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I usually get a lot of flack for my unending love of the original, the ultimate ’90s teen primetime soap Beverly Hills, 90210. I can’t help it. I grew up watching Brenda follow her dreams all the way across the pond. I aspired to run the school newspaper like Andrea Zuckerman. I wanted a boyfriend who had sideburns like Brandon’s. (And I found him!) The show lasted an entire decade! And I’ll admit, I ditched it for Dawson’s Creek once Jason Priestley left and it got kind of intolerable. (I mean, really, how many awful things had to happen to poor Kelly Taylor? My friend Elizabeth and I agree that after she had been burned in a fire, sucked into a cult, addicted to coke, almost killed by a mixed-up sociopath, raped twice and shot, the girl must have been from Hell.)
Still, I will always sing the praises of the show’s earlier years, because it was the first hour-long drama to take teens seriously (sorry, Saved By the Bell, that wasn’t you). The story lines of the West Bev crew touched on important, timely issues that applied to ’90s teens—from AIDS to suicide to premarital sex (oh, Donna Martin, you goody-goody) and even the consequences of drinking too much champagne at prom. Where’s that show today? Oh, right, there was nothing but a pile of sugar-coated, Hannah Montana crap—so the CW had to just remake 90210.
At any rate, today is actually 9-02-10! To commemorate, I thought I’d spotlight just a few of the show’s life lessons on body image, love and sex.
Diet pills suck – Remember Kelly Taylor’s friend who came to Brenda’s sleepover but acted way too cool? Well, she was actually just a grumpy ex-chubby girl who was on loads of diet pills. And beautiful but insecure Kelly herself later abused diet pills. The show portrayed pill-popping to stay slim as sad and scary. Maybe this stuck with me, because years later, I found myself trading a bottle of Metabo-Life for a healthy lifestyle change with Weight Watchers.
You don’t have to wait ’til marriage—just ’til you fall in love – Before Brenda and Dylan did it at the Spring Dance, she gushed, “How many girls get to have sex for the first time with someone they love?” That scene likely shaped my own and many other girls’ views of virginity. Why do it with someone I didn’t love? But that didn’t necessarily mean having to wait until marriage. (Besides, it’s not like I’m Catholic, like Donna. Oh, wait, she had eventually did it with David before they got hitched!) Turns out Brenda’s swiping of the V-card was pretty revolutionary, too: According to an article in Slate, “The most shocking part was that she shows no remorse. A teen girl having sex—even if she used a condom—and gloating about it didn’t go unnoticed (or unpunished).” …until of course they wrote in Brenda’s pregnancy scare of season 2. Whatever. Sorry, Jim Walsh, she just wasn’t your little girl anymore.
Andrea Zuckerman was beautiful – She may have started out as the geeky girl with the hopeless crush on Brandon Walsh. And granted, she never got that guy, she was still adored—by Brandon, Steve and many a hot (and often older) dude. In her all of her straight A-earning, editor-in-chief of The Blaze, getting into Yale while wearing high-waisted jeans glory, the Jewish girl from the wrong side of the tracks was truly aspirational.
Put your sisters before misters – Really, what the heck, Brenda and Kelly? Dylan had that sexy James Dean thing going on, but he was also super screwed-up on booze, coke and later, heroin. Not hot. And definitely not worth throwing out your BFF bond.
Being a model is not worth sleeping with some sleazy French guy – That is all.
Be yourself! – This was a running theme, of course—being a teenager is all about figuring out who you are and staying true to that. But the most literal lesson on being yourself may have been when Brenda pretended to be French with hottie-pa-tottie Rick (played by Dean Cain) in Paris. The ruse got her in a lot of hot water back in Bev Hills once “Reek” showed up to attend UCLA—classic! After attempting to enlist mom Cindy and bro Brandon to play along, Brenda quickly learned that she was better off calling the whole thing off and just being herself—the all-American Brenda Walsh from Minnesota. She could save random accents for the stage.
More hilarious life lessons from 90210.