Patty Chase (Betty Armstrong) puts up with a lot of shit. Not only does she have to put up with playing the bad cop to good cop dad, Graham Chase (Tom Irwin), but she also gave birth to teenage drama lightning rod Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and has to work for her own dad (Paul Dooley), whose staggering immaturity puts any Liberty High student to shame. Nobody gave Patty enough credit for enduring record levels of angst and ennui once every week when the show was on the air, and that’s why I’m dedicating this week’s Pop Pedestal to My So-Called Life’s Patricia Chase.
Pedestal Profile: Patty catches a lot of flak as the captain of the Good Ship Chase. As the primary breadwinner for the house, and a professional contrast to her husband, ex-Deadhead-current-cook Graham, Patricia can’t escape the trope of the frigid, professional woman. After Patty catches Rickie holding a beer during an afterschool hangout, Rayanne snaps “do you think it’s possible to please that woman?”
[Rickie tries to figure out how to defuse the beer situation, around 3:30]’
But as fans of the show know, later on Patty is the only one with a cool enough nerve to save Rayanne from a horrifying case of alcohol poisoning. After watching Rayanne head down a path of self-destruction, an all-too-familiar reminder of a college roommate that died of an overdose, Patty doesn’t try to cut off Angela from her friend. She knows Angela too well to think that trying to stop her from seeing Rayanne would change anything; instead she trusts Angela enough to let her make her own decisions, and to not do the same things that put Rayanne in a hospital bed.
Her Influence: My So-Called Life builds so many good scenes out of people subverting expectations. Patty’s the chief do-er of the household: she’s head of the family-owned copy shop, she employs her husband, all of her social interactions involve intricately planned gatherings (oh god, not the mother-daughter fashion show!). In the middle of one of her mother’s black-tie family get-togethers, Angela voiceovers that if she would “stop pretending that she’s happy, she’d be better at actually being happy.”
[My So-Called Life: the show that was made for Tumblr]
Over time, the show reveals Patty as not the emotionless businesswoman that Angela sees, but as a warm, loving caretaker, caught in an intricate web of providing for her family, living up to her father’s ridiculous expectations, raising her two daughters, and, of course, palling around with Sharon Cherski.
That’s Not All: She will drop all of this for some magical Halloween costume canoodling.
[Mom, dad, gross!]
Think of Her When: Family and work stress start piling on. Don’t let overbearing relationships put you between a rock and a hard place; always keep your closest friends and family in mind. If your husband’s your employee and he doesn’t like the job, fire him! If you’re dad’s putting your business on the line, let him know what’s up and that you’re the boss now.
But also, let’s remember that Patty was hell-bent on getting Jewish neighbor Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall) to spend Christmas day at the Chase’s, so grain of salt, or whatever.