My So-Called Life: 1.07 “Why Jordan Can’t Read”

Season 1 Episode 7
Airdate: October 6, 1994

The episode begins with the viewers subjected to Ginger’s bad teenage poetry about love. Ah man. She tells us she always imagined that she would “fall in love nursing a blind solider who was wounded in battle.” Too bad she is part of that lucky generation that wouldn’t get sent to any wars. Bloody Gen-Xers, what do you have to be so jaded about? You’ll all be 40 by 9/11.

Elsewhere in the house, the mom asks the dad if she looks fat. Uh oh! Don’t answer that dad, you’re falling into one of the oldest marriage follies in TV history! If MSCL had a second season, we could have looked forward to the episode where the dad gets tickets to the Super Bowl, but it’s the same day as their anniversary, because people get married in January.

Ginger’s class has a field trip to the museum. The adult escort is scurrying around reminding the kids to stay in groups. You don’t want to get lost or else you might get locked in after closing. And this is one of those museums where all the exhibits come alive at night. Don’t worry, it’s an art museum, so nothing can hurt you. Or move. All the paintings stay on the wall and all the sculptures remain attached to their bases. But they whine a lot. You see, most artists suffered from crippling depression and this pain came through in their work. So when those dreary looking portraits and mopey looking statues come to life, it’s next to impossible to handle all the whining and crying. The last three night guards were discovered in the morning hanging from a noose.

Ginger shows Hippie Friend a five page love letter she wrote to Jared Leto, her crush, but is too embarrassed to give to him. Then Hippie Friend drinks from a flask and flirts with the security guard.

Ginger and Jared Leto look at a stature with a ten inch penis. Leto is humming a tune.

“Is that a Crowded House song?” Ginger asks. I had to look them up on Wikipedia to see if that was a real band or Ginger was just making up a fake band to sound cool.

Leto says it is a song he wrote. “I’m in this band now,” he explains. “30 Seconds to Mars. I’m going to work on it more after this show ends. I imagine it will work out better for me than acting.”

Then Hippie Friends tells Ginger she lost her note. Hippie Friend is really not dependable for anything. And she drinks like a 55-year-old Irish cop.

The next day at school, Leto hands Ginger her note. He found it, so Ginger tries to say it was about someone else. “He died,” she says, “he’s dead…So we can totally get it on now.”

Leto says he did not read it. Which Ginger cannot believe. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read the brilliant 15-year-old’s deep emotional thoughts? “What are you dumb,” she says, “or retarded? Because who would not read a love note that had their name on it? You would have to be the dumbest, most ignorant moron in the world to not have read it.”

This forces Jared Leto to admit that he cannot read. Don’t you look silly now, Ginger? We learned this in the previous episode, but apparently no one in this school knows. America’s education system is failing Jared Leto.

Ginger is even more in love with Leto than ever. You know how a woman want a man she can fix? Well, what’s even better is a man you can teach to read. “I understand him so much better now,” Ginger says to Hippie Friend, “and it has completely changed everything.” I am sure the writer intended for this line to be as hilarious as I found it.

Meanwhile, Ginger’s mom talks with her friend. Mom is eight days late with her period and her friend assumes it is pre-menopause. They have a menopause talk, which we always enjoy in our teenage coming-of-age TV series.  Ginger’s mom complains about men have it so much easier when it comes to aging, which is like the 20th times she’s bitched about that.

While we are on the subject of menopause, how about that sweet pirate sign hanging on the entrance to the football field? Is that the school’s mascot? That’s awesome. This is why I’ve never felt connected to the MSCL fandom. None of them have ever talked about that awesome pirate sign! I’ve gone through several fansites while working on these reviews, and this is the first time I’ve found out about this. What the fucking hell?!

We go to Ginger’s mom and dad, who are trying to figure out if she is pregnant. The dad doesn’t think they have had sex enough times for this to happen, but the mom thinks they had more than enough. Oh, marriage stereotypes!

“Graham, what if it’s a boy?” the mom asks. Then you will drive the little guy nuts by going on and on about menopause and how unfair women always have it.

Frizzy Haired Boy comes by and asks for his copy of Malcolm X (a book is as close as any of these people want to come to a black person). Ginger’s little sister, Lil Ginger, has a crush on Frizzy, because she is naïve. Frizzy really came to see Ginger, but she is away.

Ginger and her friends are out to see 30 Seconds to Mars at the warehouse where they filmed the Nirvana video “Comes as You Are”.  Leto plays a song on an acoustic. Here are some of the lyrics:

Call her Red ya ya…Late at night she keeps me safe and warm

Gay Friend thinks the song is about Ginger, which excites her. It’s probably about his dog. Like, cause when has Ginger kept him safe and warm? Maybe it’s about Clifford the Big Red Dog, which are some of the only books he can read.

Leto drives Ginger home. Ginger brings up the fact that he can’t read, because I’m sure he loves talking about it. Leto doesn’t want to let his illiteracy keep him back. He has dreams.

“You know those guys up in the mountains,” Leto says, “who make snow, like, as their job? I would really like to do that.” Either he means the people who work in ski lodges, or he is imagining elves from a children’s storybook. It was the first book he ever read and he holds it dear to him.

Ginger gets out of the car and does a little dance on her lawn. She is in love and wants to celebrate not getting felt up in his car like last time.

The next morning, Lil Ginger tells her parents Ginger is in love.

“How can you tell, sweetheart?”

“Because she got her chair all wet.”

The parents are fine with their daughter dating, but they want to meet Jared. Just to make sure he’s not some imaginary boy from Canada.

“You have to meet him first?” Ginger asks. “Why? There’s nothing wrong with him. He can’t read and wants us to live in the mountains. Get off our case.”

So in school, Ginger reluctantly asks Leto to come meet her parents that night. I love that she has on flannel over a floral print dress. That’s so ‘90s!

That evening, Ginger has made herself pretty for the arrival of Mr. Leto. But Frizzy Hair comes over first because he is annoying like that.

“How come you look like that?” he asks Ginger.

“Like what?” she asks.

“Like you want my penis.” OK, he didn’t really say that, but he was surely thinking it.

Jared Leto does not show up. He is chilling with his band because they own a warehouse. Ginger and her parents are left waiting in their living room all night.

The next day at school, Ex-Bestie and Hippie Friend are in the bathroom. Hippie wants to know what Ex-Bestie has done with her boyfriend, but Ex-B tells her, “None of your business.”

Duh!” blurts Hippie. SO ‘90s!

“You’re so weird,” says Ex-Bestie.

Duh! Squared,” replies Hippie. In elementary school , we used to say “duh”, I think because teenagers did and we wanted to be cool like them. Looking back, it’s pretty messed up that we ever thought these people were cool.

Ginger is pissed off at Jared Leto. Gay Friend sticks up for him, because he kind of likes Jared Leto. It’s those pretty blue eyes and wavy brown hair. Italian men who don’t actually look Italian are pretty hot (look at Leonardo DiCaprio). Jared Leto even has next to no body hair.

Leto approaches Gay Friend to explain why he never came to Ginger’s house. He even touches Gay Friend’s shoulder, which will mark the genesis of the Jared Leto-Gay Friend slashfic community. Leto says he wasn’t in the mood to see her parents. Also Ginger makes way too big a deal out of his illiteracy. I mean, it’s all she has talked about since he told her. I would want to avoid her, too.

Also, he reveals that his song was about his car. His car.

Back home, Ginger mom has gotten her period. She is not pregnant. Good. She brings her daughter some cookie dough ice cream to get over her breakup—which was not really a relationship to begin with. Later, Ginger and Frizzy play catch, because why not?

Grade: C