Hello all! I wrote this for another blog but not sure when or if it will ever be posted, so I’m going to share it here as well. Prepare yourselves for a nostalgiaquake:
Women in your mid-20s to 30s: take a moment & think back to your youth. Go back to the days when your biggest stress in life was getting stuck on a particularly difficult level of Super Mario 3 & when Nickelodeon ruled your world. Name the TV character you thought was the coolest person on earth. The girl you would have killed to be best friends with. Who was that fully rad chick you admired more than anyone else on TV?
If you answered Clarissa, you’re wrong & you made my heart sad. The correct answer is Alex Mack.
The Secret Life of Alex Mack is possibly the most underrated series Nickelodeon produced in the 90s. Ask any mid-late 20 something to list their favorite SNICK lineup shows & you may not hear about Alex until they hit around the 5-7 range. But, for my money, Alex Mack was maybe the most meaningful live action show Nickelodeon ever made.
Now, I already hear the sounds of derision coming from all corners of the internet. “ALEX MACK?!? Have you forgotten about the gem that is The Adventures of Pete & Pete? The hell is wrong with you, lady?!?”
Calm down, yall. Take some cleansing breaths to avoid hyperventilation & allow me to explain.
As anyone woman will tell you, being an adolescent girl is hard. I’m not saying adolescence is a walk in the park for either gender, but age 11 to 17 is a particularly horrific time for ladies. One minute you’re climbing trees & rolling down hills without the first neurotic thought about your awesome, agile little girl body. Next thing you know, your body is leading a revolt against you, charging towards womanhood well before you’re ready for it. You’re the ugliest you’ve ever been and probably ever will be. You concoct crazy nonsense anxieties about how fat your knees are & what ugly toes you have & why can’t your fingers be just a little bit skinnier, is that so much to ask?
Let’s not even get into the things that go on with your lady waterworks. There are no words for how weird THAT experience is the first time it occurs.
Oh & your brain is all hormone addled making you simultaneously hate everything & love everything all at once. Not only are you ugly, you’re a full blown crazy person.
All these factors come together to make you feel completely stuck in a weird ass body that can’t make up it’s mind about who it wants to be from day to day. And you’re completely powerless to change it. Best thing you can do is pray that 18 comes quickly & that you make it there unscathed. In this God awful mess lies the genius of Alex Mack.
Alex was a teenage girl caught smack in the middle of the unpleasant phase of life that is puberty. First day of junior high, she’s minding her own business, walking home from school when she comes thisclose to being squished by a truck. In the process, she gets covered in the chemical goop the truck was hauling. Now, for your average teenage girl, nearly getting hit by a truck would just be another traumatic experience en route to adulthood. She’d go to therapy & move on. But for our girl, the accident is just the first of many potentially traumatic experiences.
You see, ALEX GETS SUPERPOWERS. Telekinesis! Electricity in her fingers! The ability to melt into liquid & ooze into hard to reach places! While she looks the same 90% of the time, the chemical exposure makes Alex a full blown mutant. Not only a mutant, but a mutant with woefully unpredictable abilities. If Alex got freaked out, her skin would start glowing. Her ability to control her powers went hand in hand with her ability to deal with her emotions. She was a little teenage Incredible Hulk-esque girl, minus the green skinned crazy strength & with the addition of bib overalls & cool hats. So now, in the midst of all the terrors biology is generally subjecting her to, the GC-161 officially made her a circus freak.
That freakiness is precisely what made Alex Mack so great. Did she hide away in her bedroom for the rest of her life, lamenting that she never got to go to the spring dance because she was a chemically mutated freak? Hell no! With the help of her sister & closest pals, she set out on a mission to get answers. She learned to use her powers to help her get information about the chemical she was exposed to & the company behind it. All the while dealing with the standard issue problems for girls her age, like boys & school & the bizarro stuff going on with her body. If that doesn’t make her a role model for tiny feminists everywhere, I don’t begin to know what would.
Alex Mack was meaningful because she stood for something much deeper than most TV shows directed at preteens during that time. Watching her go on adventures as a completely kickass teenage mutant chick somehow made my own adolescence more tolerable. I mean, I may have had braces & chubby knees, but at least I didn’t glow when I was nervous. I was nervous ALL THE TIME. That would have been a nightmare! Alex Mack ultimately taught me that no matter how awkward I may feel, I can always use the things that make me feel awkward to my advantage. My weirdness is my greatest asset because it’s what makes me unique & powerful. To an odd little girl in the midst of a puberty tsunami, that lesson meant the world.