My So-Called Life: 1.05 “The Zit”

Season 1 Episode 5
Airdate: September 22, 1994


At school, Ginger watches her ex-Best Friend get kissed on the head by a boy. Ginger is jealous she had no one to wet her noggin. “So Sharon’s life is developing in this natural healthy way,” Ginger narrates, “while my life is clogged.”

Like her pores! In class, Ginger looks into her compact and sees a zit on her chin! Oh no one pimple! How ever will she cope!!!

In English class, the instructor is discussing Kafka and “The Metamorphosis”.  “Can you give me an example of something Kafkaesque?” asks the teacher.

Yes, waking up and turning into a bug.

Ginger’s Gay Friend likes to hang out in the girl’s restroom, but it has to end because he probably is a boy. The three friends find a “Top 40 Hottest Sophomore Girls List” a group of boys made. Someone named Casey Hall made #1. We are shown Ms. Hall while Ginger talks about feeling really jealous of her beauty. Except Casey Hall looks like just like Claire Danes, a blonde girl of likely Nordic ancestry. It’s annoying when girls on TV complain about not being a pretty, when they are played by actresses who are ten times better looking than an average girl. Taylor Swift has made her entire career out of this.

Hippie Friend is happy she won “Most slut potential” because she is annoying. Man, this list is more detailed than any group of teenage boys could realistically put together, even if it is about hot girls. I mean, it was even complied entirely in hand. The boys of my high school could have never come up with a list this meticulous. And my generation had Excel.

So, Ginger’s mom wants her to be in a mother-daughter charity fashion show thing. Ginger tries to ask Ex-Bestie if she will be in it too, but can’t manage the courage to talk to her, so just calls her a slut. “Congratulations on the poll,” Ginger says. Ex-Bestie’s boobs made Best Boobs (best “Global Endowments” to be precise, which is a totally awesome name for breasts. I gotta hand it to the boys of this graffiti-ridden school). Now we know the theme of this episode: that girls will be just total bitches to each other without any good reason.

Ginger’s mom and ex-Bestie’s mom are still friends. They look at fashion magazines so they can stare at the models and complain about their bodies. Ex-Bestie’s mom brings up the hottie list her daughter told her about. Ginger’s mom says Ginger did not tell her about the list. “She’s probably not on it,” quips ex-Bestie’s mom.  Oh snap! Ah, the bitchiness never ends, no matter the age.

I think Blonde fro kid used to go out with ex-Bestie or something, because he keeps watching her with her new fella. Blonde fro struck up a friendship with Gay Friend after they watched each other pee, and then spend a lot of time together talking. Is Blonde fro trying to hit on Gay Friend? If there was slash-fiction in 1994, thousands of girls would be pairing these two off.

Ex- Bestie is angry at her boyfriend, because his gang of barbarians was behind that list. They break up or something. Ex-Bestie does that thing where she is mad at a guy, but won’t explain why and only gets madder when he can’t read her mind and immediately know what’s upsetting her. This episode is really nailing it with the accurate depiction of females.

Ginger isn’t into this fashion show, but her mom drags her to a mall…that appears to located in a castle. The fanciest department store I’ve ever been in is Macy’s, which looks like K-Mart next to whatever store this is. I don’t understand this town. They can have all these big houses and fancy stores, but their schools look like shit. The people of this town must raise a fuss every time there is talk of raising property taxes by even the tiniest amount.

The two look at a cosmetics counter manned by the second gayest man on this show, who is able to sell the mom on some cream by saying, “Those tiny lines around your eyes, it actually smooths them.” Ah man, he’s one of those catty gays who like to insult women’s bodies. Those are the worst type of gays after the ones who stay in the closet for 40 years, marry, raise a family and get elected as Republicans.

That night, Ginger’s mom gets mad because Ginger won’t wear her kimono. I don’t get this family.

