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Friday, March 28, 2014

Brenda Walsh - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I think that it has been a very long time since I have done a character spotlight in this blog, and I thought that for the final Friday in March that I should do one.

And you know, I thought that for today's entry, I would choose a character that seemed to divide a whole lot of people, and sparked lots of water cooler chatter during the tumultuous decade known as the 1990s.

Seriously, when it comes to this fictional character, I've seen so much divide on both message board forums and in person-to-person chats about this character that there doesn't seem to be a middle ground.  You either love her or you hate her.  And certainly, based on how she was portrayed on the show, I can see how she could cause such different opinions.

But you know, I would argue that there's a lot more to this girl than any of us really knew.  And, I think that the more that I think about it, the more that I realize that she is probably one of the most well-rounded characters on her show.

Mind you, I would imagine that the tabloids and shows like "Hard Copy" may have coloured your impression of her, given that Shannen Doherty (the actress who played this character) was not exactly the pinnacle of good behaviour back in her heyday.  In fact, it was widely rumoured that the reason she left her show after the fourth season of the series was because her acting out angered show producer Aaron Spelling, and that she was essentially pushed out.

Whatever the case, today's blog topic is all about the character that Shannen played for four years.  Brenda Walsh from "Beverly Hills 90210".  Oh, let's have a look at the "Beverly Hills 90210" intro just for old times sake!

Okay, so some of you might realize that I already did a feature on Brandon and Brenda two years ago...but that was a team effort.  I'm doing another entry on Brenda Walsh because she was arguably the most interesting of the two, and she seemed to have a lot more interesting storylines than Brandon.

Now, for some of you who missed out on the 1990s completely, many of you are probably wondering who Brenda Walsh is.  I keep forgetting that it's been nearly 25 years since 90210 debuted!

(The original.  Not the one with Shenae Grimes.)

Anyway, Brenda Walsh and her twin brother Brandon (played by Jason Priestley) used to live in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota with their parents Jim and Cindy Walsh (James Eckhouse and Carol Potter).  Well, that is until Jim gets a promotion which has the family moving halfway across the country from Minnesota to California.

Specifically the uber-rich area known as Beverly Hills. 

And, certainly the Walsh family struggled with adapting to Beverly Hills society.  Jim did quite well with this, and Brandon eventually found a way to fit in as well, but Cindy and Brenda really struggled with carving out an identity in one of the richest neighbourhoods of America.

I mean, right off the bat during Brenda's first week at West Beverly Hills, she practically kissed the shoes of Kelly Taylor and Donna Martin (Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling) to get into the in-group, completely freaked out over her unfashionable wardrobe, and ended up hooking up with a man not realizing that he had a good 10-15 years on her!  Suffice to say, Brenda's time at West Beverly Hills High School was filled with ups and downs, and by the time she moved to London at the end of season four, she certainly had most viewers divided on whether they liked her or hated her.

As someone who has seen a few episodes in which Brenda appeared on, I'm going to be honest.  I liked her.  And, even though she did some things that make you want to shake your head in disgust, or shake her head to get her to understand why she was acting like a moron...she also had her moments in which she could be a loyal friend - even if sometimes her friends didn't deserve it.

So, to get things out of the way, let's talk about Brenda's flaws.  Or, in other words, the reasons why millions of viewers turned into FOX between 1990 and 1994.

First things first, Brenda was a little bit self-absorbed.

Well, actually, she was VERY self-absorbed.  She also seemed to lack self-esteem as well, as she was always constantly trying to change everything about herself to get Kelly and Donna to like her.  She tried to afford clothes that were out of her price range.  She had a fake ID made so that she could go to exclusive Beverly Hills parties.  And, she even dyed her hair blonde, which ended up being a huge disaster.

You see what I mean?

Brenda was also very rebellious - especially in the middle seasons.  Whereas Brandon was the child who could do no wrong, Brenda seemed to be the child who could do no right.  After all, Brenda was arrested for breaking into a science lab to release animals, she was arrested for shoplifting even though it was her friend who was actually stealing, she was interviewed for a teenage talk show and had her words skewered and edited so much that she nearly lost all of her friends, and on top of all that, she ran away from home to live with her boyfriend, which got her parents so upset that they decided that she needed to be away from her boyfriend at all costs.

Now, granted, maybe sending your daughter to Paris, France as a punishment might seem like an oxymoron to you...but given that Brenda had been steadily acting out since falling in love with Dylan McKay (Luke Perry), you could see how her parents might be concerned.  Little did they know that their act would cause Brenda even more pain than she ever imagined...

...but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Now, as far as Dylan went, he and Brenda seemed to hit it off immediately.  It didn't matter that Dylan had an estranged relationship with both of his parents and spent most of his childhood living in hotel rooms.  Brenda thought the bad boy was dangerous and she liked it.  Granted, when Dylan throws a potted plant on the ground, it's enough for anybody to run, but by the time Dylan caught up with Brenda and apologized, they locked lips as if their very lives depended on it.  And during the first couple of years of the show, Brenda and Dylan were certainly going steady...and then some!

But when Brenda was sent away to Paris with Donna, things got really complicated.  Apparently Brenda became enchanted by an American tour guide named Rick (played by Dean Cain), but nothing really amounted to their little fling, as Brenda was heavily committed to Dylan.

Unfortunately, Brenda's best frenemy forever, Kelly, grew closer to Dylan that summer, and the two fell head over heels in love with each other...which lead to this memorable confrontation between Kelly, Dylan, and Brenda.

And when Rick happened to relocate to Beverly Hills, and began dating Brenda, things grew even more complicated when they ran into Dylan and Kelly at the same restaurant.

Though all three would eventually come to a truce, things were never quite the same between them.  Brenda would eventually grow closer to Dylan, but she and Kelly had a love/hate relationship.

PERSONAL OPINION:  Honestly, of the few episodes of 90210 that I did see, I guess if I had to join a team, I would probably go "Team Brenda".  Kelly reminded me of all the snotty girls I went to high school with.  Sweet at pie to your face, but would take a meat cleaver to your backside in the blink of an eye.

But, hold on.  Underneath all of that insecurity and rebellion lay a heart of gold.  And, certainly Brenda had moments in which she came out on top.

Do you remember the episode in which West Beverly High hosted a mother/daughter fashion show?  Not only did Brenda agree to let Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris who was practically old enough to be the mother of the show!) join herself and Cindy on the runway, but Brenda was also there for Kelly after her mother stumbled at the fashion show because she snorted cocaine before the show.

Remember when the girls had a slumber party, and that nasty girl was making fun and humiliating the other girls?  Brenda not only stood up for them, but also helped the mean girl when it was discovered that the mean girl was doped up on diet pills.

Remember when Brenda joined a teen line?  Her ability to listen saved a young woman from being raped!

Brenda may have had a frenemy relationship with Kelly, but Donna was clearly her best friend.  Aside from going with Donna to Paris, she comforted Donna when she found that she had a learning disability, and she comforted her after Donna caught her boyfriend David (Brian Austin Green) cheating on her.

And, Brenda was a real hero when she discovered that the girl she was a senior buddy to was being sexually molested by a relative, and grouped all of her other friends together to expose the truth.

Brenda even helped out at The Peach alter-ego Laverne!

So you see?  Even the most rebellious people can have a soft side.  And, certainly the mixture of sour and sweetness helped Brenda Walsh become one memorable character!

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