As a kid in elementary school, I wanted nothing more than to be Clarissa Darling. Few Nickelodeon TV shows from the 1990s hold up these days, but along with “The Adventures of Pete and Pete,” “Clarissa Explains It All” remains one of Nick’s better ventures that decade — and probably since. And that’s thanks to Clarissa herself. She was cool then, she’s cool now and she is one of my favorite teenage female TV characters. That’s because Clarissa, as a character, has character.
Played by Melissa Joan Hart, Clarissa is funny, creative, intelligent, inquisitive, expressive and inventive. The clothes she wears! The way her room is decorated! Her eccentricities are endearing, and she’s not afraid to let you know she’s smart. She’s an outsider of sorts in her family, but her uniqueness is never presented negatively. If anything, she inspired viewers to be themselves. “Clarissa” carries similar messages as those in John Hughes films, minus the cynicism. She may rail about typical teen woes of dating and acne, but ultimately, she’s happy. She’s glad to be her, and viewers want to be her, too. The series ran from 1991 to 1994, a time when I was much younger than Clarissa, who during the series ages from about 14 to 18. But I looked up to her.
Broadening the candidate pool to include adults, which females on TV are ones you admire, look up to, would even want to be? Forget shows such as the thankfully cancelled “The Playboy Club” — what does empowerment really look like to you, and who represents it? We spend so much time complaining about characters we hate, perhaps we instead should list those we love. Obviously, the TV industry will take note because most members of said industry read this site.*
So tell me, fair readers: Which ladies do you love?
*I can’t back that up.
Sarah Carlson has a front-row seat to the decline of the newspaper industry and lives in Alabama with her overly excitable Pembroke Welsh corgi. She also plans on stealing her roommate’s DVD of “Clarissa Explains It All” Season One.