20 August 2012

Polish American Characters on My So Called Life

For those of us who were teenagers in the 1990's, My So Called Life was a short-lived show that captured so much of our lives.

While there is little information out about the show, after all there were only 19 episodes before it was canceled, the show has to this day a bit of a cult following.

When I watched the show as a teenager, the names of two characters seemed for a split second to stick out for me.  However, growing up being told over and over that being Polish was something to be ashamed of, I figured that I was either imagining it or something along those lines.

And they aren't stupid, in fact, the character "Sharon" isn't portrayed as... very loose. Since that was the typical Polish character on TV at the time, and even to this day, I wrote them off as not Polish.

Plus, I didn't think that they looked Polish, or at least, they didn't look like me.  In my humble opinion (My So Called Life reference, he he).

Fast forward 17 years later, I decided one day to watch the series after my kids bedtime just for fun.

In the first episode, I heard the names again.

Sharon Chirsky and Brian Krakaw...

And I thought, it had to be my imagination.  They don't sound like Polish names, I told myself.

So, for fun, I decided to look up more information on the show.

It turns out Sharon Chirsky is actually spelled Sharon Cherski as I thought it would be.  She's very intelligent and is actively involved in school activities.  Her father's name is revealed as "Andy", which I assume to be Andrew, the English version of a popular Polish name Andrzej.

Brian Krakaw is actually Brian Krakow.  Of course, I always forget how Krakow is pronounced in English.  And it turns out he is Jewish.  With Blond hair.  Brian is also very intelligent.  Socially awkward, yes, but then again, his parents are a behavioral psychologist and Freudian psychiatrist.  Brian's father's name is "Bob".

So, here are two TV characters that don't portray Polish American and Polish Jewish Americans in the typical negative light that we are so used to seeing as a society.  At a time when I was so used to seeing Poles and Polish Americans as nothing more than overly religious, stupid, slutty, back stabbing and cowardly, I missed that here were two positive and relatable characters on one of my absolutely favorite shows.  And this at a time when I needed, absolutely needed to see positive Polish American characters on TV.

Of course, the series never made it past the first season. 

Hopefully when my kids are old enough, we can snuggle on the sofa together and watch the show together, and I can whisper in their ear during the first episode, "Sharon is Polish American and Brian is Polish Jewish American.  They are both very smart and good hearted people, just like you."

Na razie...

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