Okay, I’ll admit it: I got sucked into the world of teenage dramatic television…again. In particular, 90210. Now, I’d like to say before you judge me, I have a valid reason – a reason named Jessica Lowndes. I have, admittedly, grown to enjoy other actors on the show, and follow certain storylines, but I’m not going to lie, Jessica is basically my entire reason for watching. I would definitely be tuning out if she wasn’t on – and I doubt I would’ve watched in the first place. However, I have a few tiffs with the writing of her character (whom I consider to be not only the most complex, but also the most interesting), which I’m going to explain in the coming article.
Adrianna Tate-Duncan, Lowndes’ character, is first introduced in the pilot, stealing her best friend’s purse for what is later revealed to be a drug habit. At the time, she was only supposed to appear in two episodes, but that number was slowly increased until midway through the first season, when she became a series regular. By the time she signed on as a regular, Adrianna had not only nearly died of an overdose and been forced into rehab, and was falling in love with her childhood best friend, but she’d also discovered that she was pregnant. Twelve episodes into the first season, and the show already has a pregnant teenager who is a recovering drug addict, and essentially an emotional wreck. Those storylines alone are like gold, and I’d say enough to last an entire show, if for no other reason than their magnitude as societal issues.
Now, personally, I think Jessica did an amazing job in portraying these storylines as Adrianna. To be honest, she actually made me cry a few times. I was excited to tune in each week and see what would happen to Ade each week. I loved her relationship with Navid and my heart ripped out (in a good way) when she found out she was having another guy’s baby. Jessica has a talent and realism that drew me in – and I’m positive I’m not the only one.
When I looked up Ms Lowndes online, I discovered how much research she’d done for the role. Having never had a drug problem herself, she did not just jump in and hope to get it right. She laughed that she would invite friends over to watch drug movies with her, and she had seen almost every film ever made on the subject. She spoke to recovering addicts to learn about their experiences and studied their mannerisms. She even chopped off her long hair into a Cleopatra haircut to suit her character. And she did all of that for, what was at the time, a two episode appearance. That shows incredible dedication, on top of her immensity of talent.
Well, here’s my problem. Okay, one of my problems. With such intense storylines and incredible portrayal, Adrianna still does not get nearly enough screen time. I had to suffer through half a season of Annie and Ethan’s inane conversations and bad metaphors about Palm Springs (“You want to go to Palm Springs?” “Where?” “Palm Springs.” Oh, please! Just kill me now!) for maybe three to five scenes of Adrianna per episode. Sometimes she was on more, but in many, she had maybe a total of maybe three-to-five minutes on-screen, perhaps a little more if she appeared in the background or at a table, silently listening to another character.
Even when major stuff went down with Adrianna, it all took place in maybe seven minutes of airtime, spread out over a whole episode. Granted, I would concede that this does mean that, for the most part, her scenes are important to the storyline, rather than just meaningless or boring fluff. Certainly they are always fun to watch, even if (and this is rare) they don’t serve a purpose.
Obviously I like that all of her appearances serve a purpose and will not protest it, but honestly, if I have to see fluff from anyone, I’d like it to at least be a character I like. Please, I’m sick of seeing Annie whine all of the time! I do like Naomi and Silver well enough – especially since they gave Naomi a story I can actually get behind (finally!) with everything going on with Cannon. Silver, well, she’s always been interesting and definitely falls right below Adrianna on my favorite characters list. She, as well, is very complex and, as a result, very interesting.
But honestly, if I have to suffer through anyone else for an extended period of time, I just get annoyed. I can’t help but wonder why we needed to see Annie performing monologues in an acting class, but we only got a couple short scenes of Adrianna being alone and pregnant on Valentines’ Day, culminating in the redeeming scene of the episode, where Navid professed his love for her, despite her shortcomings. That episode, by the way, was Of Heartbreaks and Hotels.
