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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

What Donna Martin Taught Me About Myself

Before we launch into yet another fun-filled blog entry, there's something that I have to say.

This is probably going to be one of the most personal blog entries that I will probably end up doing.  Most of the time, I like to have some fun with them, and certainly my blog entries of the past have been mostly lighthearted and fun.  There is a sort of serious tone to this particular entry, and as I go into it in further detail, you'll soon see what I mean.

DISCLAIMER:  It's nothing illegal, immoral, or incredibly embarrassing.  It's just something that I want to bring up, is all.

That being said...this blog entry is NOT for children.  You have been warned.

And now, on with the show.

Beverly Hills 90210 was a show that I really didn't start watching until it began showing on various syndicated cable channels on reruns.  You see, when it first debuted, I was only a boy.  According to the hierarchy that existed at my elementary school at the time, Beverly Hills 90210 was a show that only girls watched.  Therefore, it was deemed uncool for males, such as myself, to watch this show.

So, for the first four seasons I did not watch.

It wasn't until I reached high school that I thought I'd watch one episode, just to see what I was missing out on.  By then the show had swapped out Shannen Doherty for Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and the main characters were in college.  Nevertheless, I gave it a shot.

It wasn't bad.  It wasn't bad at all.

I certainly didn't understand why the kids in my elementary school classes were saying that it was a show solely for girls, because when I watched my first episode of the series, they focused on a wide variety of topics that both male and female students could relate to. much as one can relate to a school where everyone drives a Mercedes and dresses in Gucci, that is.

The show itself was very popular in a variety of countries, and it lasted for ten seasons from October 1990 to May 2000.  It's quite a rarity for any show in general to make it to ten seasons, so for a show about spoiled teenagers in Beverly Hills to last that long was clearly an impressive feat.

As I watched the shows, and got caught up with the action by watching the reruns on CFMT (now OMNI1), it turned out that the kids weren't so stuck up and spoiled.  In fact they all had real problems.  You had the Walsh twins, who tried to fit in at West Beverly from Minnesota.  You had Kelly whose physical beauty hid years of insecurity.  You had Dylan, who was the ultimate rebel loner.  And you had Andrea (that's AHN-drea...not ANN-drea) whose only crime was that she was a sixteen year old trapped inside a thirty year old woman's body.

Figuratively AND literally.  Seriously, did you know that Gabrielle Carteris is turning fifty this year?  Wild, eh?

I could easily devote an entire article to all the characters listed above, the Walsh family, the Peach Pit, and that character that Hilary Swank played for half a year before her Oscar win.  And maybe someday, I will.

But this article is not about them.  This article is about a character who may not have had much of an impact on the show at the very beginning, but later turned out to be one of four characters who lasted the whole ten year run without any breaks in between.

Watching Tori Spelling nowadays with her reality shows and tabloid drama surrounding how she ended up marrying her current husband, it sometimes seems hard to believe that she was an actress when she first appeared on our television screens.  Following guest star appearances on The Love Boat and Saved By The Bell, when the show Beverly Hills 90210 was created, Tori Spelling really had no trouble landing the role that would inevitably make her a household name.

Of course, considering that her father Aaron Spelling created the program, it's easy to see how she fell into that role in the first place.


Nepotism aside, when Tori Spelling assumed the role of Donna Martin in 1990, she really didn't have a whole lot to do.  At the time of the early shows, most of the plots revolved around Kelly and Brenda, with Andrea taking on a secondary role.  Donna was one of those tertiary characters.  Not really of importance to any scene in particular, and you wouldn't really miss her if she wasn't shown.

Not that it really mattered that much anyway.  Until the second half of the first season, Donna wasn't exactly portrayed in a positive manner, at least not to me anyway.  As far as I was concerned, Donna was only good for two things.  Shopping and following Kelly around.  She had very little to say, and the very little she did say wasn't exactly profound.

You know those blonde jokes that have existed for ages that while I personally don't find funny, other people do?  Donna was kind of the perfect representation of what those jokes were all about at first.

