What is Love?

I begin this book review by quoting the Haddaway classic ‘What is Love,’  which is familiar from many tv shows and movies (“A Night at the Roxbury”) but to me its quintessential deployment is in the “Life of Brian” aka”World Happiness Dance” episode of My So-Called Life.   This clip is long-ish but contains so much wonderful stuff: Ricky’s gay angst, Ricky’s coming-out-via-dancefloor-freakout, Sharon Cherski’s terrible dress, and most of all this deathless and incredibly realistic dialogue:

Jordan: “Why are you like this?”

Angela: “Like what?”

Jordan: “Like how you are.”

Angela: “How am I?”

(exeunt Jordan with other delinquents)

Angela: “How … how am I?”

Also Brian’s voiceover about how Angela’s hair smells incredible, like an orange grove he drove past when he was eight “but that’s probably just her shampoo or whatever.”   I mean, I want you to read my book review but I almost more want you to watch this.

12 comments to What is Love?

  • Matt

    Not to torpedo anyone’s productivity, but all of the episodes are on hulu: http://www.hulu.com/my-so-called-life

  • DavidAA

    Love is on the morning after
    when I forget her name

    Love is when I screw her sister
    and she doesn’t complain

    Love is on a Valentine’s Day
    when I watch the game

    Love is when she walks away
    crying “never again”

    Love is on the years after
    when I remember her name.

  • dan

    o but the real punchline is in the next episode:

    Angela : The truly frightening thing, is that even after everything had happened, Jordan Catalano left a note in my locker to meet him in the boiler room. The nauseating part is that I went. [Jordan enters, and begins to kiss her. To Jordan] Don’t say hello, or anything.
    Jordan : Hello –
    Angela : I can’t believe I came here. Why did you ask me to come here? [Jordan stares at her] Why are you like this?
    Jordan : Like what?
    Angela : Like how you are?
    Jordan : So leave. [Angela gathers her things, starts to walk away, then stops]
    Angela : Admit it first.
    Jordan : Admit what?
    Angela : That all of this happened. That you have emotions. That you can’t like — treat me one way in from of your friends and the next minute leave me some note. [He still does not answer] And by the way, I spell my name with one L.

  • emily

    Why ARE people like how they are? Maybe we would have found out if there had been another season.

  • Tim

    I love seeing late-twenty early thirty-somethings playing high school kids. It’s sooo funny & unrealistic, like how in ‘Beverly Hills: 90210′ those “kids” took everything so seriously and were in such a hurry to grow up & become adults.

  • DavidAA

    At the side of your review at n+1 it says there is a response by Christina Nehring here:


    It says I am not authorised to see the page. Is that a page available to subscribers only, or perhaps a mistake?

  • emily

    Oh, hmm. I think it’s just a placeholder — I think they will put her response up later?

  • Stu

    Of course you know, Jerry Maguire includes a visual homage to My So-Called Life:


  • [...] history of all things, especially if you were 14 or 15 when it was on, and I just had fun watching this classic clip Emily G. [...]

  • tammy

    A little late to this post. V. nice review. Something I was wondering about . . . Since you’re a writer/word person, I found your choice of the word “brittle(ness)” to describe love, our fear of it, interesting. It has a connotation that say, “fragile” or “delicate”, doesn’t have. My question is, kind of silly I guess, do YOU feel love is brittle? To me the word has sharp edges. I’ve always thought of love, being in love, as something ridiculously fragile, but not necessarily brittle. Just thinkin’ & wonderin’.

    Anyhow, as always, enjoy your blog, your writings. My best to you.

  • emily

    @ tammy, I probably should not admit this but “brittle” was my editor’s doing. I think it perfectly conveys the tense, stylized perfection can attend publicly proclaimed love. Anyway, my editor’s good, right? Love that guy!

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