Jessica’s screen time has barely improved, if it has at all, since the first season. When Adrianna was debating whether or not to finger Jasper as her drug dealer after she relapsed in season 2 – which again, only lasted a few scenes spread out over a couple episodes – she literally had four scenes. First, there was a scene where Navid asked her if she would come forward, and she told him she couldn’t because she was still on probation and thus would be expelled. Then, she was selling tickets at the winter dance and saw Annie and Jasper together. She charged them and asked if they were dating, then gave a worried/disgusted look. Later, she has a scene where she’s worrying about Annie, which barely even constitutes a scene because it was so short. Then, as the others are trying to tell Annie the truth, she comes out and admits that she bought drugs from Jasper. Despite having a total of maybe six or seven minutes tops in that episode, she still managed to have a total emotional and ethical breakthrough. She went from being self-preserving to self-sacrificing – a major change of heart and mind – within only a few short minutes on-screen. How many moments did we have to spend watching pointless other stuff go down? I will admit, however, that this lack of appearance on-screen, though frustrating, does not make me believe her any less. I am just left wondering why her story always seems to be on the back burner.
As I said, this trend has not improved. I noticed this past Monday, in the episode Catch Me if You Cannon, she was only a minor player and barely appeared at all. She was plotting with Silver and Naomi to take down Cannon, so at least she wasn’t neglected from that, but her whole storyline with stealing Javier’s song and dealing with an angry, semi-evil manager was just forgotten, not even hinted at. I was very disappointed that I waited all week to see more of Jessica Lowndes, and was only provided with a couple of short appearances. Instead I had to watch Annie debate over whether or not to sell her eggs for twenty grand (is this a situation that comes up often for the average teenage girl?) while Jen freaked out that her baby was a boy (okay, that was funny) and Dixon and Ivy broke up because he was afraid he might have HIV (which seemed more of a plot device to break them up than actually dealing with the issue of HIV).
Alright, I’ll be honest, that’s actually not my biggest problem. My biggest problem with the show – something that’s bothered me even more than so many months of Annie and Ethan torture – is the way they tend to ‘drop’ storylines. I’ll explain what I mean. An interesting storyline will be introduced, and it will last a few episodes, just long enough for the audience to get invested, then just disappear, or have too quick a resolution. Two storylines in particular stick out for me from Adrianna’s past.
First, there was the baby story. Now, this one had a decent run and I think while it was airing it was done well. I got into the show just before it began and I really enjoyed watching it. I still had the screen time issue, but that didn’t matter too much (until I realized it wouldn’t go away). I think the scene where Adrianna gave her daughter, Maisie, up for adoption was beautifully done. You could see how much it broke her heart to let go of Maisie. It definitely was not an easy decision for Ade, as I imagine it wouldn’t be easy for anyone to make that decision. I particularly liked when she asked Brenda and Navid, “I did the right thing, right?” while sobbing. Fantastic. My heart was breaking for her the whole time.
Now, the problem comes the following season. Suddenly it became like Adrianna had never even had a child. Okay, I realize that 90210 is not the first show to do this, but I still find it incredibly annoying. In the premiere of season two, there was a scene where Ade saw a woman and her daughter, and she had a moment of sadness as she remembered Maisie. Besides that, it was mentioned a couple of times in the very early part of the season, but it was almost more like it was mentioned in passing, rather than holding as much weight as it really did. I honestly cannot recall it being mentioned in any part of season two after she reconnected with Teddy. It was also briefly mentioned in a line in season three, but in a moment of anger as Naomi lashed out, rather than sadness from Adrianna.
Being that Adrianna was a drug addict and has always been incredibly emotional – and considering her reaction to losing Navid – should she not have stronger feelings of loss toward her daughter? Personally, I feel like Maisie should have been a bigger part of why Adrianna relapsed in mid-season two, or at least a reason at all. Instead it was passed off as being entirely due to her break-up with Navid. That seemed like a strange turnaround from the finale, where she was bawling saying goodbye to her daughter – and suddenly her only reason for doing anything was Navid?
