Real life isn’t as fun as fiction. This has always been true for me, if you couldn’t tell from some of my past articles. I expected myself to grow out of this at some point, but I really haven’t yet, and I think I’m past the age where I’m going to. I’ll give myself until 30, but considering I’m having a “Legends of the Hidden Temple”-themed 30th birthday party complete with a working set that my friends are already designing for March 2015, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s not going to happen. My future children are going to tote “Double Dare” lunchboxes to school, and I’m equally excited and embarrassed for them.
I’ve always preferred losing myself in a book, movie, or TV show over dealing with real-life problems, because fictional problems are solved much more easily and assuredly -- unless you’re a character in a horror film or book, in which case I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have been sleeping around and/or going off on your own and/or making fun of the nerdy kid knowing there’s a killer on the loose. That is on you.
TV shows are exceptionally fun, because while there’s no grand resolution until the series finale, there is a mini one at the end of every episode, complete with an accompanying violin solo. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the violin sounds really concerned leading into the final commercial break before the resolution (I’m looking at you, “Full House”). TV is also great because you get to grow as the characters do, which I guess goes for a lot of book series too, but as this article is about TV, that’s what I’m going with.
I especially latched on to some of the stronger female characters I saw on TV throughout my adolescence, such as:
Dana Foster (“Step by Step”)
Dana was the quintessential feminist and didn’t let anyone tell her what to do or how to think or act. Like Dana, I developed (or, if you ask my mother, was born with) a sarcastic attitude and the need to tell everyone when they’re wrong, which can be argued as both a good and bad thing but probably mostly bad.
My brother was the bane of my existence around the time I was really into this show during its inclusion in the TGIF lineup, and I felt bad that Dana had to deal with like 10 more siblings than I did.
Dana was also one half of one of my first OTPs (one true pairings). Looking back, I don’t think Rich (aka Max Goof) was good enough for her, but then I watch the “Crazy Love” episode and reconsider. Watch from 1:35 until 4:30 if you enjoy awesome TV chemistry and want to witness a true testament to just how awesome Dana’s character is.
Helga Pataki (“Hey Arnold!”)
I’ll admit I never had a statue in my closet made out of garbage that resembled my crush (shocking, I know), but I was the type of girl, like Helga, who would make fun of a boy past the point of appropriateness just to go behind a building and sigh about how much I loved him.
One time I liked this boy named Randy and I sang the song “Sandy” from “Grease”, replacing the lyrics with his name, while swinging on a swing in the playground. Totally something Helga Pataki would do, and something I wish I was lying about having done. I’m pretty sure I was in first grade.
I also admired her spelling skills, inability to put up with nonsense from Brainy’s creepiness, and hate for those preppy bitches Ruth, Lila, and Gloria.
Topanga Lawrence (“Boy Meets World”)
Oh, Topanga. You had me from your first appearance.
She was the perfect combination of brains, beauty, humor, and heart, and she had an amazing name to boot. She was also fiercely loyal to her friends and her true love, Cory, even going so far as to move in with her aunt so she didn’t have to leave him when her parents moved to Pittsburgh in a scene that still makes me cry to this day when I see it.
I want to suggest the name Topanga to Josh for if we ever have a daughter, especially since he loved the show too, but I know he will just shake his head, as he does when I discuss things like this. He didn’t have cable growing up, poor dear, which is why I’m extra excited that “Boy Meets World” is one of the few shows he has seen. He doesn’t “get” “Legends of the Hidden Temple”, but that’s a vent for another time.
Joey Potter (“Dawson’s Creek”)
People loved Joey when “Dawson’s Creek” first aired but HATED her as soon as the writers started neglecting the other characters, but it wasn’t Joey’s fault, damn it. She gets so much shit for being a Mary Sue character, but I don’t get how a teenage girl who loses her mom to cancer, has a druggie deadbeat father, and has to work her ass off to go to college both academically and in after-school jobs while helping her sister raise a child and run a bed and breakfast screams Mary Sue. Because through all that, she was still beautiful, talented, smart, and capable enough for men to notice her? God forbid.
Joey was such a strong, feminist character who didn't take anyone's crap, and she still gets so much undeserved flack, like she’s Bella Swan or some shit. And if it’s not those comments, it’s, “She was such a bitch all the time!” or “She couldn’t make up her damn mind!” Um yeah, she went through a lot and she was a TEENAGER. I’m sure you were an indecisive snippy asshole too.
I loved her because she was unyielding and never took her eyes off the prize, which was to make a life for herself--something she eventually succeeded at. She figured out what she wanted and made it happen, and that is admirable. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about Joey’s trip to Paris in the penultimate episode at least once when I went on my dream trip to Australia two years ago.
Daria Morgendorffer (“Daria”)
I think this one goes without explanation, but I really connected with Daria. She always had the best comebacks, and was so relatable because even though she hated everyone, she secretly longed to be like them just a little bit. Not enough to ever do much about it, but there was one episode that pointed out that the fact that because she doesn’t care SO HARD it proves that she really does--as much as if not more than anyone else.
That made me rethink how I spend my own energy, because I spent a lot of my own teenage energy hating when I could’ve been loving. Honestly, I wanted Quinn’s life a lot more, but I admired Daria for being intelligent, independent, and witty, but also human enough to go through the pain of a belly-button ring to impress a boy who, to her credit, was the hottest cartoon of all time.
Truly, this list could go on for miles, and my honorable mentions include but aren’t limited to:
- Kelly Kapowski (“Saved by the Bell”)
- Laura Winslow (“Family Matters”)
- Stephanie Tanner (“Full House”)
- Dot Warner (“Animaniacs”)
- Babs Bunny (“Tiny Toon Adventures”)
- Bubbles (“The PowerPuff Girls”)
But I think the ones discussed above are probably my top five. I recently started watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and am pissed I never watched it in the 90s because it’s so good I can’t even deal. Rupert Giles and Cordelia Chase are everything.
Which 90s female TV characters did/do you idolize?