The Image: From out of the Darkness, 10 'My So-Called Life' Smiles to Uplift

Row 1: Wilson Cruz, Bess Armstrong, Devon Odessa; Row 2: Tom Irwin, Winnie Holzman and Paul Dooley, Mary Kay Place; Row 3: Devon Gummersall, AJ Langer, Claire Danes

On April 15th, a day Americans would normally be handing over their pound of flesh if not for the COVID-19 emergency, the world was treated instead to a sight nearly as rare as the health scare: the faces of 9 My So-Called Life cast members and its creator beaming back at them from the social media feeds of Wilson Cruz (“Rickie”). Though various media outlets lost no time in pointing out who DIDN’T attend this online reunion (Jared Leto, aka Jordan Catalano), the outpourings of love from fans across social media were the real headline.

Omg, I couldn’t love this more!! 💜
wow!!!! That's so sweet!!!!!

Even more than this long overdue reunion of the actors and Holzman, I think what people were really reacting to was the spirit of love and sincerity this single image represented, especially during one of the darkest times in our nation’s history.

Organized by Cruz, the reunion – taking place on the video conferencing platform Zoom – was not there to hype some comeback special, anniversary, entertainment convention appearance, nor even to swell the ranks of anyone’s social media followers. It was just a moment of joyful celebration that Cruz wanted to capture and share with the people he’s been quietly helping through crisis after crisis online for years now. It was, like My So-Called Life itself, a gift for those who embrace it.

Though I’ve not had the pleasure of talking with Cruz, in this image I see the faces of a number of people whom I HAVE had the privilege to speak with for this book, and each has shared with me their interpretations of the special feelings that bond them together to this day.

If you had to boil it down to one word, I think it would have to be “trust.” In one way or another each tackled some truly emotional, even cathartic, material – several at a young age – always knowing that the rest had their back whatever the outcome. It was a recent conversation with producer Alan Poul that helped me understand and appreciate this. It also reminded me of just how difficult it can be to walk the fine line between character and self when you’re a young actor.

The reason many of us relate so deeply to My So-Called Life all these years later may well be the same reason members of the production are so tightly intertwined emotionally even now – their willingness to be vulnerable.

In an age when compassion is dismissed as weakness and so many speak blithely of letting portions of our population die off, is it any wonder that the smiling faces we see in this image would now have such a profound effect? “We’re still here,” they seem to say. “And so are you. And we’ll all make it through this somehow. Together.”

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