Friday, July 19, 2013

Femme-spiration Friday: Kim Kelly of Freaks and Geeks

It was the fall of 1999. Each week, I sat in the living room, rapt with attention, eagerly awaiting the next episode of Freaks and Geeks. Between the young, talented cast & the show's perfect blend of humor, drama, and sentimentality, I was hooked. The retro early 80s setting didn't hurt either. Classic rock! So many girls in flannel! Still, as much as I loved the show, the obvious invitation to identify with the central character of Lindsay Weir sometimes proved a little painful. A geeky brunette middle schooler, I desperately wanted to reinvent myself to be a little tougher, a little cooler—and Lindsay's frequently humiliating but charming endeavors to fit in hit juuuuust a tad too close to home. Remember when she hosts that kegger & decorates her parents' house with trippy posters of unicorns before putting out lots of cheese puffs in conveniently arranged bowls? Yeah. I mean, I didn't have any unicorn posters. But you get the picture.

Maybe that's why Lindsay wasn't the reason I tuned in each week. For me, it was always about Kim Kelly. I knew that I was nothing like her, and from her first appearance in the series, I was mesmerized. I found myself forgetting to breathe whenever she was on screen. Sure, it was the blonde hair, the full lips, the intensity of those blue eyes. But it was also something else—something I had never really seen before on television.

Guys, Kim Kelly was pissed. 

She was really, really fucking angry, and she wanted everyone to know it. Whether her concentrated wrath was directed at Lindsay, the injustice of her class position, her mother and stepfather's dysfunctional relationship, or—most frequently—at her boyfriend, Daniel Desario (James Franco), there was not a chance in hell that she'd be quiet about it. Kim's anger, like everything else on the show, is not without a dose of humor; her (male) friends' responses, a mixture of annoyance and bemusement, invite the audience to register her extremity as verging on the ridiculous. And yet, there was something really transgressive and important about seeing Kim release that pure, unadulterated rage on screen time and time again. I had never seen anything quite like it, and my heart pumped faster with every slap administered to Daniel's face, every wild scream of blind fury, every reckless drive into the park to run over that girl who was trying to steal her boyfriend (because what else would you do?).  It was exhilarating. I couldn't get enough.

Sure, she was terrifying. And (at first) not exactly the best at nurturing female friendships. But she was also just so powerful. 

Although I couldn't find a clip of the amazing scenes in her car (just check out the episode "Kim Kelly is my Friend" on Netflix), I can offer you this fantastic glimpse into the experience of breaking up & making up with Kim Kelly.


Years later, when I re-watched the show in college, it became clear to me that (surprise!) my fascination and quasi-identification with Kim had always been entrenched in desire. "I mean...I think I just want her to like throw me up against a locker or something," I confessed to some of my friends and fellow viewers. At first, my admission of this crush met with utter scorn, but I'm happy to announce that a text message conversation that took place earlier this week finds me vindicated at last. The verdict is in: Kim Kelly's unbounded Amazonian aggression is hot.

The geeks cower in awe.

Let's just say that if Kim Kelly were my girlfriend, I wouldn't even get mad at that dumb shell necklace.

I know we usually talk about clothes in these posts, so let's all just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Kim always looks great even though she wears that same blue coat every single day. She's thrifty--something we appreciate at Femmepirical Evidence. "10 bucks, this coat cost me," she brags in an early episode. Of course, she (kind of) stole it; she switched price tags and conned the store owner. Lindsay, whose father owns a shop, is horrified. But I, for one, admire her obvious commitment to sticking it to the man in the relentless pursuit of fashion.

She can also be relied upon for really sound advice. 

Significantly, Lindsay offers one of the most important assessments of Kim on the show. "Just 'cause a girl speaks her mind doesn't make her a bitch," she retorts after hearing her brother complaining about her new friend. This was important for me to hear as a baby teenaged proto-feminist—and it remains as vital as ever today.


These days, my unrequited love for Kim Kelly is nurtured by my Netflix account & my continued attachment to the actress who gave her life, Busy Philipps. A lifelong aversion to Courtney Cox (except as Gale Weathers, of course) has prevented me from becoming too familiar with Cougar Town, but I have seen enough to rejoice at the bright, bold, ultra feminine styling and sass of Busy's character, Laurie Keller—who might deserve a femme-spiration post of her own.

And, further, who among us had not devoted hours to googling and fantasizing about Busy's romantic friendship with Michelle Williams?

I guess if I have to sacrifice my dream of being Kim Kelly's girlfriend to someone, Michelle Williams is a pretty deserving opponent. Just look at them. 

And anyway, no matter what, I'll always have the memories. 

In rage, sarcasm, and solidarity forever,

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