I’ll be honest, the devil’s advocate in me has made excuses for this. Maybe she was transferring all of her feelings of loss for Maisie onto Navid, focusing all of her energy on him. Maybe she just has incredibly intense powers of denial? I just feel like we should at least have a few good scenes where Ade remembers her daughter – where she misses her like she did in the finale. A baby isn’t something that just goes away or disappears. Even if she doesn’t think about her all of the time, there would still be moments of vulnerability and sadness over Maisie, wouldn’t there? I’m not asking for Maisie to come back or anything – not that I’d be opposed – I just think they should show some more of the emotional impact.
The second example I can think of is at least mentioned more often than the baby. That doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t feel cheated out of a good resolution for the story. Shortly after Ade jumped back on the wagon in season two, worried about relapsing again, she made friends with Gia, a fellow West Bev member of AA. Their friendship progressed quickly after Ade helped Gia out when her ex, Alexa, showed up at a party with another girl. After another round of I-miss-Navid ranting, Gia exclaimed that she had a crush on Adrianna in the girls’ bathroom at school.
After a few awkward scenes, Adrianna realized she liked Gia, too. They were absolutely adorable together, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an Adrianna and Navid shipper through and through, but I definitely liked Adia together and could have shipped them if given the proper chance. (Correct me if I got the couple name wrong, please – I’ve seen Adia and Giana, so I’m not sure which is the most common.) Anyway, they were such good friends and Gia was there for her when her other friends didn’t understand what she was going through. I think I actually squee’d over how cute the ironing scene was in 2.17, Sweaty Palms and Weak Knees. I didn’t delude myself into thinking they’d last, despite how cute they were together. All I wanted was for them to have a decent story. One that lasted more than – what was it? – six episodes.
Adrianna and Gia first started their scenes together in 2.13, Rats and Heroes, and by 2.18, Another Another Chance, they were already finished. Their ending was so abrupt, too. One minute, they were kissing in the hallway and it seemed the next, Adrianna was walking in on Gia and her ex. Such a fast, and relatively unexplainable turnaround occurred somewhere in there – and I’m still trying to locate that exact place. I feel like that storyline definitely had a lot more meat to it and could have been explored much more than it was.
I did appreciate seeing Ade struggle a bit with determining whether or not she could like another girl. Although personally I think we could have seen more of that, I can let that go. I just feel like the way they ended it so quickly, I was left wondering, “What was the point of that?” Was it just for the ratings – to see two girls kiss? Having seen the fan responses online, I would say for the most part, they were really good, until the end. I know for a fact that I am not the only one to be upset by the abrupt ending. Maybe Adrianna was just taking a little vacation in Lesbian Land or something, but I felt ripped off. Frankly, I demand her waffle iron be rescinded. Six episodes was not enough to tell that story, and frankly, Gia’s cheating, at least to me, was completely out of character! It was just a cheap way of ending the story, and I didn’t even feel like Ade was that upset about it afterward. I understand why she wouldn’t be as broken up about Gia as she was Navid, but still. If nothing else, she should have been a little more upset to lose her friend. I just felt like there was no real closure for that short-lived story that could have been so much more.
What I just don’t understand is why the show is letting so much of this goodness to go waste! Jessica Lowndes is incredibly talented and they’re giving her good storylines (which I do appreciate), but they don’t seem to be doing anything with them. She does an excellent job with what she’s given, but I wish we were given more of it. These storylines which are far less interesting take up the majority of almost every episode. Adrianna deals with so many pressing issues in society and she’s actually interesting. Yet, she remains almost like an after thought a lot of the time. Her storylines are often cut short and left with no satisfying closure. This is not a hard problem to fix. Jessica Lowndes is a talented actress and singer! All I’m really saying is that we need some more scenes, just to see some of her reactions to things, to explore her character more, like we’re forced to do with some of the others (whose storylines are far less appealing to me).
Don’t get me wrong, I love 90210, it’s just I feel they’re missing some major opportunities here. Hopefully this will improve as the seasons progress. I’ll continue tuning in so long as Ms Lowndes is featured on the show, so I’ve got my fingers crossed – but I’m not holding my breath.