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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Minnesota Twins of 90210

I'm sure that most everyone knows the stress that can stem from moving to a new house. During the first five years of my life, my family moved a grand total of four times. But at the very least, we stayed within the same city.

Imagine a family moving across the country from one city to another.

I've never been in a situation like this, so I can't relate to it. But, I can only imagine that it must be a rather scary situation to be faced with at first. You're leaving behind a town that you had an identity in, and about to move to a new community where you have absolutely no ties to family or friends.

Well, all right, I suppose for some people, the thought of abandoning a dysfunctional family and fair-weather friends would be their idea of heaven.

Not so much for the television family that we're about to meet. At least not at first.

This particular family moved from the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and relocated to Beverly Hills, California. Right off the bat, the culture shock would be incredible. Imagine moving from a community known for having down-to-earth people and all four seasons to a town known for excess spending, expensive cars, and where the temperature is over seventy degrees the majority of the year.

Now imagine being a high school student faced with this move. It would be quite an adjustment, wouldn't it?

And yet that's the fate that the Minnesota Twins of Beverly Hills 90210 had to face.

That's right. This entry is all about Brandon and Brenda Walsh, played by Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty.

When the show debuted on October 4, 1990, almost immediately, we saw the struggles that Brandon and Brenda had to endure. For Brandon, he was the all-American guy, incredibly down-to-earth, diplomatic, and non-judgmental. Those qualities worked very well for Brandon in Minnesota, but upon moving to Beverly Hills, he really struggled with keeping those morals in check.

And Brenda had a tougher time. Being a new student at a high school was bad enough, but being a new student at West Beverly Hills High was a living nightmare for her. She found it hard to keep up with the trends and the fads, and her insecurities about herself were magnified by a million. Brenda just wanted to fit in, and she didn't feel that she would ever measure up to the rich, privileged students at West Beverly High.

But as time passed, Brandon and Brenda would end up finding their place in West Beverly, and six very special people would attach themselves to the Walsh twins in ways that not even they would have imagined.

For this blog entry, I really did a lot of research, as it has been years since I watched Beverly Hills 90210. I did have some knowledge of who the characters were, but when I looked at them in great detail, the different relationships that Brandon and Brenda had with these six people are just too detailed not to talk about.

So, going in order of the credits, let's look at how each of these six people carved out a permanent spot in the hearts of Brandon and Brenda Walsh.

Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) was probably the one person who both Brandon and Brenda had the closest relationship to, both in different ways.

Kelly and Brandon always had a friendly relationship with each other, and Kelly seemed to trust Brandon's word more than anyone else in the series. Eventually, these feelings of friendship would grow into feelings of romance, as Brandon and Kelly became a couple while they were in college. Their relationship ultimately ended, but they always maintained their friendship. In fact, I would reckon that Brandon's friendship with Kelly was instrumental in transforming Kelly from a materialistic princess to a more grounded young woman.

As for Kelly's relationship with Brenda, theirs was more tumultuous. Initially Brenda wanted to be Kelly's friend so that she could fit in with the West Beverly crowd, and at first, Kelly and Brenda's friendship was a bit superficial. Their friendship only began to grow after Brenda hosted a slumber party, and Kelly shared some very personal secrets about herself.

In that moment, Brenda and Kelly became really close, and both of them shared everything with each other. But then a man came between them both and nearly ruined their friendship forever. We'll get to that a little bit later.

Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) was the son of a sitcom star, and was used to the life of privilege. Unfortunately, he was spoiled so rotten that he ended up developing a poor attitude. He believed that he was untouchable, and he used people to get what he wanted. But his friendship with the Walsh twins would open his eyes in a huge way.

Steve befriended Brandon almost immediately after the Walsh twins arrived at West Beverly, and at first Steve's advice got Brandon into trouble. But, Brandon saw some decency inside Steve, and he continued to stand by Steve no matter how often he screwed up (which was in almost every single episode).

But Steve was very appreciative of Brandon's friendship, and he shared things with Brandon that he would never have shared with anyone else before, such as the fact that he was adopted. And, whenever Steve had any sort of problem, Brandon was always there for him no matter what.

Steve's relationship with Brenda wasn't as close, but they too became good friends. There was one instance in their college years when Brenda was being sabotaged in a play by Steve's girlfriend which caused tension between them, but they worked it out.

Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris) was a curious case. Let's look beyond the fact that she was a sixteen-year-old girl played by someone who was 29. Andrea was someone who didn't quite fit the mould of stereotypical West Beverly socialite. Andrea was a bookish type who never followed the fashions and glitz of West Beverly. Unlike most people who traveled to school in their own cars, Andrea took the bus. And, this is where the problem lay. You see, Andrea lived outside the West Beverly High school district, and was ineligible to even attend school there. But she wanted to stay at West Beverly because it was the best school in the county, and she wanted an edge to go to the best school.

But this is where her own friendship with the Walsh twins would come into play.

Andrea's first impression of Brandon Walsh wasn't a good one. She thought he was a pompous jerk. Brandon in turn thought that Andrea was incredibly judgmental and needed to lighten up. But then Brandon discovered her secret about where she lived, and Andrea was forced to tell him the truth. To Andrea's surprise, Brandon was incredibly understanding, and he managed to keep Andrea's secret (until it was eventually revealled in a future episode), establishing his firm friendship with Andrea. After all, both of them were a lot alike. Brandon and Andrea's friendship went through some hurdles, but both of them were incredibly close and stood by each other. When Andrea was run over by a hit-and-run driver, Brandon helped her with her recovery. When Brandon had a problem that he couldn't find an answer for, Andrea was a great listener. Both of them worked together as co-editors of the West Beverly Blaze. And when Andrea ended up becoming pregnant, Brandon was there for her every step of the way.

