I was watching reruns of "America's Next Top Model" the other night, when lo and behold, a voice from my past came creeping out of the TV during the commercial break. It was a husky voice, filled with casual insolence and clipped tones.Twas the voice of Shannen Doherty. Doherty was advertising her newest project, a commercial for Education Connection. In it, she explains that she's done a lot of things -- playing the girl next door, producing, directing -- but that she wanted to do something for her, so now she's getting an online degree in liberal arts. And you can, too! …A couple of things:1) The commercial feels as if it's from a parallel universe, where Shannen Doherty was known as a lovable talk show host, a la Rosie O'Donnell with those damn Koosh balls.2) I checked, and one of the things Doherty produced was a series called "Breaking Up with Shannen Doherty" where she helped couples who wanted to break up but couldn't seem to by devising a "relationship test," and if they failed it, she would break them up. Not a show that Jennie Garth would have been involved in.3) The commercial is bonkers, with Doherty dressing up like a chef, a "business woman," and a lab tech, among other things. Each one further inspired me to comically rub my eyes, as if I were seeing things. But I digress.
The reason why I was so agitated by the commercial was because I love Shannen Doherty, if in a complicated way.
In "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," where I first saw her, Doherty played the good girl, a side character who didn't get to dance like Sarah Jessica Parker or be zany like Helen Hunt, but she got to come along for the ride. The next time I saw her, in "Heathers," it was like watching a phoenix rising.
In that movie, Doherty goes from being the put-upon, wallflower Heather to becoming the bitchy queen bee, and it's clear that her talent for playing such characters is flawless. In her 90210 years, she perfected the character I'd like to call "Turn Your Back at Your Own Risk," the type of character she has continued to play all these years. Doherty is absolutely perfect at playing a girl who seems nice enough, but some ancient, mammalian instinct in your blood will not allow you to like her. Maybe it's the steely glint in her eye. Maybe it's the way that every line of dialogue she utters sounds like a threat. Perhaps it's how she purses her lips when she's listening to someone, seeming to prepare herself to annihilate you. It could even be her life-long perfect bangs.
All I know is that just hearing her voice on TV the other night froze me in my tracks and caused me to start thumping the ground with my hind leg, as if to warn my fellow rabbits that a forest fire was approaching. I'm not even going to address her real life shenanigans. She might have been crazy on "90210," posed in Playboy, been in trouble with the law or gotten axed from "Charmed" for her attitude -- I honestly don't care. I don't know she acts around her friends and family, but I do know that she has an onscreen persona that, even in a commercial for online college, intimidates the shit out of me. And I am still crazy for Shannen, after all these years! So cheers to you, Shannz, for reminding grown-up me what it's like to feel terrified of another woman. Well done. Good luck with your liberal arts degree.