Now for a more light-hearted collaborative: I’d like to share with my young readers MY Top 5 Female Role Models growing up.
#5 — Clarissa (Clarissa Explains It All)
Growing up, I idolized Clarissa Darling, the protagonist in Clarissa Explains It All, Nickelodeon’s hit show that ran from 1991-1994. She seems so innocent by today’s standards, but when I was growing up, she was everything I wanted to be: cool, confident, smart, funny, well-liked by her friends, with a great fashion sense (bright, mis-matched, and awesome!), a cute boy next door as a best friend (I had a huge crush on Sean O’Neal!) and a great room in a happy home, despite the bratty brother (had one myself). The show was a huge success, and Nickelodeon’s first to have a female lead. It became a blueprint for later shows like iCarly, Zoey 101, Victorious, and others. To me, though, Clarissa Explains it All has much more substance, even today, than any of these copycats today.
Topics covered on the show were pertinent to what kids those days wanted to know but were just blossoming on TV: bullying, sex, how to acquire your own car, first crushes, dating, sibling rivalry, school grades, insecurities and kissing, among others. The great thing about the show was that even though these topics could be heavy, it approached them in a light-hearted, contemporary fashion, from a free-thinking, independent teenager, unlike other shows like Full House and Blossom.
Clarissa’s breaking of the “4th Wall” in the show invited me to get involved in the storylines and care about the characters. Even her best friendship with Sam was novel at the time; there was no show before that portrayed male and female protagonists without romantic ties. Hard to believe for me, since I LOVED Sam!
Clarissa was a girl who, despite what she encounters during the show, approaches her life obstacles with humor, intellect, and compassion for others; never compromising her values and personality.
Clarissa Explains It All is being resurrected by Nickelodeon, for those who want to see the original shows. The pilot episode is included in a Nickelodeon Rewind Collection, and the series can now be bought on DVD. Whoo-hoo!