Then Donna started to rebel, and she started sassing back at teachers, and a concerned Brenda found out the real reason why Donna was acting out.

Donna had failed her PSAT's.  This meant that the odds of Donna going to college were slim to none, and Donna felt that there was no need to worry about her future because she was too stupid to pass.

And with that admission, we notice the first crack in the spongy soft exterior of Donna Martin.

We eventually learn that Donna suffers from dyslexia, and when she is given an oral version of the PSAT's, she does much better.

I guess it's quite interesting to see that Donna Martin was so concerned about how well she did on the test when we didn't see any evidence of her being concerned about schoolwork at all prior to this.  All we had seen of her was this Malibu Barbie persona that was just there for show.

Just goes to show that looks can be deceiving.

But the idea of not judging a book by its cover is a minor lesson.  An important lesson, but not the one I really want to talk about.

See the picture up above?  That was taken at the gang's high school graduation ceremony at the end of season three.  You can see Brandon, and Steve, and David, and Brenda, and Donna.

They all look so happy and carefree, don't they?  They all are leaving high school behind and starting their futures, and Donna having had a great score on her PSAT's can do whatever she wants to do with her life.

But Donna almost didn't make it to graduation that day.  All because of one little technicality.

You see, the school board that was in charge of West Beverly High were concerned about the increase of student rebellion and the possibility of underage drinking at the school prom.  It was bad enough that the school was implementing a dress code for the following school year.  This year, they pretty much put the kibosh on any pre and post prom parties.  Any student who was caught drinking before graduation would have their right to graduate taken away from them.

They were taking it very seriously.

So it probably wasn't a great idea for the kids to drink some champagne right before the prom!  Donna ended up drinking a glass.  Then another glass.  Then another glass, and well, you get the idea.

Oh, Donna...if only you had remembered the new rule.  If only you had been 21.  If only you had eaten that grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.

Now she was doomed to spend the rest of her life at West Beverly while the rest of her friends went out into the world and got their diplomas.  She would be all alone in high school while everyone else went away.

All because David's father decided to liquor her up.

That bastard.

Of course, one could argue that Donna could have refused to take a sip, or a glass, or the whole damn bottle.  If she had more self-control, she might not have been in this situation to begin with.  But as you read on, you'll notice that there was a reason why she did down the alcohol, which makes this whole scenario easier to understand.

The threat of Donna not graduating was weighing heavily on her.  It was made even worse when Donna's own mother seemed like she was more in support of upholding the school rules rather than standing by her own daughter.

I should mention that Donna's mother was a real bitch on wheels.

Her friends were far more supportive.  They found that the school's punishment of not letting Donna graduate with her friends a real injustice, so they took action.

Admit it.  You have Donna Martin Graduates running through your head as you read this, don't you?

Donna was moved though.  She had the whole student body by her side and supporting her as she tried to defend why she should be allowed to graduate.

Well, okay, some of them were there to oppose the dress code, but most were there to support Donna.  This proved that most people were fond of Donna and felt that she was getting a raw deal.  The votes were close, but the school board overturned the rule and Donna was a proud member of the West Beverly Class of 1993.

So Donna learned a valuable lesson about the consequences of underage drinking.  That's not what this blog is about.

This blog is actually about something that was very important to Donna.  It was a choice.  A choice that some may disagree about, but Donna owned that choice until she was sure of what she wanted.

She was a virgin.

A lot of her beliefs did come from her value system.  She was raised in a religious family where sex before marriage was frowned upon.  Her sanctimonious cow of a mother made sure of that.

(Did I mention that I disliked Donna's mother immensely?)

I really, REALLY wished that I could have found the video clip on YouTube that shows Donna standing up to her mother when the topic of putting condom machines in West Beverly came up.  Donna's mother believed that putting condoms in schools would only promote teen sex and was against their installation (because apparently teen pregnancy and STD's are okay in the world according to Mrs. Martin).  Donna disagreed, and uttered this famous quote when trying to explain her reasons.