Now you'd think that Brandon and Andrea would have developed a romantic relationship with each other given their fondness for each other. Don't think that thought didn't cross their mind...

...but in the end, Andrea and Brandon worked better as friends.

Brenda was also a positive influence on Andrea, and both of them shared a lot of lovely moments with each other.

Well, except for the time Brenda slapped Andrea when both of them were falling for their summer school drama instructor...

But when things were good between the two, they were very good. Brenda was the one who convinced Andrea to join her and her mother at the West Beverly Hills fashion show. Brenda was instrumental in getting Andrea to develop her self-confidence. Andrea also was a great friend to Brenda. She helped Brenda deal with her position at a teen hotline, and she helped Brenda find some self-confidence of her own with her understanding and kindness.

Now we're getting to Dylan McKay (Luke Perry), and his influence on the Walsh twins was, to say the least, explosive.

It wasn't so much that way with Brandon, although he and Brandon's friendship seemed to be strongest under the most extreme circumstances. When Brandon almost fell off a cliff during a summer trip, Dylan saved his life.

Dylan also ended up saving his life again when Brandon ended up getting involved in racking up gambling debts, and he was in over his head. With assistance from Nat, the owner of the Peach Pit, they bailed Brandon out. Brandon in turn was Dylan's shoulder to cry on when his father was presumed dead in an explosion, and when Dylan's newlywed wife was killed.

Oh, and Dylan got Brandon the job at the Peach Pit as well.

However, while Dylan's friendship with Brandon was unbreakable, his relationship with Brenda was filled with drama. At first, it was nice for both of them. When Dylan wasn't smashing potted plants on the sidewalk, he and Brenda were really good together. He helped Brenda deal with surviving a robbery attempt at the Peach Pit, and he and Brenda ended up taking their relationship to the next level after a school dance. It seemed as though Brenda and Dylan would be together forever and ever.

And then Brenda went off to Paris for the summer.

It was actually an idea that was encouraged by Brenda's father, who had a lot of issues with the Brenda/Dylan relationship. Initially, Kelly was supposed to go, but Brenda went in her place, leaving Kelly back in Beverly Hills with Dylan. One thing lead to another, and Dylan and Kelly ended up having an affair while Brenda was in Paris. And when she found out, it was quite brutal.

This would end up leading to the Brenda/Dylan/Kelly love triangle, in which Dylan couldn't decide who he loved more. And of course, Kelly and Brenda's friendship was forever tarnished. In the end, they all managed to come to an understanding with each other, but things were never quite the same after that.

I can't recall much of a connection that Brenda and Brandon had with David Silver (Brian Austin Green), mainly because in the early seasons, David was a grade behind the rest of the crew. But I can remember Brandon and Brenda being sympathetic and reaching out to him after one of David's friends accidentally shot himself at a party.

The final character to look at is Donna Martin (Tori Spelling), and Donna was probably the one person who was the closest to the Walsh twins. Had it not been for Brandon, Donna would have not been able to graduate. Donna ended up having a little bit too much champagne before the prom, and not knowing her limit, it didn't take too long for her to get plastered. Unfortunately, a new rule stated that any student caught with alcohol at the prom would be banned from graduation.

Brandon worked hard to launch a protest against the school board to let Donna Martin graduate. He arranged it so that everyone would leave the school during final exams. If Donna couldn't graduate, nobody graduated. Brandon's plan was crazy, but it ended up working, and Donna was incredibly grateful.

But as close as Brandon and Donna were, Brenda and Donna were almost inseparable. Donna and Brenda probably had one of the closest friendships ever featured on the whole show. Sure, Brenda was friends with Kelly and Andrea, but they all had at least one falling out on the show. Brenda and Donna never did. In fact, Brenda was probably the one person that Donna confided in the most. When it was discovered that Donna had scored poorly on her SAT's, Brenda lent a sympathetic ear, and she supported Donna as Donna learned she had a learning disability. But Brenda proved her loyalty to Donna even more when Donna had discovered that David had cheated on her. 

After that devastating moment, you know who Donna went to see?  Brenda.  And, Brenda had Donna feeling much better about herself.  In fact, Brenda's kindness towards Donna inevitably lead to Donna finding the strength to stand up for herself.

So there you have it. You have the Minnesota Twins of 90210. You can see that they had a lot of impact on their new West Beverly High friends, but at the same time, they ended up learning a lot about themselves seeing how the other half lived.

For Brandon, he didn't have to sacrifice his morals and ethics to get people to like and respect him. He somehow managed to fit into the rich social circles of West Beverly High and came out of it still very much respected. Then he went to college and had an affair with a much older woman, but hey, nobody's perfect.

For Brenda, I think she learned that she could go anywhere in the world, and still be perfectly okay. And, she also learned that her Beverly Hills friends were much more loyal and caring towards her than the Minneapolis friends she left behind when she opted to go back to Minnesota for college. She had intended for it to be a warm reunion with all of her old friends, but in the end, they ended up treating her like dirt. Brenda didn't even last a month. She left Minnesota and moved back to Beverly Hills to be with the friends who really mattered to her most.

The Walsh twins were such a driving force on the show, but neither one lasted until the end of the series in 2000. Brenda moved to London at the beginning of season five and never came back (stemmed from Shannen Doherty's sudden departure from the show), and Brandon would leave for Washington D.C., only three years later. But even after they were gone, their influence lived on in the cast members who remained. Kelly became more grounded. Steve became less of a jerk. Donna became more self-confident. Andrea lost her perfectionist nature. David became more of a man and less of a boy. And even Dylan was positively affected by the Walsh twins at some point.

Brandon and Brenda Walsh may have been fictional characters, but if they were real, they would probably be the best friends that anyone could have.

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