look at this time, I can't recommend Sini Anderson’s 2013 documentary The Punk Singer highly enough.)

  • Nov 1991 - 47 women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, 4 to the Senate in what was dubbed "The Year of the Woman"

  • April 1992 - The March for Women's Lives abortion rights march in DC, attracting an estimated 500,000-1 million people

  • Dec 1992 - The penultimate script for the MSCL Pilot is written.

While I have no intention of making So Beautiful it Hurts a sociological study, a little context is always a nice thing to have...

Go now, go,


So Beautiful it Hurts’ is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with ABC, The Bedford Falls Co., nor anyone involved with the making or distribution of “My So-Called Life.”

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