Of all the bedrooms of the eighties, the nineties and even the aughts, none invited more jealously than that of Clarissa Darling. Covered in scrunchies, littered with hubcaps, and filled with folk art influences (red patchwork quilts, hand painted chairs, mosaic tile dresses, tchotchkes), it was the perfect teenage girl’s escape. Even better? The show was credited with becoming the first Nickelodeon series to feature a female lead.Filmed in front of a live, studio audience. Nickelodeon Studios, Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.
The room was chaotic, and yet provided Clarissa the perfect amount of individual expression and zen. Boys were never allowed in, especially her little brother Ferguson (Ferg-Face). Dun dun dun. Exceptions were made for her platonic friend Sam, who would come in through the window to the sounds of a guitar riff.
Her bedroom had backsplashes of pink and floral wallpaper, the remnants of a girl’s princess room. Yet, Clarissa decided to live in a hand-painted, graffiti splattered, mishmash of stripes, checks and chili-pepper string lighting. As much a part of the show as Clarissa’s personality, thank goodness the set-design did not succumb to typical, feminine stereotypes.
Clarissa dealt with normal adolescent issues such as first crushes, getting a driver’s license, sibling rivalry, bullying, grades at school, insecurities, shoplifting, experimenting with drinking, and confronting the issues of a inquistive teenager yearning for independence. She even played a lot of her mental scenarios out on a joystick, creating one-off DOS computer games, or in squiggly pie-charts on a “fourth-wall” whiteboard.
Clarissa was, and still is COOL. She mentions liking They Might Be Giants, Pearl Jam, and The Violent Femmes. She loves photography, sometimes wears ironic hipster glasses, digs Keith Haring and openly admits to believing in UFOs. She even had a pet alligator named Elvis! I wish we could meet, and be friends, today.
1 / Silver 14-Inch ABS Plastic Hub Caps (Set of Four) 2 / Melissa & Doug, Oversized Elephant 3 / Hand Painted Furniture Colorful Crazy Ladder Back Chair 4 / Yellow 3D Movie Linearly Polarized Glasses 5 / Patchwork Quilt, Cocoon Osprey Red 6 / Pottery Barn, Shelby Accessory Tower, inspired by an antique letterpress printer’s cabinet 7 / Rosanna Nesting Doll (5-piece set) in Green 8 / Zebra Print Tape Dispenser 9 / 1974 Illinois State License Plate 10 / Keith Haring, Whimsical Pink Musk Candle 11 / Black Paint Splatter Pillow Backdrop / York Wallcoverings Check Wallpaper
To “tweens” from the early nineties, Clarissa is somewhat of a mythic, fairytale creature – the sister figure many never had. And how fitting, seeing as though the show’s creator, Mitchell Kriegman, named Clarissa “Darling” from J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. That was Wendy’s last name.