I just came across this great retrospective on one of my favorite childhood shows, Clarissa Explains It All. I was a dedicated fan of Clarissa and all her antics, and am certainly grateful for her presence during my pre-teen years. I wasn’t entirely aware of my geekiness at the time — nor did I have any idea that being a geek would come to so define me later in life — but Clarissa and I had a definite connection. Most of my friends were guys, like Sam; I favored really odd, quirky clothing (like dashikis). I had a habit of monologuing to myself, writing long diary entries in various voices and styles, and spent a great deal of my time trying to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I dreamed big.
I won’t go on a rant here about the kind of role models companies like Disney and Nickelodeon are producing these days, but I will say I’m damned glad that I had Clarissa to look up to in the 90s. She gave me the go-ahead to fly my own freak flag. And, if there was anything that defined my teen years, it was a deep desire to find myself, to set myself apart from the popular, the expected, and, in my opinion, the terribly boring. As Marah Eakin says in the article:
But all viewers–myself included–gravitated toward the show because we could find ourselves in her. And in that sense, that’s the show’s biggest success. Clarissa wasn’t a pop star, a superhero, or incredibly rich. She was an average girl living an average life, but in kind of an extraordinary way. Clarissa Explains It All left a nation of young women safe in the knowledge that things would work out just fine, as long as they stayed true to themselves–Doc Martens and all.
3 thoughts on “Ladder Up: Looking Back at Clarissa Explains it All”
Actually, I was thinking that Disney provides two pretty good tween geek role models in ‘Phineas and Ferb’ these days 🙂
It’s my 11 yr old son’s favourite show, closely followed by ‘Mythbusters’ and ‘How It’s Made’, both on Discovery. ‘Phineas and Ferb’ also serves as an introduction to the world of music. I think he has most songs memorized!
I LOVED Clarissa Explains It All when I was a kid. I wasn’t nearly as brave as she was, but I really identified with her as someone who wasn’t exactly the most popular kid in school, but still had her own cool stuff going for her.
I’m really glad that Clarissa existed and that the whole show took place in her house. I think that sometimes those shows that take place pretty much entirely at school miss all the cool stuff that happens outside of school.
Is it bad, or just a perfect example of the extent of my own geekiness, that I fully percieved Clarissa as being Popular instead of Geeky? …although I did think she was Cool in the awesome sense of the word, too.
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