Back at school, Ginger takes solace in a Malcolm X speech about how black people should be proud about their black looks. She then walks in on Jared Leto, her crush, talking to Casey Hall. Hey, Ginger, you’re a natural blonde. Stop whining and rinse out your hair if it’s upsetting you so Goddamn much.

Here’s the best part of the episode. Ex-Bestie’s ex-boyfriend grabs her shoe. His plan is to swipe it so she will have to talk to him. Boy has a weird way of strategizing. Plan A: Swipe her shoe. Plan B: Apologize. But only go to Plan B if Plan A fails. And I got two chances to pull off Plan A.

The great thing is Plan A works! They get back together. I love this guy. He’s got moxie, and I like moxie.

Ginger is still upset over her pimple. The one single pimple on her otherwise smooth face. Hey remember in high school, when absolutely no one—and I mean No Single Person—had any acne. Everyone was clear-skinned throughout puberty. So if you had any acne, even just one pimple, you were a total outlier and it was the biggest personal crisis ever! I remember how we treated the only girl in my school to ever get a pimple: we threw rocks at her. You had to. That stuff might be contagious. First symptom of smallpox or something.

Ginger then imagines the model from the magazine cover materializes in the girls’ room and is catty to her. I want to know what magazine American Gal is. Because American Girl is a real magazine published by the doll company and aimed at 9-year-olds. Which makes “American Gal” an odd title to use for this non-name brand, in-show mag, that’s supposed to be a parody of Cosmopolitan.  In under a minute, I came up with five titles that are more fitting. No wonder this show was canceled. Here they are:

Rogue

Composite

Cosmopolitan Ice Cream

Glam R.

Seventeen-and-a-Half

Back at the Ginger house, Gay Friend compliments Ginger’s mom on the dresses she has been sewing. Now this gay is the right sort of gay, the one that compliments women. He’s the type of gay who straight women adore and want to keep in their purse to bring out only when they need a kind word or someone to eat ice cream with.

Ginger doesn’t want to wear the dress, which makes her mom upset, which makes them argue, which makes Ginger cry, “I’m ugly!” which was triggered by the way moms pressure their daughters to look their best.

This leads to a bedtime discussion between the mom and the dad where the mom admits she wanted to do this fashion show for her own sake, to feel pretty again because men get more attractive with age while women don’t.  I don’t know if that’s really true. I don’t think Sean Connery, John Travolta or Hugh Hefner have gotten more attractive with age. At this point, women are humoring them because they’re rich. The only man who has gotten better older is John Stamos, and he is most likely the half-human son of Zeus.

In English class, Jared Leto asks Blonde fro to explain the “The Metamorphosis.” Leto needs help to write a paragraph on the book or else he will be sent back to kindergarten. Which will be hard because he’ll have to re-memorize the names of all those colors. Blonde fro gives him the summary: a traveling salesman wakes up one morning transformed into a cockroach, and ends up dying because his family gets grossed out and abandons him. Because they can’t handle THE METAMORPHOSIS!

“The point is,” says Ex-Bestie, “he’s the same person on the inside, no matter what he looks like.” Well, true, I suppose, in the sense he was already ugly inside, that’s why he turned into a cockroach. The outside changed to match how he felt on the inside. He certainly wasn’t beautiful inside, that’s not at all what Kafka meant. The story is about how menial work withers away a person’s humanity. I was an English major, so getting to lecture you over the internet about the true meaning of classic literature is the only opportunity I will ever have to put my degree to use.

In the girls’ room, Ginger has a talk with Ex about how all girls are no-good bitches. Later, Ginger and her mom talk about how mom looked in the ‘80s when she was an Eastern bloc dictator’s wife.  The episode ends with Ginger’s little sister happily walking the mother-daughter fashion show in her place. Which makes sense, because looking at the other couples, Ginger would have been by far the oldest daughter up there.

Grade: A+

The first time we see Claire Danes' bra!...oh...wait...