“It’s like if you have a swimming pool in your backyard, you can tell your children not to go in it, you can even build a fence around it, but if you know that they’re going to find a way in to that water, don’t you think you ought to teach those kids how to swim?”

Wise words from the younger Martin lady.  Like I said, I wish I could have found the video clip so you guys could have seen her mother shut her yap about it all.

Of course, Donna was a virgin by choice.  She had decided that it wasn't right for her.  She did struggle with it though.  When she began dating David Silver, Donna knew that David eventually wanted to go all the way with her, but Donna simply wasn't comfortable with the idea of losing her virginity until she got married.  You can see more of it here.

As frustrated as David may have been with Donna, he tried to be understanding.  Donna did make some really good points.  They had way too much drama in high school as it was.  Sex would only complicate things even more. 

The road to romance was a very rocky one though.  Donna and David attempted to try and get lucky with each other on a couple of occasions.  One such occasion was planned on the night of their senior prom.  Donna got nervous though, and thought that by drinking the forbidden champagne it would loosen her up.  Yeah, that worked out well for her, didn't it?

Just like that instance, every time David and Donna were in the mood, something would happen that would pre-empt the woo from taking place.  For Donna, it may just as well have been fate that no, she should not engage in the sex with the singing teeny-bopper.

Eventually, David did end up getting what he wanted...from some random guest star who was on the show for all of four episodes.  Donna's heart was broken, and she dumped him, thankful that she didn't give it up to him after all.

Donna's next boyfriend wasn't much better.  He had a temper, and once threw Donna down a flight of stairs.  Luckily, she held onto her beliefs and came out of it unharmed (and untouched).

After a slew of one-off relationships, Donna and David eventually got back together again, and when they graduated college, Donna was secure enough in her relationship with David to give him a graduation gift he would never forget.

What can we learn from this?  It's okay to wait.

Seriously, it is.  In Donna's case, her belief system was impacted by the church and her parents somewhat...but she didn't let it completely control her either.  She had her own mind, and what she wanted was to wait until she felt the time was right for her.  She had always thought that it would come on her wedding day, but for her, the right time came before that.  In the end, she found that at that moment, it was worth the wait, because she had waited until she found the right person, and more importantly, she had waited until both of them were keen on the idea.

Now you're probably wondering where this ties in with my own experiences.  Well, I'll tell you right here.

Like Donna, I was also a virgin in high school (and beyond that even, but that's all you need to know about that...LOL)  And yes, I admit, the pressure of teen sex was definitely out there.  Temptations came at you from all angles.  Movies.  Music.  Magazines.  Everywhere.

To be completely honest, I wasn't really tempted.  Not one bit.

It wasn't because I found girls unattractive...I did.  It wasn't because I had a belief system like Donna did.  I'm hardly the religious type as it is. 

The reason I stayed a virgin in high school was because I didn't want to further complicate my already complicated life as it was.

High school was not my happiest time in life.  It was pure hell.  The homework assignments that kept piling up, being the unfortunate victim of abuse from classmates...not to mention various homefront stresses.  The last thing on my mind was having premarital sex at sixteen years old.  Who wanted to add an unplanned child or an STD to that mix?  Not me!

I thought Donna's decision to hold off on losing her virginity was fantastic.  In fact, if I remember correctly, she could have been a major role model to young girls everywhere.  The fact that Donna waited until she was truly ready didn't really cause her any ill effects along the way.  She still had friends, she still kept her head held high, and more importantly, she respected herself enough to know what she wanted.  Really, shouldn't we all feel like that about ourselves?

It's very interesting going along those same lines that I kept my virginity during high school, considering that was the time period that my self-worth was at its lowest levels.  It would have been easy to have just not cared about myself and do it with some unknown girl from three streets over to feel like I was loved even for one day, but that's just the thing.  It would have been too easy, and I wouldn't have felt good about myself afterwards.

Sometimes things as personal and private as losing one's virginity is worth the wait.  It certainly was for Donna Martin, and I think that if we had more Donna Martins in this world, it would be infinitely better for it.

And that's my final thoughts on the subject.

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